Downtown Santa Ana has seen quite an influx of new, hip, trendy restaurants, but one to start the trend was Memphis. Situated at the historic Santora Building, Memphis at the Santora draws in a huge crows as the evening progresses mainly because they made some of the tastiest cocktails around.
We started with Whiskey Buck which seriously appealed to me even though its base was whiskey. I’m more a tequila or vodka girl, but this particular drink had a touch of sweetness and citrus undertones which worked well for me. Jeffery the bartender had concocted this drink — it’s not on the menu yet — and added some gorgeous lemon and lime peel for garnish.
Gold Rush, another whiskey-based potable was not as palatable. Maker’s Mark isn’t one of my favorites and it overpowered the entire drink.
We came here specifically to try the new fall items which was recently added to the menu. With beets in season at the moment, Roasted Beet Salad ($8) made use of the seasonal root vegetable well with crumbled goat cheese, hazelnuts, arugula, all drizzled with a roasted garlic vinaigrette.
Craw Puppies ($5) were one of our favorites of the night. These hush puppies exposed a little piece of crawfish in the center. Served with Rooster Mayo — using the Red Rooster brand Louisiana hot sauce with mayo — it added a nice kick to the very light craw puppies.
My son was excited about the Barbecued Duck Quesadilla ($13) because well, he just loves quesadillas. When he heard the filling, he said “duck?” but then continued with “I’ll try it”. I’m always so proud when does that. The barbecued duck was a tad too sweet for me, but the kid loved it.
The accompanying black eyed pea salad was also good albeit the peas were a little on the al dente side. I loved how Chef Diego used blue corn tortillas for the quesadillas and the avocado-jalapeno crema was also very flavorful with just a slight kick.
Another favorite of the evening was Barbecued Shrimp & Green Chile Grits ($12). Infused with the flavors of the house cured tasso ham, each bite consisted of succulent shrimp, savory ham and bits of pickled okra added a nice tartness to the mouthful.
Saffron Risotto Jambalaya ($17) uses gulf prawns, Carlsbad mussels, Manila clams and smoked chicken. Served in a paella pan, it was a little wet and on the mushy side, but the flavors were perfect and I enjoyed it regardless.
Old favorites such as the buttermilk fried chicken and meatloaf remain on the menu. I think there would be a furor if they ever removed them — I for one would since in the past, the buttermilk fried chicken was the only thing I ever order with the delicious Hoppin’ Johns that comes with it.
However, the next time I return, the shrimp and grits will be added to my usual order plus a few of those delicious Whiskey Bucks!
Memphis at the Santora
201 N Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701