Best New Restaurants: Memphis Chess Club
Editor’s note: For our Top 10 New Restaurants list, published in full in the February 2022 issue, our editorial team has selected (you guessed it) ten of the places we believe represent the best of our culinary future. town. We’ll be highlighting each of the restaurants online over the next few days. Please note that this is not a ranked list; we love what each of the ten featured restaurants brings to the table. Enjoy your lunch!
Before you get the check, you might have reason to say “checkmate” at the Memphis Chess Club. And even if you lose (or don’t make the match), you can still walk away caffeinated and well-fed. At the club’s new downtown, it’s all chess paraphernalia: wooden chess sets, carved boards in every table, and shelves upon shelves of old strategy books and magazines chronicling the game’s history. Left Field Properties president and longtime club member Casey Hill knew the club needed a proper home, so he transformed the space at 195 Madison Ave. into a hub for chess enthusiasts old and new.
“Morning coffee goes with chess, and so does pizza in the evening, believe it or not. If you grew up playing chess or competing in tournaments, there was always pizza around. It’s kind of synonymous with gambling.” — Casey Colline
“The sign says Memphis Chess Club, but we want this to be a place for everyone,” Hill explains, “whether you’re a grandmaster or have never picked up a chess piece before in your life. And if chess isn’t your thing, we have great coffee and an exceptional menu.
The coffee is indeed excellent, with the club buying its own beans from around the world and brewing its own blends. The food menu includes acai bowls or loaded croissants for breakfast and sandwiches and salads for lunch.
But the big draw? According to Hill, “Morning coffee goes with chess, and so does pizza in the evening, believe it or not. If you grew up playing chess or competing in tournaments, there was always pizza around. It’s kind of synonymous with the game.”
Each freshly baked pizza is named after a chess professional. The Polgár is loaded with pesto, roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms and carrots, while the Fischer is stacked with pepperoni, bacon and Italian sausage.
Downstairs is another giant room filled with chess tables. It hosts beginner and advanced tournaments for club members and beginners. The club is welcoming to everyone, and there is nowhere else like it in Memphis.