It's a complaint that's not valid, but it's certainly common: There's nothing to eat in Germantown. Of course there are places to eat, but new restaurants don't often open along the Poplar section of the town. Further, Theo's Bistro, at Kirby and Poplar, is actually at the very edge of Memphis, just because it's on the north side of the street. Were it one block east or south, it would be in the suburb.
Whatever, it's close enough that e-mails from Germantown have been coming in, all happily reporting a new place to eat in their neck of the woods.
Theo's, which opened in August under the name Superior Café and is related to the Superior Bar & Grill on Beale through some ownership, is more than just a place to eat. It also boasts a popular bar, if our visits are any indication, and even live music on some nights. It's clean and comfortable, and the prices are reasonable. In short, it's the kind of place that would be welcome just about anywhere. (The name was changed because someone else had trademarked the former name.)
We arrived for dinner around 6:30 on a Friday night, and three, maybe four tables were occupied. Despite the flashing sign above the door that read "dueling pianos," two men were setting an area toward the end of the room with guitars and a washboard, but nothing resembling a keyboard.
We'd hardly placed our order before the restaurant was full. Within 20 minutes of our arrival, nearly every table was occupied, and as we waited on our entrees, we noticed that nearly every diner was nibbling from a plate of the wild Alaskan smoked salmon dip.
When the meatloaf came, I was glad we resisted. It was an enormous portion, two slices at least an inch thick, about three inches from top to bottom and six inches from side to side. There was a lot that was right about it, too. Most important, the meatloaf was texturally correct, meaning it was loose enough to be moist, and tight enough to stay together. It was moist, tender and flecked with bits of onion. It was well seasoned, but nonetheless, it ended up just missing the mark. While the menu clearly states that the meatloaf is topped with a thick layer of ketchup, I sort of thought that was a simplistic way to describe the sauce. But it was spot on.
There's nothing wrong with ketchup on meatloaf, and millions of American kids and those of us who once were can tell you that's so. But this meatloaf deserved better, even just ketchup kicked up with some hot sauce and smoothed out with a bit of honey. I ate what I wanted, ketchup removed after a few tastes, and couldn't help but be a little let down. I love good meatloaf, and I wanted a better topping or a nice gravy for this one, which could have been excellent.
Mashed potatoes were made from scratch and were very good, thick and starchy, and the cabbage was simply boiled, but it was also good.
The grilled eggplant and feta sandwich, one of several vegetarian options, was an OK sandwich, but the filling was overwhelmed by the bread. At lunch, we had the same problem with the Claybrook Farms burger. The burger was large (half-pound), but the top bun had to be removed because it was just too much bread. No one asked my dining companion how she wanted her burger cooked, and it came well done.
In a post-review phone call to the restaurant, I was told that a diner can request the burger be cooked to a different temperature, but if not, it will be served medium-well to well.
The menu features a good selection of pasta dishes at lunch and dinner, along with big salads. Vegetable sides are a mix of comforting sides such as the excellent mashed potatoes, mac and cheese (we didn't try it), and lighter selections such as grilled asparagus and grilled zucchini (very good).
I would not have ordered the blackberry scaloppine if it hadn't been recommended before my visit. The dish is much better than it sounds: Veal cutlets, topped with shrimp and sauteed mushrooms, finished in a blackberry brandy cream sauce. First, the blackberry flavor was mild, lending just a hint of sweetness that was nice with the cream and the depth from the brandy. The veal was fork-tender, and while the shrimp seemed a little odd (and unnecessary), they were plump and properly cooked.
We also enjoyed the salmon dip on our second visit, and I'd happily meet a friend at the bar for happy hour and share a bowl of the dip, which was lively with dill and just enough mayonnaise to hold it together.
A bar menu will be added next month, which will heighten the appeal of a place that already has a nice happy hour, offering $5 margaritas and mojitos, $4 glasses of wine and cocktails (well drinks, not call brands) for $2.50. Live music Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights (Hudson and Saleeby of the dueling pianos on Fridays) just adds to the mix.
Address: 6696 Poplar.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, open 11 a.m. Dinner is served until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday (bar remains open until midnight or 1 a.m. most nights).
Reviewer’s choice: Blackberry scallopine ($17.95); wild Alaskan smoked salmon dip ($6.95); Claybrook Farms burger ($10.95; cooked medium well or well unless you ask otherwise).
Alcohol: Full bar; happy hour 4-8 p.m. Monday through Friday.