Justin Fox Burks
KISS, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Kansas, Big Star, and Styx, to name a few, rocked out before crowds of Memphians in the 1970s during the short-lived existence of Lafayette’s Music Room.
But now Lafayette’s Music Room is reborn, thanks to a revitalized Overton Square. The new Lafayette’s is offering live music daily along with a Creole pub grub menu from Jennifer Chandler, Beale Street Blues Co. culinary manager. Beale Street Blues Co. owns the
place, along with B.B. King’s Blues Club and restaurant Itta Bena, its other prominent venues in Memphis.
I met up with general manager Alex Boggs to tour the space before Lafayette’s opened to learn more about the venue. Hiring Boggs, 26, adds another layer of historical significance to Lafayette’s back story. His father, the late Thomas Boggs, who founded Huey’s, was the first general manager of Lafayette’s Music Room when it opened in 1972. It’s also where Thomas met Wight Boggs, his future wife and Alex’s mom, who worked the door.
“To come full circle in our family’s history like that is pretty awesome,” Boggs said.
The address and essence of the old Lafayette’s remains, but the disparity between old and new is now an equal emphasis on food and music. The old Lafayette’s was a true music hall, raucous and rockin’, where food was just an afterthought, Boggs said.
The new Lafayette’s features state-of-the-art acoustics, but the vibe is cozy. Walls are covered in rustic reclaimed wood and a long copper bar reflects light from modern fixtures. In the center of the room, the stage is impressive but not imposing, surrounded by plenty of seating for lunch or dinner.
Upstairs there’s a second bar equipped with a wood-burning pizza oven, more seating overlooking the stage, and an outside balcony with a panoramic view of Overton Square. (My guess: hot new brunch spot.)
Lafayette’s will have live music daily; two bands most nights. For dinner, musicians play jazz or blues, “music you can still talk over,” from 6 to 9 p.m. And a second set will start around 9:30 p.m. with rock, bluegrass, or zydeco for a party-going night crowd. Depending on the band, there may be a cover charge. Singer-songwriter night takes place every Sunday.
“Late-night diversity is key,” Boggs said. “We are bringing in a nice mix of local and regional acts from New Orleans, Austin and Nashville.”
Once a month, the venue books headlining-act ticketed events. Coming up: Country music star Junior Brown plays Oct. 21, and Leon Russell performs Nov. 16.
“We want this to be the place artists get discovered by booking agents, talent agents,” Boggs said. “Acoustically, this place is a musician’s dream.”
The restaurant doesn’t take reservations but can seat 250 to 300 people. Lafayette’s does upscale Southern-meets-Creole cuisine with some wood-burning oven pizzas tossed in too. Chef Jody Moyt, formerly of Owen Brennan’s and Lulu Grille, collaborated with Chandler to develop the menu.
I couldn’t wait to try the food, so I grabbed a friend and went to Lafayette’s soft opening for lunch. We requested the upstairs outside balcony. To start, we shared an order of fried green tomatoes topped with a corn maque choux (braised corn, bell pepper, tomatoes and onion and native to southern Louisiana) and Cajun remoulade.
I had the paneed chicken with lemon caper butter sauce plated with an arugula salad. A simple dish cooked and seasoned just right. My friend decided on the Lafayette griddle burger dressed with smoked cheddar, caramelized onions and tomato jam.
We finished by sharing Grannie’s Chocolate Chess Pie, an original recipe straight from Chef Moyt’s grandmother’s kitchen. Grannie Moyt, we thank you.
Other options from the extensive menu include an enticing variety of appetizers, small plates, salads, baked oysters, po’boys, and wood-fired pizzas. Appetizers range from $5 to $10, an average entrée will cost about $15 and a pizza around $10.
Lafayette’s Music Room, 2119 Madison (901-207-5097)