I love the cultural + entertainment growth we’re experiencing in Memphis right now. Every day it seems like something new is popping up in Midtown and Downtown, and now it’s starting to expand around the city. CHAR, an American seafood and steakhouse with southern charm, recently opened on Highland Row, and I was able to take a tour and sample a few items during a late lunch.
Restaurateur Ben Brock was looking to expand into Tennessee (the original CHAR opened in 2001 in Jackson, Ms) and with the success of Amerigo (part of their family), they knew the concept would work in Memphis. The University of Memphis/Highland Row area has been under renovations for the last few years (tons of new business + apt/condos), so a steakhouse fits perfectly into the vibe. Memphis is hilariously split between East Memphis + Downtown Memphis people (aka the city dwellers and the suburbanites who only venture into each other’s territory when it’s necessary), so CHAR‘s location is a great middle ground (it’s also located across from my very first apt, which is very nostalgic for me).
My bff + occasional assistant Candace came with me and we immediately fell in love with the decor. It has a metropolitan, intimate feel: dark wood and red leather booths line the hallway “Mafia style”, but then it opens out into the main dining area with high ceilings and dark walls. They also have private dining areas that can be used for larger parties and/or meetings, so there’s variety in seating, which is always a plus.
There’s also a piano bar that you can hang out in and watch sports/have a cocktail when you need a quick break and don’t want to wait for a table. There’s no bad seat in the place.
After our tour, we poured over the menu for a good 10 minutes because we couldn’t decide what we wanted.
Our server Sherrianne was so sweet and knowledgeable about everything, so we decided to make it simple for ourselves and just take her recommendations. First, we had a Baguette with citrus jalapeno butter + cherry pistou butter (this changes frequently). If they ever sell this butter separately I’ll buy it. The citrus jalapeno flavor is fresh + spicy, while the cherry pistou has a hint of sweetness.
We ordered the Spinach Crisp with added chicken for an appetizer. When we bit into it, we both just stared at each other, lol. The best way to describe it is grown up comfort food.
It’s that meal that you’d take home and curl up on the couch with. The tortilla is crisp, but moreso in the vein of the crispness you’d get with a pastry than a tortilla or even chips. It melts in your mouth, and the serving size is more than enough for 2 people.
I decided to have the Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon (served over tri-colored couscous,sautéed broccolini, sun-dried tomato, caper vinaigrette) while Candace had the Cornbread Dusted Redfish (served over Delta Grind grits, spinach, Abita Amber crab pan sauce).
Both dishes were delicious; the fish was well-seasoned, light and flaky, and we preferred the couscous and grits that it was served with (usually an entree like this is done with rice but it would’ve been too heavy of a pairing). Salmon is my go-to when I don’t want to do steak, but the redfish? ZOMG. It’s a top-pick for most, and the sauce is so buttery that you’ll want extra to take home.
Sherrianne convinced us to also try the mac ‘n’ cheese (we were stuffed but what Southern gal passes that up?). This isn’t your regular mac ‘n’ cheese, folks: it has a white cheddar sauce with caramelized onions, so it’s a little more sophisticated. The flavors mesh quite well together. If I’d had it with steak? OH MAN.
Of COURSE we had to have a cocktail. The menu is very simple (we both had a vodka based libation) and… HONEY. They are potent + delicious. If you need a stiff drink after work, this is the spot to get it from.
We hadn’t hung out in a few weeks, so it was an awesome time to play catch-up with Candace. We laughed and talked about both personal stuff and our upcoming projects, and it was awesome to be able to do it over yummy food (that was affordable too-most dishes on the lunch menu are under $18!). We didn’t have dessert (we were too stuffed), which means our next visit must happen soon!
431 S. Highland, Suite 120
Memphis, TN 38111
Monday – Friday: 11am-10pm
901. 249. 3533