photograph by Justin Fox Burks
Among the amenities of Twilight Sky Terrace are magnificent views of sunsets on the river.
Downtown has a new rooftop hot spot, complete with a fire pit, a full bar, mood lighting, a big-screen TV, and did we mention a fire pit?
Swanky amenities aside, the Twilight Sky Terrace’s biggest asset is its view of the mighty Mississippi, which stretches out below the rooftop of downtown’s Madison Hotel. The rooftop lounge faces due west, directly into the setting sun, and this picturesque vista — the Mississippi river at twilight — is the lounge’s namesake. It is also the primary reason the Madison Hotel decided to make over its rooftop space, which had heretofore been used primarily for Thursday-night rooftop parties.
“The sunsets are absolutely spectacular,” says Chey Fulgham, director of food and beverages for the hotel. “There’s not a better view of the river in the city that’s publicly accessible.”
Fulgham says the success of the hotel’s Thursday-night Sunset Atop the Madison events encouraged management to develop the space into a more regular downtown destination.
“It was such a spectacular space but with such a basic setup,” says Fulgham. “The owners really wanted to make it more special. Now it’s a chic, edgy, sexy, but casual destination spot.”
The lounge holds about 120 people standing or around 60 people seated at the communal table, nestled in upholstered chairs around the fire pit, or in any of the other seating areas positioned around the terrace. Large white sails hanging overhead offer a bit of protection from the elements, but are primarily a decorative backdrop when the sun goes down and the lounge’s colorful lights come up. Fulgham says they won’t have the same live music as before, opting instead for a local dj with a relaxed vibe. And as it’s an open-air venue, smoking will be allowed.
The Twilight Sky Terrace’s primary focus is cocktails, and in particular, a selection of six specialty concoctions with an emphasis on artisan and small-batch spirits, freshly squeezed juices, and house-made bitters, tinctures, and syrups. Fulgham has been growing a small herb garden on a small section of rooftop above the Twilight Sky Terrace especially for use at the bar.
Whereas the rooftop bar formerly only had a house wine, limited beer selection, and well liquor, Fulgham has upped the ante with higher quality spirits, an expanded beer selection on tap (including Ghost River and Yazoo brews), and a larger wine and champagne list.
A small menu of about 12 shareable dishes, what Fulgham calls “delectable bites,” will be available from the lounge’s small kitchen space. (Hungrier patrons can always order larger items from the hotel’s kitchen downstairs.) The 12 items range from charcuterie plates to paninis to house-made chocolates.
“The quality level of the ingredients used in our food far exceeds what you would expect at a pre- or post-dinner lounge,” says Fulgham. “They’re very well thought out, very well put together, and perfect for sharing.”
Much of the menu is borrowed from the hotel’s sister restaurant, eighty3, where the time-tested grilled cheese with gruyere, leeks, and a parmesan crust is split into smaller bites for sharing, as is the “Italian Stallion,” a panini made with homemade tomato chutney, provolone, capicola, salami, prosciutto, and grilled with that same parmesan crust. Chef Adrianna Shea brings her Sicilian background to the table with items like the charcuterie plate’s imported Italian meats, and she will also be serving up her signature trios of handmade Godiva bites, made from Godiva liqueur-infused custard covered in dark chocolate.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m., the Twilight Sky Terrace will offer a small breakfast and brunch of scones, muffins, and quiche as well as bloody marys, mimosas, and coffee drinks. For more information, follow @twilightmemphis on Twitter, visit twilightskyterrace.com, or call 333-1200.
Hannah Sayle is a staff writer for the Memphis Flyer and an editorial contributor to Memphis magazine.