Memphis in Costa Mesa:
Memphis Café is a small, stylish establishment nestled in Costa Mesa near South Coast Plaza and its painfully-cool smaller sibling, The Lab. The building has a unique, angular look that seems somehow modern and retro at the same time, but its minimalist aesthetic doesn’t continue with the interior. A cozy bar and mute lighting greet diners inside, and this isn’t a big place either; there was no dull roar of conversation from table after table of patrons. That isn’t to say Memphis Café isn’t popular. There were plenty of people there, but it’s clear that this restaurant is going for a more intimate, personal atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where people lean toward each other and softly converse over drinks and good food.
Speaking of good food, let’s get to that. The food at Memphis Café surprised the hell out of me. I have to confess I was expecting semi-vegetarian, overpriced, pretentious, hipster-targeted c@!p. What I got was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a very long time. It had an incredible bun. It was soft, warm, crusty sourdough, but not dense or chewy at all. The patty was thick, juicy, flavorful and perfectly cooked. I’m not sure how they do their burgers, but it seems like when they mix the ground beef together they might put a little cheese or something in it to give that extra bit of juiciness. I’ve really never had another burger like it.
The fries deserve special mention. I ordered the Soul Burger and it covers about half of a large plate. It’s a big burger. The other half of that plate was covered by heaps of these hot, fresh, still-oily julienne potatoes. They feel less substantial than fries, almost like you’re eating warmed chips rather than big, starchy French fries. What that means is that you will sit there happily putting handfuls into your mouth until you eat the whole plate. They really are that good.
Memphis Café completely converted me. I went in a skeptic, and I came out bewitched by the burger and obsessed with the fries. I really will be going back there soon.