The Summer Drive-In

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Downtown Dining

Dear Vance: I found this menu for Edwards Café tucked away in some old books. What can you tell me about this establishment? — j.t, memphis.

Dear J.T.: Well, first of all, I can tell you that clip art hasn’t changed — or improved — much over the years, judging from the quaint illustrations that adorn the cover of an otherwise plain menu (above).

But I assume you’d like to know more about Edwards himself — who he was, and how long he ran this eatery. That’s easy enough, if you consider digging through several decades’ worth of city directories “easy.” (It’s not.)

This much I know: In 1936, Albert A. Edwards, who had formerly owned a grocery store on Park Avenue, opened a little café at 231 Madison, just a few doors away from the YMCA. Albert lived with his wife, Jewel, at 791 Meda in Midtown, in case you were wondering about their personal lives. The location on Madison certainly had plenty of competition; along that same block hungry customers could choose from George’s Café, Shoffner’s Café, and the Triangle Grill, and down the street was Jim’s Place #1.

For reasons I don’t know, Edwards seemingly lost interest in the place, because by 1939 those city directories show he was running the Court House Eat Shop, located downtown on North Third. The café on Madison was still called Edwards Café, though it was apparently taken over by other people — Mabel Costa and later Charles Cahn are listed as owners in later years.

For such a small place, Edwards cafe offered a surprising assortment of food: 12 different steaks or chops, 21 kinds of sandwhiches, and 11 different salads.

In 1946, the café was purchased by Arnold Furlotte, an interesting fellow involved in a number of restaurant ventures around the city, each of them carrying his name. He was the owner of Furlotte’s Coffee Shop on South Main, Furlotte’s Steak House on South Third, and the curiously named Furlotte’s Flying Saucer on Court Avenue. And as you might imagine, he quickly changed the name of Edwards Café to Furlotte’s Café, which he operated until 1970.

I have no idea of the date of your old menu, J.T., but considering that a hamburger was a dime, and two pork chops were a quarter, I’d guess 1940s. For such a small place, Edwards offered a surprising assortment of food: 12 different steaks or chops, 21 kinds of sandwiches, and 11 different salads. The “Special Menu To-Day” clipped to your menu lists roast leg of veal with dressing (15 cents), tenderloin steak with mashed potatoes (25 cents), baked ham with potato salad (20 cents), and a dozen more selections. The most expensive item on the entire menu was a t-bone steak for a whopping 40 cents.

Around 1970, the old building became home to Gregory’s restaurant. Two years later the phone books listed it as vacant, and occupying the site today are the grassy bluffs behind AutoZone Park’s third base. The snacks served during Memphis Redbirds games are quite tasty, so I guess you could say that even after all these years, 231 Madison is still a good place to get a decent meal. 

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