After years of culinary training in France, in Charleston, South Carolina, and then under Memphis’ renowned Chef Erling Jensen, Justin Young and his wife, Amy, took the leap to launch Raven & Lily in Oakland, Tennessee, in 2016. The couple originally met while working at La Tourelle, a once-acclaimed Memphis fine dining treasure — and this summer, during the month of their 13th wedding anniversary, a new restaurant location has the talented duo offering the ultimate family-owned experience.
“We weren’t actively looking for a new location, but we knew we wanted to grow the business and our clientele,” says Justin. “Someone mentioned the spot; we took a tour; we instantly fell in love.”
Amy adds, “We’re grateful to the building owner who afforded us an outstanding opportunity to showcase our abilities to Collierville. Plus, our neighbors on the square have been super-supportive and kind. This is what we needed and what the owner of this space needed — it’s a nice match.”
Amy runs front-of-house operations with a focus on customer experience, while Justin delivers a chef-driven series of mouthwatering dishes from the kitchen six days a week. The couple agrees, “We both enjoy service — and the fact that we get paid to do what we love is enough to wake up in the morning.”
“We’re translating that white tablecloth experience of our past into a value-oriented meal that is completely accessible yet attentive to detail,” says Amy. “Whether you’re coming from the theater or the farm, you don’t have to have a special occasion for excellent service.”
The historic Collierville square surrounds Raven & Lily’s new location, comprised of a chic exposed brick-wall dining room and cozy back-room bar. Polished wood dining tables and benches, built by Justin and Amy, paired with industrial metal chairs, reflect a traditional yet modern mix. A contemporary Southern setting roots Justin’s regionally inspired kitchen, bringing mainstays such as shrimp and grits into a refined yet reimagined spotlight. He tops his version, for example, with smoky andouille sausage and sweet caramelized onions. “We make everything in-house except the ketchup,” says Justin. “I’m always asking the question, ‘What else can we do?’ That ‘extra’ is our lagniappe, and we believe it goes a long way. Our goal is to have what our guests want before they know they want it.”
Chef Justin regularly swaps his starters and mains, offering bi-monthly menus that might feature a new seafood or sandwich depending on the season or, frankly, his experimental attitude. “We change things continuously to make dishes the best they can possibly be,” says Justin. “Our customers expect our best.”
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Housemade pork rinds ritualize the start of a Southern meal at Raven & Lily, especially when paired with a drink. An already-crowd-favorite starter is the roasted sweet potato with a colorful medley of produce and a contrasting slice of Danish bleu cheese.
Justin’s pastrami is renowned among lunch-goers, taking a carefully Creole-cured brisket and smoking it over hickory nuts, then piling it high upon fresh bread with the pickle, lettuce and aioli treatment.
The restaurant’s namesake RL Burger is beautifully boisterous in itself — shareable for sure, as it’s loaded with two 4-ounce patties, a fried green tomato, caramelized onions, house-cured bacon and a fried egg! It’s heaven on earth, as some might say, especially when paired with Justin’s thin-cut French fries.
Served on striking sets of unique pottery, the entrées express innovation with Southern sensibilities. Tilefish is topped with pickled red onions and microgreens with a bed of braised squash and in-season produce. A generous beef ribeye portion is served with fingerlings and an artistic brush stroke of demi-glace.
For dessert, a lemon curd layered with shortbread is light yet enriching, reminiscent of a Southern summer afternoon on the porch.
Six days of lunch and dinner service welcome business occasions, family affairs or an intimate date night experience. Weekend breakfast begins at 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, a refreshing earlier start time for those eager to indulge before the typical 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. brunch crowd. Don’t miss the French toast special or eggs Benedict variations, which pull inspiration for Chef Justin’s French training with poise.
“We like to think of ourselves as a mom-and-pop shop versus pushing ourselves into the middle of the culinary scene,” says Justin. “But the response has been overwhelming, and we’re very appreciative.”
Visit Raven & Lily at 120 E Mulberry St, Collierville, TN 38017. They are open for lunch Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Breakfast begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and dinner is from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit their website ravenandlilyrestaurant.com or call (901) 286-4575.
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