The Second Line (Memphis)

I recently read in last Sunday's New York Times, "there are no shortcuts to quality." The Second Line doesn't believe in shortcuts. It's beautifully obvious. I admittedly crave trips to New Orleans pretty frequently for the city's charming culinary magic, though Chef Kelly English has managed to bring the once-unbeatable creole rendition to Midtown Memphis through every menu item. And while I have written about the cocktails and the atmosphere of my coveted Overton Square hangout, I somehow have yet to write about the food.

My Instagram boasts the recent table spreads from the orange and turquoise patio. Earlier in the summer, the fried catfish po boy graced my plate for the first time. An unusual feature compared to the usual fried shrimp or oyster, the catfish was fried to a golden brown crisp with that wonderful contrast of an outer crisp and an inner buttery texture. Add that to a fresh, cloud-like baguette with thick-cut tomatoes and lettuce. Hello, happiness.

The brignole side salad served as a necessary substitute to balance the fried entrees with a touch or two of green. While side salads are usually overlooked and boring, the Second Line's was a spunky refresher of crushed red pepper flakes and quartered artichoke hearts. I was a big fan of the feta and green olives, which reminded me of the dirty martini I'd sip later that evening.

The Besh barbecue shrimp appetizer knocks any other rendition out of the park. Compared to other Memphis versions, The Second Line shrimp are plump and bursting with creole flavor. We sopped up remaining sauce with the side baguette (as if I needed more carbs).

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Now skip to brunch, which offers a curated, eclectic mix of Southern-inspired breakfast favorites (with the Kelly English twist, of course). Eggs Benedict with rich spinach madeleine and artichoke are a vegetarian favorite; Cast-iron skillet huevos rancheros with stewed black beans and fried eggs brought me back to my South Austin brunch adventures; and the insane pancake stack with strawberries and molasses brought me to heaven. All were washed down amongst our party of six with the signature bloody mary recipe, which I'm dying to imitate at home.

If you aren't on a diet, perfect. If you're on a diet, pretend you aren't for one meal and make it into The Second Line. Every carb is #worthit.

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