Justin Fox Burks
Dishes for brunch, lunch, and dinner at Belle: A Southern Bistro are full-flavored, filling, and fun. Don't miss green ham and house-made biscuits.
Typically I take far too long deciding what food to order, but occasionally a dish jumps off the menu and won’t let go. On a recent Saturday, the three-word “Farm Grit Bowl” did just that, hitting all my happy buttons for an impromptu brunch at Belle: A Southern Bistro, located on Union Avenue about a block west of The Peabody.
Served hot and fragrant, the robust dish quickly made friends with our basket of biscuits, andouille sausage potato hash, and three-dollar Bloody Marys, rimmed with Cajun spices and expertly house-made.
From the start, each oversized bite layered in texture and taste: First, Mississippi stone ground grits made with chicken stock and heavy cream; next, roasted ham, two strips of bacon, and fried egg over-easy; and finally, cheddar cheese, smoky, melted, and dusted with scallions, finely diced.
The thick slice of ham surprised me with its taste akin to tenderloin and its charming name.
“It’s called green ham because it’s roasted, not cured,” said Chef David Johnson. “But we had to change the name on the menu because everyone associated it with Dr. Seuss.”
Fun detours throughout Belle’s new brunch, lunch, and dinner menus seem well-suited for a downtown space with a historical patina. The restaurant’s stately bar and wainscot, for instance, were built with basement shelving that still stored Wexner & Jacobson shoes, now Joseph’s, when Central BBQ’s Roger Sapp purchased the building more than a decade ago.
Tables with red rose bouquets and crisp white cloths also flatter Johnson’s Southern-inspired dishes, which include sliced brisket with bourbon brown sugar glaze and fried Tabasco onions and baked avocado appetizers with plump lump crab meat and wickedly good lime butter.
117 Union Ave. (901-572-1896) $-$$$
Belle chef David Johnson, above, directs brunch, lunch and dinner creating Southern-inspired food plated in pretty and flavorful ways, such as the Gulf red snapper and potato hash, pictured below.