Review: Refined Southern for All
Truth: The Elegant Farmer satisfies a niche that frankly should have been filled sooner. Another pot roast-serving, catfish-frying restaurant in Memphis hardly adds character to an already Southern-conservative food scene, but at The Elegant Farmer, Chef/Owner Mac Edwards (formerly of McEwens) is making Southern staples more attractive than anyone else in the city.
Once a teahouse now converted to one chic farmhouse, the restaurant off South Highland proves that eating sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive and, most importantly, that Southern traditions mustn’t directly descend from a loved grandmother. Even Grandma’s recipes could use an update now and then.
roast pork, greens, corn casserole ($11)
Striking lunch dishes include the roast pork, which is braised with red wine, an oven roasted chicken that’s big, juicy and so-not boring, and a mac and cheese that takes its cues from mustard and hot sauce . At dinner, the salmon patties are fine, but the pork chop is outrageous. Since when has a pork chop ever been exciting? This one is brined to stay moist and served with a spring onion marmalade that runs deep through the entire chop. The center is as good as the outside. A rarity. And while no longer on the menu, the sausage/duck etouffee over polenta was a large plate of love that later made for killer leftovers.
Chef de Cuisine Gannon Hamilton’s menu is far more extensive than what I’ve tried over my last three visits, but even if everything else disappointed, I’ve found enough dishes to keep a steady rotation of my favorites. But while we’re on the subject, The Elegant Farmer does occasionally err: the rolls can be cold and hard, the greens closer to candy than a vegetable (too much sugar) and the brisket too dry and tough. These are mistakes, but perhaps forgivable ones considering what you’re paying (brisket, $10).
Price point (lunch entrees are less than $12, dinner generally less than $20) is the final piece to The Elegant Farmer’s appeal. Portion sizes often lend themselves to another meal of wonderful leftovers. But leftovers or not, The Elegant Farmer succeeds in reaching that elusive 4-way intersection of delicious, affordable, creative and classic. It’s about time.
The Elegant Farmer
262 S Highland
Memphis, TN 38111