“Look Good. Eat Good.” are the words emblazoned on the front windows at the Beauty Shop. This hip and trendy restaurant in the Cooper-Young district of midtown Memphis does both, as it conjures up images of a ‘50s-style beauty shop, formerly Priscilla Presley’s curl-and-dye spot. It’s a camp wonderland where the façade is Jetsons-era Vitrolite, and choice seating is offered beneath hooded Belvedere hair dryers.
Nostalgia is served with a sense of humor here. The beauty shop flashback comes complete with original mint green wash basins filling in as sinks behind the hand built bar, made of tiger maple wood. The terrazzo floor is original. Glass brick stalls serve as intimate booths. Mixed with the retro renderings are modern touches such as hand-blown art-glass lights, and glamorous copper and silver-leaf walls.
At this offbeat restaurant, the décor pays homage to the space’s beauty parlor past, while the food offers flavors from around the globe. The Beauty Shop’s fabulous menu is not for the faint of flavor. The cuisine is clean-cut sophistication. The sights, scents and flavors of the Beauty Shop are both bold and quirky, and make for an out of the ordinary dining experience. The menu has a down home American stance with world-beat tints and edges.
For instance, you can’t help noticing the Watermelon & Wings, a dish that flirts with being a Deep South caricature but works (without a moon pie in sight). Its unusual combination of huge chicken wings dipped in white Szechwan pepper and sweet chile lime juice, brushed with sugar, then deep fried to incredible crispness and tenderness, and served with chunks of luscious sweet watermelon, sprinkled with toasted cashews, raises the concept of down-home to divine.
The Beauty Shop is yet another labor of love for chef/ restaurateur/ food artist Karen Carrier, who has created a constant buzz in her hometown city with exotic themes and dishes since her return from New York City in 1987.
“I don’t know what words, say, Dr. Johnson or Woodrow Wilson used when they wanted to assert that something was cool and hip, but those are the words we have, so I might as well use them. Beauty Shop is about the coolest, hippest restaurant around. It scream “Memphis,” yet does so with ingenuity and originality; it plays a wacky theme to the limit, but doesn’t stream beyond the pale; it makes you feel good to be there, part of the fun, part of the animated crowd, and leaves you well-fed to boot. What could be cooler that that?”
Touch up your highlights another day, and pencil in an appointment here.