Photography by Justin Fox Burks
Chef/owner Jackson Kramer left Interim in East Memphis last year to open his own restaurant in Midtown's Broad Avenue Arts District. His wife, Carrie Kramer, is Bounty's general manager.
Over the course of a week in mid-November, three different people want to talk about chef/owner Jackson Kramer’s sweet and sour cauliflower, a simple dish with memorable flavors from chili-infused honey and a reduction of balsamic vinaigrette. They are effusive (the best vegetables on earth), incredulous (who deep fries cauliflower, anyway?), appreciative (love, love, love the herb salad on top), and flabbergasted (we ate every bite and wanted more).
When I recount these accolades to Kramer a few days later, he seems a little surprised and describes the dish’s preparation as super easy. “Cauliflower is a cool vegetable,” he says. “We tried lots of different ways, but it turns out the best is just dropping it in the fryer.”
One of about 20 dishes on the seasonal menu at Bounty on Broad, the cauliflower’s popularity shows how Kramer — a vegetable shaman — treats carrots as carefully as stuffed mountain trout. On busy nights, more than 30 orders of brown butter Brussels sprouts zoom out of the restaurant’s open kitchen, platters of prophecy about how people in Memphis like to eat.
Kramer certainly understands his customers. Many followed him to the Broad Avenue Arts District from Interim in East Memphis, where he was the executive chef two different times. A Memphis native, Kramer has close ties to the local restaurant community. He graduated from Christian Brothers High School with three of our city’s other talented young chefs — Andrew Ticer, Michael Hudman, and Ryan Trimm. He worked with Jeff Dunham at the Grove Grill and cooked with Wally Joe before the restaurant by the same name transitioned into Interim.
For the past year, Kramer and his wife, Carrie Kramer, who is Bounty’s general manger, have settled into their own restaurant, a meticulously renovated property that fits both their cooking style and temperament. Constructed in the early 1900s, the building has a checkered history as a series of bars, including a Western honky-tonk. Gutted back to its original brick walls, the new build-out is both hip and respectful with white oak floors and intricate wood paneling mixing cedar, cypress, cherry, maple, walnut, and pine.
Local architects Steve Berger and Jason Jackson from brg3s embraced the building’s second-story view, locating the main dining room and 10-seat bar upstairs where large windows let in sunshine for Sunday brunch and in the evening, noir glimpses of the neighborhood’s warehouses and iconic water tower.
A few leftover bricks from the building’s renovation stayed in the kitchen, cured from cooking like cast-iron pans. Kramer uses the bricks to make “under a brick” chicken, a menu hit from the start. First, he drops half a chicken in a pan, stacks on the brick, and lets the skin get crispy. When the chicken heads for the oven, the brick goes along, shaping a succulent centerpiece for the plate’s greens and smoked cream corn.
It’s easy to overeat at Bounty, and typically I do, a repercussion of my own enthusiastic appetite and how the food is served. I’m not complaining. On a recent visit for dinner, I went nuts, starting with six half-shell oysters grouped in pairs: Delaware Bay from New Jersey, Grand Pearl from the Chesapeake Bay, and Murder Point (so good!), raised in Alabama to sit plump and buttery in smooth, deep shells. A table of four, we ordered six more, sprinkled with freshly grated horseradish and dunked in mignonette.
Four cheeses stacked in wedges came next plated with jam, tapenade, fresh thyme, pickled vegetables, and a fan of sesame seed crackers, gluten-free like every dish on the menu. We kept ordering (we are sharing family style, right?) and as the plates arrived I felt a flush of nostalgia from my Baby Boomer palate. Poached pears winked back at Julia Child with blue cheese and pomegranate, beef tartare updates with watercress, quail eggs, and chicken skins fried crispy, and blackened redfish arched over fall vegetables like a sculpted memorial to the late Paul Prudhomme’s signature dish.
For brunch at Bounty, I resumed my love affair with Kramer’s American cooking. Collard greens arrived at the table in vintage “Spice of Life” Corningware, but the garnish — pickled carrots, onions, and a single cauliflower floret — was new Southern. Half-a-dozen deviled eggs crowned with country ham also won my affection. Their spring green stuffing, creamy and bright, comes from avocado and a little Green Goddess dressing, a 1970s throwback, only better and house-made.
Some brunch dishes pull from the dinner menu, tweaked with a new ingredient or two. Others, like braised brisket, get topped with fried egg. The movement of dishes between dinner and brunch mimics how Kramer plays his menu, much like a musician perfecting a favorite song. Dishes come, go, and come back, refined and reinvented. “It’s simple cooking, but not easy cooking,” Kramer says. “It’s about letting the flavors of a dish highlight the ingredients.”
Bounty on Broad
2519 Broad Avenue
(901) 410-8131 5 Stars
Food: Bounty’s new American food, served family style, is both familiar and contemporary.
Drinks: Try local craft beers on tap and specialty cocktails like Royal Street made with Sazerac rye whiskey, absinthe, and lemon.
Atmosphere: Customers range from 20-something hipsters to professionals of all ages who appreciate upbeat energy and excellent food.
Service: Servers are friendly and professional.
Extras: Like to watch chefs cook in a busy restaurant kitchen? Ask for the two-person counter table downstairs.
Noise level: The upstairs dining room gets loud. Really loud.
Reservations: You will need them, especially when the nearby Water Tower Pavilion stages events.
Prices: Shared plates for vegetables, $10-$13; seafood, $15 to $27; meats, $14 to $48; and brunch, $7 to $19. Credit cards only.
Open: Tuesday-Thursday 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5 to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
GRILLED CHICKEN WINGS
The wing’s meat, seasoned with ginger, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and the trifecta of chili, garlic, and onion powders, pulls off the bone with a gentle tug. Smokin’ good!
ROASTED BEET SALAD
A popular bottled dressing in the 1970s, Green Goddess pops up in Bounty’s festive and colorful salad, swirled while serving into beets, hazelnuts, baby lettuce, and goat cheese.
Panna cotta means cooked cream. Bounty’s version comes with a pomegranate topping and four shortbread cookies dusted with sugar. My advice? Order your own and don’t share.