Carolina Watershed is, hands down, one of the most uniquely designed restaurants in town! This downtown establishment was built from metal grain silos.
“Our uniqueness is the architecture,” says owner Mac Hopper. “Where else in Memphis can you eat dinner inside of a metal grain silo?”
Carolina Watershed is made up of four metal silos. The largest one houses the main dining room and bar, another is home to the kitchen, and a third smaller one is where you will find the restrooms. In addition to the restaurant buildings, Carolina Watershed is centered around a big backyard complete with waterfalls, picnic tables and, not surprisingly, a large round outdoor bar made from the fourth metal silo. “It serves as a space to bring your kids and let them run around, just as much as it is a late-night hot spot for the younger crowd. It’s a place for everyone,” says Mac.
But Carolina Watershed is so much more than just a one-of-a-kind architectural structure.
“It all boils down to the atmosphere, the handcrafted cocktails and the locally sourced food,” adds Mac.
Mac partnered with talented local chef Andy Knight, who has been in the kitchen of some of Memphis’ best restaurants: He opened Loflin Yard as Executive Chef, was on the opening team of Bounty on Broad as Chef de Cuisine, and before all of that, he was at Interim as Sous Chef for a little over 7 years. This seasoned chef was ready for his own spot, and luckily the perfect opportunity came along with Mac and restaurant co-owner Brad Barnett.
“Andy grew up in the kitchen. Since 18, he has done nothing but. I think he’s a natural with Southern food,” Mac adds about their partnership.
When you hear Mac and Andy’s vision for Carolina Watershed, the striking architecture makes sense. Mac says their criteria was simple: A rural feel with a nod to the adjacent railroad and, of course, farm-fresh food.
“Our food at Carolina Watershed is based on a Southern deli to which all of our sandwiches come with a Southern side — turnip greens, fried okra, black-eyed peas, cornbread, etc.,” says Andy.
So, what better place to enjoy farm-fresh Southern fare than in a building that makes you feel like you are on a farm?!
There are several not-to-miss dishes. Luckily, a number of them are perfect for sharing.
Carolina Watershed’s Delta tamales are the real deal. Made from scratch, Andy serves them with a garnish of corn chowder. Enjoy them as a shareable appetizer or order them as an entrée. And the loaded pulled pork cheese fries are worth every calorie. Crispy fries are slathered in a three-cheese blend and topped with house-smoked pulled pork, house-smoked bacon, a fried egg and scallion cream.
It is worth noting that Andy is smoking all of his own meats and bacon in-house. The thick-cut bacon is actually smoked pork belly, making it some of the most sinfully delicious bacon you have ever tasted. And in keeping with the restaurant’s name (which actually came from the street it’s on), Andy is smoking his meats Carolina-style, making it a unique barbecue option in this BBQ capital.
They also serve up items hot off the grill — everything from burgers to brats. And they’ve got all the classic deli-sandwich favorites, but each with a creative twist. One of Mac’s favorites is the fried bologna sandwich. Andy serves this down-home Southern classic on a sourdough bun with a fried egg and dill aioli. The pork belly BLT has quickly become a customer favorite — the house-smoked pork belly bacon is served on white bread with crisp butter lettuce, roasted tomato and garlic aioli. It’s not your everyday BLT!
Andy says he doesn’t have a favorite menu item, but he did tell us not to overlook the CW club sandwich. His take on this deli staple is a sandwich composed of country white bread, house-smoked turkey, ham, house-smoked bacon, cucumber, crisp lettuce, tomato and a garnish of sweet mustard aioli.
The “Flats,” or flatbread pizzas, make a tasty snack, especially for those exuberant late-night revelers who need some fuel past midnight on Fridays or Saturdays. “It’s a Mediterranean naan bread that makes an awesome crust,” explains Mac. “Andy found this baker that prepares them fresh for us.” Options include three cheese, pulled pork, garden and Mediterranean.
On Saturdays and Sundays during the day, Carolina Watershed serves a special brunch menu from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Our brunch is so good, we do it twice,” Mac jokes. We loved the braised short rib potato hash. Hearty, rich and perfectly complemented by a Bloody Mary, the hash includes a fork-tender braised short rib served with a sunny-side egg and new potatoes. Another favorite is the brioche French toast stack. This brunch go-to is deliciously garnished with mixed berries, maple syrup and whipped cream.
And we can’t forget to mention the libations to wash down all this good food. It’s impossible to miss the bar when you enter the Carolina Watershed. It is the circular centerpiece of the room.
The bartenders serve up some tasty handcrafted cocktails, and the names are Southern-inspired. “Some of them are named after songs, like Coal Miner’s Daughter, Hello Darlin’, Georgia on my Mind and Jolene,” says Mac. And when it comes to the beer selection, “We’re all craft on draft,” says Mac with a smile.
The backyard is also the perfect place to enjoy a cold drink, munchies and tunes. “The carved-out backyard has two waterfalls that flow into a natural amphitheater, which has a stage for Southernized music,” says Mac. “A little rock-a-billy, old country and some twists, like a country-style Mariachi.”
Once the warmer spring weather arrives, we suspect this backyard will be a popular watering hole for many. See ya’ there!
Carolina Watershed is located at 141 E. Carolina Ave., Memphis, TN 38126. Open Monday and Tuesday for lunch only, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (901) 321-5553 or visit carolinawatershed.com.
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