Whenever people come to Memphis, most of them just want to eat barbecue non-stop, or maybe hit a few of the places that have been featured on various Food Network shows. And I'm proud to show off some of our local smoked pork and soul food restaurants. But when real food lovers come to town, I take them directly to the Cooper-Young District, located conveniently near the airport, downtown, and our major universities.
It's our local artsy neighborhood, full of bicycles, creative house paint, and, most importantly, an ever-changing landscape of locally-owned restaurants that buck the trends of fast food and veer away from stereotypical dishes associated with the South, while still celebrating our regional ingredients and culinary traditions.
Even though Memphis is definitely a driving city, Cooper-Young is very walkable and safe for pedestrians and cyclists alike. That's why I like bringing visitors there so much: I go in without a plan and say, "Look, we're going to park here beside the church, and then walk around for a bit until we figure out what we all want to eat. If we can't decide right away, we're hopping in this place and having a cocktail to talk about it further." I've had great success with this strategy and always try to hit at least two places on a single visit.
Some online guides extend the definition of Cooper-Young way into Overton Park and the University of Memphis area; for the purposes of this post, I stuck to those restaurants within one block of the iconic intersection of Cooper Street and Young Avenue. Click through the slideshow to take a look at where—and what—to eat in this great Midtown Memphis neighborhood, or jump directly to the list below!
View SE Cooper-Young District in a larger map