Oh, Downtown Dining Week. This is the time of year where I get to go out to fancy restaurants and pretend I live a fancy lifestyle, all for a fraction of the cost. I made several reservations this week, and my first stop was Itta Bena on Beale Street.
I would first like to start off by saying it took me a good minute to even find Itta Bena. Most places on Beale are so obvious with their neon signs and loud music, that I get a headache resembling one my mother would complain about. However, Itta Bena is the exact opposite. In fact, if you are not looking for it, you would never know it existed. Itta Bena is located on the third story of B.B. Kings, right at the corner of Beale and 2nd Street. You almost feel like Alice in Wonderland as people point and direct you to it’s entrance (which they oh-so-nicely do to everyone wandering in with a confused look on their face).
Directions to Itta Bena:
- Walk into B.B. Kings looking wildly confused.
- Walk up the narrow, windy staircase in front of you. (note: you will see a sign that tells you to go up to reach Itta Bena)
- When you reach the platform with a door, do not go in! Walk up one more flight of windy, narrows stairs.
- Make a 180 degree turn when reaching the top of the staircase, and enter through the door.
- Look relieved and succumb to amused giggling of the wait staff in the restaurant.
Once inside, you are taken to a place that does not even resemble Beale Street. The atmosphere is romantic with dim lighting, white table cloths, and candles. You cannot even hear the noise from the street below. (They must have spent a fortune on amazing sound-proof walls.)
My friend Chris and I are taken to our table, where our server promptly greeted us. She was great. She was very friendly, personable, and genuine.
We were presented with a wine menu. They were out of our favorite red wine (La Crema Pinot Noir…for any of you searching for the perfect Christmas gift for me), so we choose to split another great bottle. Itta Bena doesn’t have a fabulous wine list, but it is good enough for us to pick something great.
We were then presented our bread basket, full of what seemed like Sister Shubert rolls. Yum!
Next we were presented with the Downtown Dining Week menu:
CHOICE OF APPETIZER:
Signature She-Crab Soup
Traditional Salad Wedge
CHOICE OF ENTREE:
Newman Farms Bone-in Pork Chop
Shrimp & Grits
Warm Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream
Chris and I both started with the apparently famous She-Crab Soup. The soup was a great combination of the sweetness of the crab meat and the savory, creamy flavors of the soup. It was my favorite part of the meal.
For our entrees, I got the Pork Chop and he got the Shrimp and Grits. We both agreed that they were very average. My pork chop came on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes had a good, creamy flavor. However, my pork chop was pretty bland. Chris also said said his shrimp had a great flavor, but the grits were really bland.
We both had a brownie for dessert, and it was pretty eh. If I am going to waste my calories on dessert, it better be freaking fantastic. The brownie was a little too dry and solid for my taste, as I prefer a richer and softer brownie. I did like that they used french vanilla ice cream. The extra flavor provided a creaminess to the dish.
Overall, we both agreed our meal was okay. I was not disappointed, but I wasn’t impressed either. For the cost of the meal, I would much rather take my fine dining dollars elsewhere.
For more information on Itta Bena, visit their website , Facebook Page, or All Menus. You can also find more reviews on Yelp, Urbanspoon, Trip Advisor, and Frommer’s. There have also been many write-ups about them in print and online: East Memphis Moms, Commercial Appeal, Eat Local Memphis, I Love Memphis, Memphis Magazine, and even Southern Living! Or make a reservation at Open Table.