GO HARD IN THE YARD
Edibles, cocktails put fun in laid-back Downtown venue
When Loflin Yard opened, a friend’s first response was that it reminded him of outdoor venues in France. Moments later, he looked around and said no, no — it reminded him of Texas. After going back and forth, he pronounced it to be in the style of “France meets Texas.”
Works for me, as having a place like Loflin Yard in Downtown Memphis is about as unlikely as French-texan fusion. It’s one of the most laid-back and fun spots in town, and the food and drink help make it so.
WHAT IT IS
Loflin Yard is eight Downtown lots adding up to about an acre, anchored at the northeast corner by the old Loflin Safe & Lock Co., which is where the main bar is. It also houses the kitchen. Most of the cooking is done in an outside kitchen attached to the building, there are a few tables around the bar, and it’s where you order food from an outside window
Walk out the west door onto a patio that overlooks a small waterfall, remnants of Gayoso Bayou,
once the source of the city’s water. Beyond that is a wide expanse of lawn called the Front Yard, covered in plastic Adirondack chairs, picnic tables and big fans (and heaters will come when the weather demands it). The Coach House, a large event center that houses a muchneeded second bar, is on the far side of the lawn. On other side of the Coach House (you can walk right through) is the Back Yard, another large outdoor area bounded by railroad cars.
Bands play on the porch of the Coach House, and so do kids.— of all ages. Pick up a guitar and pick away, if you want. Play a game A side dish of grilled corn is served Mexican street style — on the cob, slathered in mayonnaise with lime and rolled in cotija cheese (similar to Parmesan).
of rings. Run around with your well-behaved dog.
This is, as co-owner Michael Tauer said, Downtown’s backyard.
Almost everything comes from the smoky outdoor kitchen, but I haven’t tasted anything that was too smoky — something that turns me off. But it’s a good time to mention that a good foodie friend, a frequent reviewing partner, finds that the food isn’t smoky enough to suit him. This is personal preference, and living in Memphis, you’re bound to know how you like your smoke.
Three times I’ve tried the brisket, and I’ve been impressed with its tenderness and flavor each time. Pull it with your fingers, eat it with a fork — you don’t need a knife. But while I’m a proponent of reasonable portions, I understood the complaints from my dining companions when we received three slices for $14. They were hearty slices, but still. The $17 smoked trout, head and tail removed so it was about a 5-inch piece of fish, didn’t do much to stop their complaining. But it was a lovely piece of fish, stuffed with tarragon and lemon.
The grilled corn, served Mexican street style — on the cob, slathered in mayo with lime, rolled in cotija cheese (similar to Parmesan) — was fabulous, as it tends to be.
And the sausages, made by butcher Aaron Winters at Miss Cordelia’s in Harbor Town, were excellent. So were the smoked chicken wings.
Lunch is served Friday through Sunday, and we’ll try to arrange for a CA Friday Lunch there. It’s po’boys and salads, and we went with one of each. The watermelon salad with feta and arugula will presumably fall from the menu when the weather changes, but the grilled romaine should stay. Both were good though not particularly inspired. The big surprise — we’ll get to the po’boys — was the coleslaw made with peanut butter.
I hated it when I was a child and I don’t like it now, but I figured I’d try the slaw despite the peanut butter (a plain mayo version is also available). It was sort of a goopy mess, This Tennessee Whiskey old Fashioned is just one offering on a packed drink menu at loflin Yard. Specialty cocktails are prepared with strong spirits, liqueurs and bittersweet amari.
but a delicious one as the PB was seasoned with chilis, cut with acid and had a slightly — just barely — Asian hint to it. Try it.
You sure can’t complain about being underfed at lunch. The po’boys are excellent and huge. We order the blackened shrimp and the pork loin, and didn’t finish half of either. They were piled high with protein and toppings — rémoulade, lettuce and tomato on the former and braised red cabbage and spicy aioli on the latter. We sat near a fan, but the flies were bad; this should be remedied now that the weather has cooled.
They had me at barrelaged cocktails. Are you kidding me? Put a Boulevardier in a cask and let it sit a few weeks, and you get my respect. At Loflin, the signature cocktails are right up my alley, prepared with strong spirits, liqueurs and bittersweet amari, those lovely herbaceous digestifs. The way I see it, there are those who love amari and those who will come to love them. Loflin is one of several places in town to get to know new and interesting cocktails, so pull out the menu and take advantage of the opportunity.
I heard the Key lime pie is great at Houston’s, so I stopped by to have a slice. I asked Geoffrey Knowlton, who was having lunch when I was there, if he’d ever eaten the pie.
“They have them bring it to me upside down so I can eat the crust first,” Knowlton said.
Enough said. I asked for the Key lime pie right side up.
I loved it. It may be one of the best pies I’ve eaten. It was incredibly flavorful. And I got a hefty slice instead of the slivers I get when I order pie at some places.
“It’s more zesty than a normal Key lime pie,” said bartender Hector Martinez.
“It’s a perfect combination of sweet and tart,” said fellow bartender Zamontreal Rodgers.
“It’s simple and good, but different,” said Houston’s general manager, Allison Struebing.
Pecans make the difference, she said. “We grind the pecans with cinnamon. That’s part of the graham cracker crust. So they meld right into it.”
They also add pecans to the whipping cream that tops the pie, Struebing said.
The filling is made with lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, lime zest and heavy cream, she said.
Key lime pie isn’t on the menu; you have to ask for it. They carry it “as long as we can get good, juicy limes,” Struebing said. “If we don’t get good limes, we back off for a while.”
A slice is $8, but if you want to order a whole pie, which costs $56, call 24 hours in advance. “There’s a deposit for the pie pan so we get it back.”
If you want to start with the crust, you can turn the pan upside down, dump the pie out and begin eating.
Houston’s, 5000 Poplar, (901)-683-0915.
This sausage plate with chanterelle mushrooms from Loflin Yard is served with a variety of peppers and pickles and oversized toasted crackers. The Memphis-made sausages are the work of butcher Aaron Winters at Miss Cordelia’s in Harbor Town.
Phoebe Plumley, 11, hoops it up while hanging out with her family (from left) eric Plumley, Amie Plumley and Frank Plumley, 8, at loflin Yard, which boasts kid-friendly Front Yard and Back Yard areas. loflin Yard co-owner Michael Tauer calls the spot Downtown’s backyard.