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We didn’t think Shelby Farms Park could get any cooler, especially with all the new “stuff” going on in the park from the reconfiguration of Patriot Lake into a ginormous water feature to the addition of a live music stage, the addition of group spaces and the rebuilding of the visitor’s center.

And then came The Kitchen Bistro at Shelby Farms Park.

The Kitchen at Shelby Farms Park features a huge and gorgeous patio that overlooks the new Hyde Lake.

The Kitchen Bistro at Shelby Farms Park features a huge and gorgeous patio that overlooks the new Hyde Lake.

Gorgeous wood and soft colors are the backdrop of The Kitchen, where the focus is on the exterior view of Shelby Farms Park.

Gorgeous wood and soft colors are the interior backdrop of The Kitchen.

In one of the most anticipated Memphis restaurant openings, well, ever, the eco-chic restaurant opened its doors with a series of invite-only events and dinners for Memphis fooderatis, most of whom cannot wait to return — if only they can score a reservation.

Soft openings are meant to work out the kinks in both menu and service before a restaurant throws open its doors to the general public. Our first experience was pretty darn close to perfect, however. The service was a little wonky at times but the friendliness of the staff more than made up for it and, from appetizers to dessert, we enjoyed every bite.

Located in the new FedEx Events Center, The Kitchen occupies the eastern-most portion of the building. Inside, the restaurant evokes a naturally chic feel: natural light floods in through huge glass windows; soft green tiles and gorgeous wood floors and walls create a simple and serene backdrop for the real nature show — the gorgeous and expansive water feature formerly known as Patriot Lake and now named for local park champions Pitt and Barbara Hyde. A huge covered patio is full of tables for outdoor dining and the view over Hyde Lake is fantastic, especially at sunset.

Sunset from the patio at The Kitchen, overlooking Hyde Lake.

Sunset from the patio overlooking Hyde Lake at The Kitchen.

Like its sister restaurants across the country (there are now nine open and a few more on the way), the food sourced for The Kitchen is grown as close to the restaurant as possible, ensuring local farmers and providers are engaged. This farm-to-table concept is nothing new but in such a natural setting as Shelby Farms Park, the experience is unique to Memphis.

Inside the eco-friendly, LEED-certified building, there’s a long bar that’s the city’s newest SABS (see-and-be-seen) hangout where apron-clad bartenders serve up the restaurant’s signature Persian lemon cocktail, a concoction featuring house-infused lemon vodka and pomegranate liqueur.

The signature cocktail, a house-infused lemon vodka and pomegranate concoction.

The signature cocktail, a house-infused lemon vodka and pomegranate concoction

The food is dynamic and, during our visit, included seemingly Southern-inspired treats, including bites of spicy and crispy chicken skins. Entrees included grilled red snapper served with thin slices of zucchini and a rib eye steak with smashed fingerling potatoes. We can’t wait to go back for a full perusal of the menu and we definitely are bringing a crowd so we can order one of everything.

The restaurant is the brainchild of co-founders Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson who truly don’t seem to be in business for money. Rather, the duo is committed to creating food communities in cities, including Memphis, that not only celebrate the local agricultural producers but also support the teaching of children about the importance of knowing where their food comes from.

Called The Kitchen Community, this nonprofit arm of the restaurant company already has built 50 “Learning Gardens” in the Memphis area. At the opening of the restaurant, Kimbal noted that more than 25,000 kids in Memphis are learning “what real food is all about.” Learning Gardens are located at schools, customized to the land available at each facility and are considered a true extension of the classroom. (The Kitchen Community is only halfway to its goal of 100 Learning Gardens in the Mid-South — schools can apply for a garden here.)

In the new visitor’s center, there’s The Kitchenette, a grab-and-go café, which gives park visitors the chance to take a picnic out into the park. Next up for Kimbal and Hugo is Next Door at Crosstown Concourse, a casual dining space that will embrace the historic elements of the Crosstown building and also feature a large outdoor patio – this one overlooking the new main plaza.

The Kitchen Bistro at Shelby Farms Park is located at 415 Great View Drive E., Suite #101
, Memphis, TN 38134. Hours are Sunday and Monday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Kitchenette hours at the Visitor Center are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To learn more, call (901) 729-9009.

Thanks to Micki Martin for the photos of The Kitchen!

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