Midtown mainstay Neil's Bar moved to Yorkshire Square in East Memphis the day before St. Patrick's Day, and a few longtime employees like Jerry Deron came along. We had a nice chat with Deron Saturday evening, when we stopped by to see the new place. The last occupant of the space was a barbecue restaurant called Whole Hog Cafe, so it didn't take too much work to get the building ready for Neil's. “We put in the bar, a sound stage, and we're still working on the patio,” Deron said.
The original Neil’s at Madison and McLean was destroyed about a year ago in an early-morning fire. The night before the fire, dozens of bands played a benefit for the daughter of a local musician who was injured in a car accident. The benefit and the many musicians who participated explain why bar owner Neil Heins is such an important part of the Memphis music community.
Expect a similar commitment to local music at the new Neil's, although the acts will trend toward older tastes. Already, live music is scheduled through October with shows Thursday through Sunday nights. See for yourself in a few weeks when Neil's plans a grand opening once the patio is finished and a new Vent-a-Hood is in place. “They said we'd have the hood in two weeks. That was six weeks ago,” Deron explained.
Since cooking for now is limited to the house smoker, Neil's menu is abbreviated. There's a Caesar salad with smoked brisket, salmon, chicken, or pulled pork, plus sandwich and plate variations, along with wings, barbecue nachos and smoked burgers. We ordered a cheese and meat plate to go with our Ghost River on tap. It was an overloaded platter of cubed cheddar, pepper cheese, sausage, and chunks of smoked bologna. I hadn't eaten bologna in years, but it keeps popping up these days on menus. It was surprisingly tasty.
Once the kitchen is in full swing, look for all the Neil's standards, including plate lunches, fried pickles, chicken quesadillas, and $6 steak night on Mondays.
The kitchen is open the same hours as the bar: 11 to 3 a.m., seven days a week. “We're here 365 days a year,” Deron said. “That means Christmas, New Year’s. For lots of folks, we are their family.”
Deron expects business to pick up once the bar starts advertising and Las Delicias opens its new location a few doors down. “We're not competing with Houston's,” he said. “We're a bar, and people like that. On our first night, we had 300 people come through the door.”
Neil's, 5727 Quince, (neilsbar.com)