My 39-again culinary tour found the Squad, my in-laws, and my Mom, J. Squirrel, downtown at Majestic Grille on a cold November Saturday. Business was slow for lunch, so we had our pick of tables. We chose a table in the middle of the room to take in the soaring space. The building was built in 1913 as the home of the Majestic No. 1 Theatre. Murals and creative use of track lighting add modern touches that combine nicely with the classic architecture to make the three story space an interesting topic of conversation.
We started our meal with tempura fried onion rings and a flatbread pizza with plum tomato, basil, and mozzarella. The onion rings are excellent. The light tempura batter allows them to fry nice and crisp without being soaked in grease, and the creamy horseradish dipping sauce is a great complement. The flatbread is nicely crisp. It was a good pizza, but we did think that the chunks of fresh tomato were a bit large for easy eating.
Majestic Grille is an ideal place for lunch. There is quite a collection of promising salads and sandwiches. Squirrelly, Jr., and Grandaddy Squirrel both chose hamburgers. Teh Boy had the bacon bleu cheese burger and GS had a burger with cheddar. The burgers were both excellent and the Parmesan garlic shoestring fries are positively addictive.
Nana Squirrel had what may be the ultimate grilled cheese: aged white cheddar, bacon, tomato, and wholegrain mustard. Mama Squirrel and J. Squirrel both chose the restaurant’s signature item, the pork tenderloin pannini. This is one of the best sandwiches we have tried in a long time. The pork is tender and lightly smoky. Sweet potato butter adds earthy sweetness while grilled onions add a bit of pungency and sweetness of their own.
The only disappointing dish was the one I chose, the whole roasted chicken. The chicken was tender, but on the bland side. The sauteed spinach side was also a bit bland and had become slightly watery. The cornbread andouille dressing, however, was wonderful. I am a good Southern boy and I know good dressing. This is damn good dressing. I wish it was available as a side by itself. I’ll have to ask about that when we go again.
Dessert at Majestic Grille is the really fun part. Their take on dessert is small, reasonably-priced servings of scrumptious treats. For just two dollars, you can get what is essentially a large shot glass filled with one of six desserts. The small portions are ideal after one of Majestic Grille’s big, satisfying sandwiches. Small portions also mean no plastic representations on a dessert cart either. Our server brought out a board with actual servings of six desserts.
Given that it was my responsibilty as the birthday boy to choose, I gave careful consideration and chose one of each. We had a really good carrot cake (Jr.’s favorite), chocolate cake that was a bit dense, and sweet moist strawberry shortcake. The key lime pie that was super tart, but Nana and Granddaddy Squirrel loved it. There was also a creme sofia, un-bruleed custard with mango puree that J. Squirrel loved. Mama and I put most of our energy into the tiramisu.
We made a second trip just last week to try out the dinner menu. Many of the great sandwiches are not on the menu at night, but they are replaced by an expanded list of the house’s “Specialties” and a list of steaks. We chose an appetizer of crab and andouille stuffed jumbo shrimp that was nice to tide us over until our salad course arrived. We decided to share the Old Post Office Waldorf salad. The presentation of the salad was absolutely beautiful. A mound of fresh baby greens topped with a fan of tart apple slices with a splash of vivd raspberry vinaigrette on the side studded with delicious barbequed walnuts.
From the specialties, we chose “Smokers Anonymous” BBQ ribs. The ribs were tender and very lightly smoky, not a bad dish at all, but given the rib competition in town, not outstanding. The ribs came with fries and slaw. The slaw was a bit too creamy so the crispness of the cabbage was lost. From the steaks we chose the hanger steak. This was a good choice, perfectly cooked and richly flavorful. I spent most of dinner just leaning back and sighing before I remembered the generous portion of garlic mashed potatoes. We had only one dessert this trip, the tiramisu, which fell short of our earlier trip. This time it was somewhat dry and, without the espresso for balance, a bit too strongly flavored by the liqueur.
Service at Majestic Grille has been disappointing so far. Our servers have been friendly but not as sharp as we expected. The magnificent space and very good food did heighten our expectations to a certain extent, but some of the flubs, like a forgotten glass of wine, wouldn’t be expected at even an average restaurant.
In spite of small problems, our experiences at Majestic Grille have been outstanding. Majestic Grille has certainly solidified its place as our number one restaurant of choice for downtown events. In fact, those sandwiches are good enough to encourage us to make up downtown events just to get to go.
145 S. Main Street
Memphis, Tennessee 38103