Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Eat and drink inside or outside at The Five Spot, where Chef Kelly English, pictured below, enlivens the menu with uptown bar food.
A spontaneous Friday night dinner at The Five Spot, a restaurant and bar tucked behind downtown’s Earnestine and Hazel’s, was a magical Memphis moment from the start. A sidewalk table opened up as we arrived. To our left, we could see the Arcade — now open at night — and across the street, Central Station, a reminder from 1914 of the neighborhood’s colorful past. Unexpectedly, a whistle, so loud we jumped, announced that the City of New Orleans was leaving for Chicago, and as the train crawled over the concrete trestle, we could see passengers in the double-decker cars settling down for the trip.
Meanwhile, customers packed the lively Five Spot, and our server arrived with well-executed Bloody Mary’s (Tito’s vodka for $6!) and a cheerful admonition: The kitchen is behind. “Yeah, everyone is running around like crazy,” said a young woman at a nearby table, polishing off a platter of Gulf oysters, briny and raw. “But the food is so good, I don’t even care.”
And who can disagree about Five Spot’s menu developed by Chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line. Seasoned chicken skins turn BLT’s into three-stack wonders. Pieces of curly kale, seared crispy on the edges, flit around skillets with brown butter and catfish fillets. And bourbon-spiked whipped cream drips over the edges of warm sweet cinnamon rolls topped with toasted pecans. The dessert called Monkey Bread, a favorite from English’s family, is so happy-making that you will likely hug a stranger before finally heading home.
Simply put, the menu at Five Spot is soulful bar food with an uptown turn: affable, affordable, and eminently satisfying. “I wanted a menu that fits this space,” English said. “Broken, but it still works.”
531 S. Main (901-523-9754). Open seven days a week from 5 p.m. $-$$