Memphis at the Santora in the Artists Village, the creative heart of Santa Ana’s downtown, is the second location for The Memphis Group and continues their vision of revitalizing emerging areas (applause) and delivering innovative cuisine grounded in American comfort food and traditional Southern favorites. Opening in 2002 with a larger kitchen and more seating than it’s sister, Memphis Cafe in Costa Mesa, co-founder and executive chef Diego Velasco covers a wider range of Southern specialties in addition to the original Memphis favorites: buttermilk fried chicken, southern meatloaf and cornmeal fried catfish.
As a fan of mid-century modern design and an art enthusiast, the retro, funky decor of Memphis and hipster vibe of the Artists Village appeals to me, and I was looking forward to savoring Chef Diego’s seasonal fare. Having dined at both locations over the years, I always seem to order the same thing! Even if I contemplated other menu items, when I opened my mouth to speak, the only words uttered are: cornmeal fried catfish. Served with hush puppies, hoppin’ john, and greens, ahhh, sweet taste memories..
We started with two bourbon cocktail creations from bartender Jeffery (that’s not a typo). Of course, there are martinis, but Memphis is a “bourbon bar” – which makes sense, bourbon is the traditional spirit of the South and a natural pairing for bold Southern flavors. Of the two, I favored the Whiskey Buck (right) with fresh ginger and citrus flavors balancing caramel-y, sweet Evan Williams bourbon.
If you like down-home American comfort food with the Southern twist that only black-eyed peas, okra, grits, house-cured tasso ham, and crawfish can lend, then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in any of the new menu items.
First up, the craw puppies had the perfect crispy exterior, not greasy, medium grind cornmeal texture, riddled with bits of fresh crawfish. I would go to Memphis for these alone…washed down with a Whiskey Buck, or two, and the barbecued shrimp and green chili grits – creamy, cheesy grits balanced the pleasant punch from smoky house-cured tasso ham – for dessert.
Chef Diego and Memphis at the Santora also offers a Crawfish Boil that would make a fun and unique family holiday dinner or party for the adventurous at heart who enjoy finger-lickin’ good food! A southern feast for groups of 8-20 that requires a week-prior reservation; served on traditional butcher paper for optimum peeling and cracking space with New Orleans jazz and zydeco tunes to set the mood – $30/person includes:
1.5 lbs of fresh Louisiana crawfish
Corn on the corn
Salad and Dixie Lager (one per person)
201 North Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701