My situation at 8 p.m. last Saturday: in East Memphis, starving, in the mood to try something new. I hadn't been to Southward Fare and Libations yet, so I called a friend and we went straight there.
Southward comes to East Memphis courtesy of Chef Ryan Trimm (Sweet Grass, Next Door) and opened last summer. It's tucked in the Regalia Shopping Center (behind Ruth's Chris) but it's easy to forget you're in a shopping center once you step inside.
The place is upscale and airy–think tall ceilings, chandeliers, and artwork by Oxford painter Bradley Gordon–but not stuffy or formal. In addition to the dining room, there's also a well-appointed bar area with tables, a semi-private alcove with a big round table, and a private room.
Because we came in without a reservation at 8 p.m. on a Saturday, we fully expected a long wait. The dining room was full, but the hostess offered us seats at the community farm table or the bar area. We chose the latter; it was a good decision because we got to chat with the bartenders and watch them make fancy cocktails all night.
At Southward's bar, you can order from the bar snacks menu or the regular dinner menu, which has sections for appetizers, small plates, and large plates. They also have a good selection of aforementioned fancy cocktails, mocktails, beer, and an extensive, expensive wine list (glasses range from $7-$16, but most are about $11).
I steered clear of the fancy cocktails that night and went with a Blood Mary. Excellent.
The "Clams & PBR" from the bar snacks menu intrigued me, so we ordered that to start. We received a plentiful portion of clams in a savory broth with slices of kielbasa sausage. The clams were good, but the PBR broth was straight-up delicious. It felt very wrong to lose half a bowl of broth once the clams were gone. The bartender read our mind and brought us two thick slices of freshly grilled bread to finish it off.
Next we split the caramelized pear salad. The arugula, bleu cheese, pistachios, and dried plums, and mellow sweetness of the pear made for some complex flavor interactions, but as I said, I'd been in the mood for something different, so I really enjoyed this.
My friend and I split the salad, so this is only half of the portion.
At the bartender's recommendation, I ordered the seared scallops, which came out perfectly seasoned and seared, on top of a bed of Brussels sprouts and butternut squash puree. Like with the salad, the different ingredients came together in harmonious deliciousness.
I hesitated to even use this picture because the dish was exceedingly more appetizing (in look and taste) in person. Just trust me on this one.
My friend got the venison Denver leg, aka medallions of tender deer meat; he was a fan of the venison but thought the accompaniments could have used a sauce in addition to the salsa verde. No real complaints, though.
The atmosphere, the friendliness of the staff, and the tasty, interesting food will probably lead me back to Southward soon, though I may save dinner for a special occasion and try out their lunch or brunch. My half of the meal (one cocktail, half of the salad and PBR clams, and my entree) added up to $52, not including tax or tip.
Southward serves lunch (including $14 specials) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday – Friday and dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m Monday – Saturday. They also have a happy hour daily from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. as well as brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The menu is definitely geared toward adults. Southward is ADA accessible.
Edit: In my original post, I said there weren't many vegetarian options at Southward. I didn't know at the time, but I found out recently that Chef Ryan Trimm has a farmer's menu of $8 vegetable specials. The offerings change daily depending on what's available and in-season. You can read all about this menu here. I also confirmed that the kitchen is happy to accomodate other dietary preferences whenever possible; all you need to do is call a day or so ahead of time.
Southward Fare & Libations
6150 Poplar Ave. Ste. 122