A Memphis-style Smorgasbord
By all means embrace the smoke, but don't miss downtown's other culinary hideaways.
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Twelve Bar Supper Club
A soulful throwback to dinner and drinks
At first, Twelve Bar Supper Club, located on the second floor of Dancin’ Jimmy’s, is a little tricky to figure out. Is it a New Orleans speakeasy with French doors, brocade drapes, and balcony views up Beale Street? Is it a jazz club with aged bourbon cocktails and sultry lounge acts? Or is it a supper club, where food, service, and a cozy fire make late-night dining intimate and fun?
Even owner Bud Chittom, a veteran operator of bars and restaurants in downtown Memphis, had to wait and see. “I start slow and let my clubs decide what they want to be,” Chittom says. “And this one really wanted to be a supper club.”
Open since March, Twelve Bar had a good start thanks in part to the building’s $4 million development by former occupant Pat O’Brien’s. Chef Andrew Armstrong also adds considerable clout. A three-year veteran of Restaurant Iris and more recently Fuel Café, Armstrong’s new American cooking complements Twelve Bar’s namesake, the most popular chord progression in blues music.
Memphis Soul Stew, for example, is a multistep love affair that starts with ham stock and builds to duck confit, mustard greens, pork belly, poached egg, black-eyed peas, and a single crispy sage leaf. Oysters Thermadore wraps warm salty mollusks in tarragon, lemon, and Dijon cream. And the Shaker, one of the menu’s three French bread sandwiches served with duck fat fries, informs pulled roasted chicken with remoulade, cabbage, herbs, and Josie’s pickles.
Similar detail extends to the restaurant’s salads. Shaved rounds of carrots and cucumbers wrapped with smoked buttermilk dressing nestle inside Bibb lettuce leaves, like babies in a cradle. Pistachios, whole anchovies, and shaved Parmesan update a classic Caesar. And the farmhouse charcuterie plate with locally sourced meats and cheese hints at the fresh and local ingredients on every plate.
Happily, Twelve Bar gives equal play to a carefully culled list of handcrafted cocktails. Try Death in the Afternoon, a heady mix of absinthe, orange bitters and champagne; a classic Brandy Alexander with hazelnut, amaretto or crème de menthe; or Aviation, a fragrant gin cocktail muddled with lemon, lavender syrup, and crème de violette and garnished with a swirl of lemon zest.
Either way, stick around until manager Alston Meeks takes a turn at the club’s baby grand piano for a heartfelt melody of Frank Sinatra hits. And then head downstairs to the new Jerry Lee Lewis’ Café & Honky Tonk for a cocktail in a souvenir glass or a Strawberry Jerry, a killer combination of strawberries, Jello, crushed pretzels, and Chantilly cream.
Twelve Bar Supper Club
310 Beale St.