Finally! Memphis has a restaurant on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River! Located at Beale Street Landing in Tom Lee Park, The Front Porch is the perfect spot to watch the sun set over the river. Opened in June by Patrick and Deni Reilly of The Majestic Grille, The Front Porch offers breathtaking views of the river and a menu that the chef describes as “laid-back front-porch fare.”
Beale Street Landing opened back in 2014 by the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC). Since that time, a few dining concepts have launched in the space, but none were successful. This past spring, the RDC approached the successful and talented restaurateur couple behind The Majestic Grille to come on board as consultants, charged with creating a new concept for this one-of-a-kind riverfront venue. A pop-up venture open through October, The Front Porch has quickly become a popular downtown destination.
“We love the riverfront. We live downtown. We’re raising our family here and honestly, it’s a little selfish,” explains Deni when asked why she and Patrick decided to take on this opportunity. “We want to be able to grab a bite to eat or get a nice glass of wine after we kick the ball around the park with our son or ride our bikes over the Harahan. This is the best view of the Mississippi, not only in Memphis, but pretty much the entire length of the river. So for Memphis not to take advantage of this is just ridiculous. We’re just happy to be able to have such a great crew at The Majestic that lets us step away to devote the time to this project, so that we can create a riverfront gathering spot for all Memphians.”
“This restaurant is important because the park is important. A thriving riverfront needs amenities and the restaurant is a key amenity,” adds Patrick, past Memphis Restaurant Association president, about their new project. Mimicking the success of their popular Main Street restaurant, this talented dynamic duo approaches this new venue as a team. An award-winning chef, Patrick is at the helm of the kitchen and the menu, while the gregarious and charming Deni is in charge of the bar and the front of the house. The two partner to create a delicious, one-of-a-kind dining experience full of charm and Southern hospitality — even though you’d be surprised to know neither are native Southerners.
The menu includes tasty sandwiches and salads for lunch or a light supper, as well as shareable appetizers and cocktails perfect for watching the sun go down with friends.
“The inspiration for our menu was the riverfront. I tried to think of a menu perfect for dining on a front porch — egg salad, hamburgers, catfish sandwiches … nothing fancy, just simple food done well,” says Patrick. “Like The Majestic Grille menu, there is a little something for everyone,” Deni chimes in.
Crispy grit bites – grit croutons served with a roasted garlic aioli – are one of both Deni and Patrick’s favorite menu items. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, they are a fun and unique appetizer to share with friends.
“I really like to eat meals where you can try a little bit of everything, so I really like our Sundown Snacks platters,” Deni says of the shareable plates. Her very favorite is The Front Porch Picnic Plate. “It’s an assortment of egg salad, curried chicken salad, tuna salad and pimento cheese, served with veggies and lavosh crackers.”
“Barbecued Gulf shrimp is also a favorite of mine,” adds Patrick. Large shell-on Gulf shrimp are served in a spicy black pepper sauce with grilled bread on the side for dipping — a messy but tasty shareable snack.
The perfect accompaniment to a perfect sunset is, of course, a good cocktail.
“Lisa, our bar manager at The Majestic, has a real talent for creating clean, refreshing cocktails that are perfect for enjoying by the pitcher on a hot summer day,” explains Deni of their extensive cocktail menu. “She did the hard work of creating the cocktails, and I got the fun job of taste-testing and naming them.”
Collectively called Front Porch Sippers, their signature drinks are available by the tumbler or by the pitcher. Each drink on the menu has a Memphis-based story behind the name. Deni obviously put a lot of thought into — and had a lot of joy — naming each cocktail. “The Boss Crump Collins is named after the former (and notorious) Mayor of Memphis, who actually had the vision to turn our industrial waterfront into a public park,” says Deni. “The cocktail is a perfect blend of lemony goodness and gin.”
Named after James Hyter, the legendary singer who sang “Ol’ Man River” every year at Sunset Symphony for decades, their cocktail Hyter’s Low Notes Hi-Ball features locally distilled Old Dominick Honeybell, Aperol, housemade strawberry syrup, ground black pepper and bubbles. It is deliciously refreshing with just enough hint of spice.
“Manny’s Memphis Mule, which pays tribute to the spirit of poor old Manny the Manatee, who in 2006 became a local celebrity after swimming 417 miles against the current, upriver from the Gulf to Memphis, is probably our most popular so far, but I’m partial to Hyter’s Low Notes Hi-Ball,” says Deni. “I’m a sucker for an Aperol Spritz [the national drink of Italy] and this cocktail just screams summer to me!” Each drink is served in brightly colored vintage anodized aluminum tumblers and pitchers. “Not only do they tie into the whole ‘front porch’ concept, but they keep drinks super cold! I think I bought every vintage pitcher available on eBay,” Deni adds with a smile.
And speaking of a front porch, Deni and Patrick made sure that the exterior dining spaces feel just that way. Cherry-red rocking chairs line the river side of the restaurant. Comfortable and inviting, they are they perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail with a date or with friends as the sun goes down.
Under the covered side patio, comfy backyard couches and chairs provide the perfect shaded spot to dine al fresco or enjoy a cocktail while listening to local tunes on the weekends.
“Being a pop-up, meaning we’re testing things out and seeing what works and what doesn’t, we really couldn’t justify a complete makeover. But we did want to impact things that we felt were really important. First and foremost, we wanted to create a welcoming environment, a place were people feel comfortable to not just eat a meal with us, but really spend some time at the river. That is where the rocking chairs come in as well as all the greenery we added to our exterior spaces,” Deni explains.
This riverfront venue truly is Memphis’ front porch. “I can’t tell you just how magical it is being down there listening to great Memphis music, sipping a cocktail and watching the river roll by. It is something you can’t get anywhere else,” says Deni.
The Front Porch is located at 251 Riverside Drive, Memphis, TN 38103. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to sundown. For more information, call (901) 524-0817 or visit frontporchmemphis.com.
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