Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Chef Derek Smith at the Capriccio Grill plates grilled shrimp garnished with micro-greens on a creamy mound of stoneground grits.
The staff at The Peabody hotel is well-versed in the habits of visitors to Memphis, and their expertise steered the recent changes at Capriccio Grill, the more casual of two restaurants at the historic downtown landmark. While the evening menu at the Italian steakhouse will stay the same, the lunch menu offers a satiating new focus: modern Southern comfort food.
“Guests who come to Memphis want to eat Southern food,” said Kelly Earnest, the hotel’s director of public relations. “We were tired of sending them out the door.”
Steered by executive Chef Andreas Kisler and Capriccio Chef Derek Smith, the menu reinterprets popular Southern dishes without sacrificing their traditional roots. A spiral bread basket from pastry chef Konrad Spitzbart (corn muffins, bread sticks, and buttermilk biscuits crusted with cheddar) kicks off every meal alongside a tilted ceramic bowl of house-made pimento cheese.
Deviled eggs dress up with a changing parade of garnishes. Blackberry, raspberry, mango, or peach invigorate freshly squeezed lemonades. Four plump Gulf shrimp snuggle into speckled white stoneground grits made extra creamy with a final flourish of cream cheese. And barbecue salad in a Mason jar is layered with smoked turkey shank so tender and flavorful that the dish pushed its way into my current top-10 list of favorites.
Entrees are equally pleasing, especially the quickly prepared daily specials to accommodate downtown workers. Smothered chicken is one crowd-pleaser, first fried and then oven-roasted in red wine gravy.
“I do smothered chicken just like my grandmother,” said Smith, praising Memphian Martha Coffee, his first teacher in the kitchen. “It’s frying the chicken first that keeps it crispy.”
Capriccio Grill inside The Peabody, 149 Union Ave. (901-529-4000) $-$$
Capriccio Grill Chef Chef Derek Smith developed the new menu along with Peabody executive Chef Andreas Kisler.
Fried catfish with peas and greens is one of the Capriccio Grill's lunchtime specials.