What happens when you combine an entrepreneurial couple, an abandoned liquor store and nine successful business women? One heck of a fun and tasty new restaurant! This past November, Lisa and Luis Toro transformed the closed liquor store down the street from their popular coffee and gifts shop City & State into a hip and hoppin’ new diner, aptly named The Liquor Store.
“The location came before the concept. After being on Broad for a few years, we continued to hear requests for more restaurant options and felt as though the liquor building, with all its charm, would be a perfect space,” says Lisa of the decision to open their second venture. “My husband Luis and I first dipped our toes into entrepreneurship with City & State back in March of 2015. We learned a lot around small-scale counter-service operations, as well as retail. So, we are now taking the leap into a full-service restaurant.”
Their leap came at the encouragement of a group of nine successful business women who were eager to invest in Lisa and her dream.
“Luis and I have had the opportunity to mentor and hear from so many women and minorities hoping to start or grow their businesses, and we always heard the same challenges specific to funding,” says Lisa. “We were also experiencing those challenges when we started to look to raise investment for The Liquor Store. With the mentorship and support of Pat Brown and Margot McNeeley, we gathered together a group of women interested in supporting growth in Memphis communities through women- and minority-owned businesses. Our investors are comprised of nine incredibly talented and diverse women from here in Memphis.”
“I’ve known Lisa for a couple of years through her and her husband’s first business, City & State,” explains Margot McNeeley of her decision to invest in The Liquor Store. “I’ve come to admire Lisa’s strong work ethic and vision and to appreciate her potential to help grow the Broad Avenue area, creating new jobs for Memphians and bringing unique restaurants to Memphis.”
Margot, a local entrepreneur herself and founder and past director of Project Green Fork, is also quick to point out that female investors are vital.
“Over the past few years, I’ve seen an increase in the amount of new businesses in Memphis that have opened with multiple investors. For the most part, these new businesses are majority male-invested. A little over a year ago, Lisa and I had a conversation about this, and we couldn’t help but wonder why majority male? As we continued talking about it, we realized that we could — and should — do something about it.”
So they did something about it. Fast-forward one year and their group of nine female investors helped fund The Liquor Store with the aim of investing in more women-operated businesses down the road. And Margot’s mission goes even deeper. “I think it’s important to not only support women entrepreneurs, but to also invest in women,” she says. “In the United States, women working full time are typically paid 80 percent of what men are paid, a gap of 20 percent. We need to help eliminate that gap and lift women entrepreneurs up!”
Inside The Liquor Store
The Liquor Store is a spot like no other in town. It’s both a diner and a bar, offering breakfast all day, diner classics and Latin-inspired dishes alongside craft cocktails, beer and wine.
The feeling when you walk in the door is funky and fun with a Miami vibe. White walls, a splash of neon here and there and the coolest tables in town make you feel more like you are in South Beach rather than on the industrial Broad Street in Memphis.
“From the beginning, we knew we wanted to pay homage to classic diners around the country and opted for a laminate top on our bar and tables. But, in order to achieve the more Latin vibes, Luis designed a custom pattern that would bring a more tropical finish,” says Lisa. “The remaining elements were selected in partnership with Natalie Lieberman — who is also an investor — of Collect + Curate to round out a unique space that is bright and cheerful, but still comfortable.”
Grab a seat at one of the tables or hop on a stool at the counter and take a look at the drink menu. Their team of local mixologists has created a fun cocktail menu full of fruity drinks and unique spins on classics like Pisco Sours.
“For our bar program, we brought in Vincent Hale and Josh Conley to develop a menu that would pair with the dishes and again bring in Latin flavors to complement the menu concept. We are developing cocktails on tap and will be introducing seasonal cocktails as well,” adds Lisa.
While enjoying your craft cocktail or libation of choice, dive into the menu, a fun blend of old-school dishes and Cuban-inspired fare.
“We knew we wanted to do a diner inspired by retro classics, such as Salisbury steak and shrimp cocktail. We also saw the opportunity to embrace Luis’ cultural heritage with the addition of Latin flavors,” Lisa explains of their eclectic menu. “We worked with Chef Daniel Johnson to bring it all to life.”
To start, consider an order of the loaded fries — crispy fries smothered in Cuban pork, cheese and savory gravy. It’s perfect for sharing or makes for a tasty meal. We also loved the cheeseball with crackers, a yummy blend of cheeses, nuts and fruit served with Ritz crackers that will remind you of cocktail parties at your grandparents — in a good way, we promise!
The grilled cheese with tomato soup is a favorite for lunch. A blend of five cheeses on your choice of white or wheat makes this one of the best grilled cheeses in town. It’s a classic done right. A nod toward Luis’ heritage, The Liquor Store’s Cuban sandwich is the real deal. Served with a mound of crispy plantain chips, this 14-hour-roasted Cuban pork is served on house-made Cuban bread with the traditional accompaniments of sliced ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. The Salisbury steak is a favorite of Lisa’s. “Smothered in mushroom gravy with mashed potatoes, peas and pearl onions, it’s my favorite because it’s something you don’t find often. To me, it’s pure comfort food,” she says.
And if craving breakfast any time of day, The Liquor Store has you covered. They have all the basics, but the biscuits and gravy is a must-have dish. Two open-faced house-made biscuits are topped with shiitake mushroom white gravy and served with two eggs any style and your choice of breakfast meat. “I’m a big fan of biscuits and gravy, but as a non-meat eater, I usually skip the gravy, since most gravy is made with meat. The biscuits at The Liquor Store are topped with a mushroom-based vegetarian gravy that I absolutely love,” says Margot of her go-to order.
Be sure to save room for dessert when dining at The Liquor Store. “Our head baker, Ali Rohrbacher, is our secret weapon. She is responsible for not only the daily desserts such as chocolate chess pie, scones and cupcakes, but also our biscuits, Cuban bread and preserves,” says Lisa. They also offer at least one vegan dessert daily, but be forewarned: it usually sells out early.
The Liquor Store is located at 2655 Broad Ave., Memphis, TN 38112. Open Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m; and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (901) 405-5477 or visit thebroadliquorstore.com.
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