A cheerful red chandelier hangs in the entryway, the centerpiece of the restaurant, while curved wooden steps lead up to the sunny, welcoming parlor area, vibrantly decorated with orange checkered tablecloths and orange flowers. Jazzy music from a guitar and harmonica player duo lazily wafted through the restaurant Saturday, while brunch cocktails, candied bacon and deviled eggs greeted hungry, eager eaters as they trickled in and claimed seats.
The energy kicked up a notch when Pat and Gina arrived and thanked everyone for coming (Gina broke into song, delighting the crowd). We took a moment to ask them what three brunch items they couldn’t do without, and they chose 1) Chicken and waffles, 2) candied bacon and 3) a special dessert. Gina says you always have to have dessert.
For the event tables were lined up for family-style dining at its best, and the Neelys served up tasty lunch-leaning recipes from their popular show and cookbooks – familiar Southern favorites with a kick, like spicy creamed corn, baked beans and, of course, their signature “wet” Memphis-style ribs.
It was the type of atmosphere that had strangers and friends mingling and chatting happily while passing bowls of thick gravy and extra biscuits from one end of the table to the other. For the morning we were one big happy Neely family, eating, drinking and ending with a sweet couldn’t-be-skipped Mississippi Mud Pie.