“We may be known for some of the best barbecue in the country, but Memphis has so much more to offer,” says Ben E. Keith District Sales Manager Eugene McCann. “There are some great chefs here and every year we have finalists for the James Beard Award. Our city is a hidden gem with creative chefs that continue to expand dining opportunities from fresh seafood, Mexican and Indian food,” says McCann. “The only problem you have as a customer is how to pick where to go for dinner.”
Locally owned restaurants are on the rise and, according to McCann, they are helping to transform many areas of the city that were on the decline.
“We are also seeing more and more requests for organic and gluten-free items and there have been a number of new openings in Memphis that only serve these types of dishes on their menus,” he says.
“Memphians want greater options and the ability to get a tasty, yet healthy, meal,” he says. Wild Beet, owned by Kelcie Hamm, gives Memphis two locations of a restaurant concept the city has never seen before: fast and healthy casual dining. “They offer fresh ingredients, homemade dressings and top quality products,” says McCann. “The Trolley Stop Market is such a great partner for this community. Keith and Jill Forrester source as much local food not only from their own farm, but other farms in the local area to provide amazing food you won’t find anywhere else,” says McCann. “They truly care what they’re putting on the plate and you feel like family when you’re there.”
Hamm and Jill Forrester say they purchase food from Ben E. Keith Mid-South based in Little Rock because of their commitment to quality products. “They buy locally when possible and source from the best farmers,” says Hamm. “We have a great relationship with BEK and we trust them to provide us with quality food, every time. Brad May, the produce and dairy manager, takes great pride in his job and we trust him fully to source only the best products.”
“Our relationship with Ben E. Keith has been more than I could have hoped for,” says Forrester. “They have treated my family like family. I would recommend them to anyone who is opening a food establishment.”
Wild Beet is particularly choosy when it comes to their ingredients. “We’re a salad place, so that’s pretty important!” says Hamm. “People are more aware than ever about what they put into their bodies and I see that trend continuing. It’s a huge opportunity for restaurants to be creative and add more healthy options for diners.”
Wild Beet chicken comes from Ben E. Keith via Crystal Lake Farms, which is located in nearby Decatur, Arkansas. The chicken is organic, free range and hormone free. “We have been very happy with our partnership with them,” says Hamm. “They’re a family-owned business who cares very much for their customers and it shows with the quality of their product.”
The Forresters, who have owned and operated Whitton Farms for the past 14 years, grow crops like purple hull peas, tomatoes, basil, corn, arugula, lettuce, okra, carrots, beets and more specifically for Trolley Stop Market. “We cook them fresh from the farm, and freeze product for usage later in the year,” says Jill Forrester.
Some of Trolley Stop’s most popular dishes are their burgers, lunch plate specials, pizzas, cobblers and their “funky” chicken sandwich.
“I think folks in Memphis truly appreciate chefs and culinary teams that source locally grown food from regional farmers,” says Forrester.
“I think Memphis has great dining scene,” says Hamm. “There are new places opening all the time, which is exciting. No place is like another and you can always find something new and different to try. We have a lot of talented chefs in this town and it’s always fun to see what they come up with.”
Wild Beet Salad Co.
A top-selling salad at Wild Beet is the Southwestern (pictured above.) It features fresh romaine, avocado, corn, fried onion, pepper jack cheese and tomato. We suggest dressing it with their delicious chipotle ranch.
Trolley Stop Market
A popular dish at Trolley Stop is the Jillbilly Salad (pictured below.) This creative combination of marinated tomatoes, green olives, red onions, arugula, feta, pecans and spring mix can be topped with your choice of grilled chicken or shrimp.
Photography by David Yerby