By Kathy K Martin
The South reigns supreme in so many culinary classics such as fried chicken, cornbread, grits and of course, the Southern-style breakfast. At Bryant’s in Memphis, a true Southern breakfast beckons diners every Wednesday through Sunday with homemade biscuits and gravy, country ham, omelets and other Southern favorites.
The restaurant’s founding owners, Jimmy and Jane Bryant, grew up in Bruce until they moved to Memphis in 1968. They opened a Loeb’s Bar-B-Q franchise in the Parkway Village area and later moved the restaurant to its current location on Summer Avenue in 1977. Jimmy envisioned a homestyle breakfast menu to honor his mother’s homemade biscuits, which brought back memories of his childhood in Mississippi, said Richard Lucchesi, the restaurant’s general manager.
“Jimmy’s memories led him to want to share the food with others,” said Lucchesi. “It can be labor-intensive, but we continue to this day to make by hand every biscuit we serve here at Bryant’s.”
The couple’s son, Phil Bryant, helped his sister, Kerrie Burton, with the family business for 22 years until he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to sell it last year to the Tashie Restaurant Group.
“It was a tough decision selling our family restaurant, not just because of the personal history, experiences and memories made, but because we didn’t want it to go into the wrong hands,” he said of the decision. “We’re elated to have found the ‘right’ people who have purchased the restaurant with the full intention of maintaining the heart and soul of Bryant’s, which many Memphians have come to know and love.” Bryant’s re-opened last April with just a few adjustments, said Judd Tashie, the group’s co-owner. They optimized all the equipment, rehired all the former employees and reprinted the menus.
“That was the key,” he said, “Same people that were making the food before are doing it again. And the same wait staff, the same people taking care of customers, are back.” In fact, most of the employees have been with Bryant’s for over 10 years, with some for over 20.
The most popular dishes are, of course, the homemade biscuits and gravy, as well as buttermilk pancakes (choose from plain, banana-strawberry, Nutella supreme, chocolate chip, pecan, banana or blueberry), omelets (countless options), cinnamon rolls, hash brown casserole and country ham. Another favorite, said Lucchesi, is the Philly cheesesteak that comes as a sandwich, biscuit or omelet. He said that they plan to introduce lunch specials on the menu soon too.
Unfortunately, Bryant passed away the month after the re-opening. The new owners honored his memory with a donation to support local dog rescue programs such as All 4s Rescue League, a cause as close to his heart as the restaurant. His sister said her brother was a character, just like her dad.
“He had a fun personality and was a big kidder.” She has continued the family legacy by helping at the restaurant’s counter every Sunday. Memories still surround her. Memories of growing up and working there her whole life with her mom, dad, brother and sister. “People still come up to me and tell me that they miss my brother.”
Bryant’s maintains this family atmosphere with many regular patrons who are on a first-name basis with employees. Lucchesi calls it a friendly, old-school diner with large portions of food and many repeat customers, including police officers and tradespeople who appreciate that it opens at 5 am. The restaurant continues to garner local and regional accolades as a favorite breakfast restaurant.
The Southern breakfast legacy continues at Bryant’s.