Lost Memphis: The Dobbs House Mark IV



Image courtesy Key Magazine

I wonder why people think the name "Mark IV" is synonymous with elegance and class? As far as I can tell, no great world leader was ever called Mark IV. For years, though, Lincoln sold a Mark IV version of its Continental line of fine automobiles. And in Memphis, Dobbs House opened a fancy restaurant  on Poplar called, quite simply, the Mark IV.

Someday I'll do a whole column on the Dobbs House restaurant chain and their influence on dining in Memphis. For now I'll just remind readers that the company operated a chain of home-cooking restaurants after they took over most of the old Toddle Houses around town. In addition to those, they turned a rather staid restaurant across from East High School into the bizarre, Polynesian-themed restaurant called the Luau.

And at 4726 Poplar, they converted a former Toddle House into a place called the Dobbs House Inn. That was in the 1960s. Sometime in the early 1970s, they hired an architect to completely transform the building with a series of spiky concrete buttresses and a mansard roof, and that's where they opened the Mark IV.

I managed to find an old ad for the place in a 1972 issue of Key magazine. As I recall, it was a vaguely Olde English-style place, with lots of dark paneling, and waitresses who wore the flouncy, revealing "English wench" style outfits shown here. I know that's probably an offensive way to describe their attire, but hey this was the 1970s.

I visited the place many times late at night, mainly to sit at the cozy bar and pick fights with other customers. Let me tell you, back in the day, I was a mean drunk after I had downed a half-dozen Singapore Slings.

I can't remember when the Mark IV closed. It was one of those places that just sort of faded from memory and then one day you realized it was gone. The distinctive building is still there, housing a number of businesses, including Bell Fine Art Jewelers and the Barefoot Bride Boutique.

By the way, if you use Google or Bing to "fly over" 4726 Poplar and get a good birds-eye view of the building, you can still see the original roof of the Toddle House in the middle of the building.

Reader Comments:
May 23, 2012 10:47 am
 Posted by  warbirdali

Yes SPR doesn't look quite as nice from above, does it? And if you read your Bible instead of using it to hide flasks of Gin you would know that Mark IV is chapter 4 of Mark's gospel in which he writes "Yea, verily I say into thee that a buxom wench handling your Coq au vin is a good way to spend an evening- even Sundays" At least MY Bible has that (Not the "King James" but I have the "Rick James" edition)

May 25, 2012 06:00 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I am thinking the Mark IV may have had an earlier origin. My wife introduced me to the delicious Black Bottom Pie there on our first date. That was in Auguest 1967.

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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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