Lost Memphis: Chenault’s Restaurant

For decades, this eatery on South Bellevue was the place to be for Whitehaven High School students.



Chenault’s was far more than a restaurant; for decades it was the hangout for kids from Whitehaven High School, just down the street.

There were actually two Chenault’s — an older place and the new one, which is what most people remember. In 1955 Reginald “Rex” Chenault opened a roomy drive-in at 1400 South Bellevue to replace the smaller establishment next door.

Calling it “an interesting modern building,” newspapers noted the main dining room “of exposed brick and wood paneling,” but somehow failed to mention that the rows of booths were bright pink, as shown in the old postcard. Out back, “an enormous barbecue pit of unique design was worked out by Mr. Chenault and his architects.” The place was still dishing out burgers and shakes as late as the 1980s, and the unusual building is still standing.

Reader Comments:
Feb 28, 2014 07:01 pm
 Posted by  Abdurand

Many fun meals there after games and proms. Would that I could return for a burger with onions, pickles & mustard and a shake.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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