The Midtown intersection of Peabody and Cooper got a burst of vitality over the past decade as a diverse collection of businesses -- Midtown Yoga, the Eclectic Eye, Café 1912, the Nail and Skin Bar -- moved in and created sleek interiors in refurbished buildings there.
The Slider Inn's opening at the corner this fall recharged the momentum and took street and sidewalk traffic to a new level at the spot midway between Overton Square and Cooper-Young. Soon, the intersection may have to create its own designation -- Peabody Point?
On a rainy day, when no one is sitting on the vast deck attached to the front of Slider Inn, the nondescript one-story exterior looks almost grim. But inside, Aldo DeMartino, also owner of the Downtown social-drinkers' magnet Bardog Tavern, has done a somewhat miraculous job of conjuring charisma in an interior that previously had none.
It's a sparse, industrial space with artful lighting now, mostly dark polished concrete, plaster and metal. The bar and a raised banquet table dominate the
center. Banquettes and tables are tightly lined along the east and west walls. Music, scattered TVs and conversation create a buzz that is intense but not overwhelming.
At a Sunday lunch, we ordered the lobster roll, an item the Slider Inn has staked out as its territory in Memphis. Its price has crept up since the restaurant's opening more than three months ago; it was $16 when The Commercial Appeal wrote about it in September, and now it's $18, the kind of indulgence you have to think about. But the kitchen vows to provide fresh, live Maine lobster every time it puts the dish on the table, and that promise is going to cost them and you.
The pictures I had seen of the Slider Inn lobster roll appeared much more mayonnaise-infused than the one we were served, and I couldn't have been happier. Why douse or dilute the ambrosial pink-and-white shellfish meat? The generous serving of lobster chunks on an "imported" Wonder Bread New England bun had some celery, lemon, a touch of mayonnaise. Live lobsters supply shells for making stock, and we tried the lobster bisque as well. It was a thick, rich, peppery red soup, the influences of fish and salt nicely balanced.
Our thoughtful and competent server, Lily Nicholson, told us to try the homemade Bloody Mary at the $4 happy hour price, and it was excellent advice. Its earthiness seemed to be inspired by horseradish.
Sliders come three to a plate with fries or potato salad, a bargain at $7 to $10 an order. We tried the Original Memphis, burgers of densely packed, barely seasoned ground beef on soft, flour-dusted buns with a slice of cheese and ketchup. If you don't want ketchup on your slider, speak up when you order. I'm not a ketchup eater and was disappointed when it didn't arrive on the side.
Call us irresponsible, but one night we ordered The Big Deuce, which comes stacked with two beef patties, bacon, Swiss and American cheese, lettuce, tomato and all the likely condiments. I didn't have a tape measure, but it looked at least 5 inches tall. The bacon was crisp, the cheese nicely melted, the tomato slice firm, but you had to take the whole apart to get it into your mouth without appalling the folks at your table. It sort of confounds the idea of a sandwich, which is designed to get two or three discrete ingredients that go well together into your mouth at the same time.
The Vegan Triple slider is a healthy mix of brown rice and black beans with sprouts and avocado, but it could use an aesthetic makeover -- it's a shapeless mash of purplish-brown (the color probably comes from the beets) on bread.
Under "Kickstarters," we sampled the hot wings, which were plump and juicy, and the nachos, a mound of tortilla chips sprinkled with a fairly generous collection of the usual stuff -- black beans, sour cream, tomato salsa and jalapeño slices. The beef on ours, unfortunately, was cold when it arrived.
On draft, Slider Inn has Yuengling, Fat Tire, Pabst, Guinness and Stella Artois. Because smoking is permitted at night, people under 21 are prohibited by state law.
-- Peggy Burch: (901) 529-2392
Address: 2117 Peabody.
Telephone: (901) 725-1155.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon-3 a.m. Food until 2 a.m., Sundays, 11 p.m.
Reviewer's choices: Lobster roll, $17.99; Lobster bisque, $7.29; Mix and Match (choose any three sliders for $9.99); Bloody Mary, $4 during happy hour.
Alcohol: Full bar.
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars