July 13, 2020

Southall Cafe to Offer ‘Chef Driven’ Breakfast, Lunch in East Memphis

The Daily Memphian

By Tom Bailey

An East Memphis building with a history of rich aromas is about to be reborn.

The smells will change, but promise to be as pleasing as sizzling bacon or baking biscuits.

Southall Café will open as soon as mid-August.

The building is about 40 yards south of the Norfolk Southern tracks at 669 S. Mendenhall. The place is highly visible along the busy Poplar Corridor, at least when a train isn’t rolling through.

That’s where Tobacco Corner Ltd. operated for decades.

“It took some time to get the smell out,” Southall partner Mark Pender said of ridding the white-brick building of the tobacco odors. “We left it open a long time.”

Southall Café will be a “chef-driven” breakfast and lunch restaurant using a lot of locally sourced ingredients, Pender said.

He’s a beekeeper himself, so the honey should be fresh.

Eighty percent of the menu is completed. The chef, whose identity has yet to be announced, will finish the menu with daily and brunch specials.

This is the 57-year-old Pender’s first experience as a restaurant owner, but he is a career veteran of the restaurant world. Most recently, he served as operations director for Sweet Grass in Cooper-Young, 117 Prime steakhouse and Belle Tavern Downtown and Sunrise in the Edge District.

His partners for Southall are attorney John Bobango of the Farris Bobango law firm and Mitchell Spurlock, an entrepreneur who was a founding board member for Triumph Bank and who co-founded Power Transport.

The concept for the breakfast/lunch eatery emerged after plans fell through for the building to house a MediCi Italian Kitchen, specializing in Neapolitan pizza.

The café’s name — Southall — refers both to its South Mendenhall location and to a family name in the Bobango family, Pender said.

On Friday, July 10, the construction crew put some finishing touches inside, including installation of cosmetic aluminum coverings over steel beams above the arched windows.

Another crew installed internet cables for point of sales, WiFi, phone service and eight security cameras.

A few of the booths were already in place. Southall should be ready to open next month as soon as the 25-by-45-foot patio is built on the building’s south side, Pender said.

The north side is closer to the rumbling trains. The café will embrace the occasional passing train with a discount special or shot of coffee for customers, Pender said.

Otherwise, the high-quality windows are expected to dampen the noise.

Southall Café anchors the north end of Williamsburg Village Shopping Center, which Boyle Investment Co. is transforming and even rebuilding.

Southall is part of phase 1 of the center’s renovation, along with new wine bar called The Hen House and the gift and stationery shop called Mrs. Post.

The Phase 1 renovation is about 75% complete.

Now that crews have completed such infrastructure work as running new water, sewer and power service to the buildings, said Jonathan Aur of Boyle Investment Co., “we’re finally getting to see the fun stuff: The beautiful new roofs, copper trim, the dormers, the storefronts.”

Attorney Mary Lauren Stewart is Bobango’s daughter and is part of the Southall Cafe ownership group. Asked what the restaurant will be like, Stewart replied, “Kind of an elevated breakfast and lunch restaurant. Taking good Southern cooking and elevating it.”

Pender likened the concept to an upscale breakfast restaurant in Denver called Snooze: An A.M. Eatery.

Snooze’s menu describes its French toast as “French-toasted brioche, completed with whipped mascarpone cream, seasonal fruit and Slopeside pure Vermont maple syrup.”

Snooze describes one version of its eggs Benedict as an English muffin “topped with shaved Tender Belly ham, perfectly poached cage-free eggs and smoked cheddar hollandaise.”

In Pender’s judgment, Southall fills a need East Memphis’ Poplar Corridor.

“We felt like breakfast was under-served in this area,” he said. “You have Staks (Pancakes at Poplar Avenue and Perkins Extended) and Blue Plate (Café at Poplar Avenue and Reddoch Cove).”

He anticipates routinely drawing breakfast and lunch diners from Highland Street on the west to near Germantown on the east, and from Summer Avenue on the north to Park Avenue on the south.

Southall Café’s hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The weekend menu will be brunch only.