Headed to Tom Lee Park? You may want to go hungry.
When planning your trip, know that there are several dining options — offering everything from breakfast and lunch fare to snacks, coffee and mocktails.
Having elevated food experiences was a priority for the park designers and the Memphis River Parks Partnership, which manages Tom Lee Park.
“Tom Lee Park is a place to enjoy park life. We know that delicious food and great drinks are a key part of that experience so we have selected vendors who will bring elevated, affordable park fare to all visitors,” said Carol Coletta, president and CEO of the Memphis River Parks Partnership. “I can’t wait for Memphians to experience their offerings in the park.”
Tom Lee Park underwent a $61 million overhaul and celebrated its reopening Sept. 2.
George Abbott, the partnership’s director of external affairs, said they wanted to make sure the food offerings were elevated above normal park fare like hot dogs and popcorn. An extensive search was conducted to find the perfect vendors who could fulfill the park’s needs of being open daily, as well as offer unique items.
Each of the vendors is located in walk-up stands with limited seating (if any). Patrons are encouraged to enjoy their meals and snacks in the numerous seating areas throughout the park.
And know this: If you want to just stop by to grab a snack or meal to-go, each of the vendors is just steps away from parking on Riverside Drive.
Here are the three dining establishments within the park and what they have on the menu.
Paper Plate Pavilion: Brisket, Jerk Chicken and more
Located adjacent to the playground and the Sunset Pavilion, Paper Plate Pavilion will offer savory dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Owner David Self is excited to have a permanent home for his business that he launched as a food truck a little over a year ago.
“We want to bring a unique culinary experience to Tom Lee Park,” Self said.
Expect signature dishes like his Pineapple Sunset (a pineapple stuffed with jerk chicken, rice and pineapple salsa), an Old School Smoked PB&J Sandwich on a cornbread waffle and a Mac Daddy Brisket Mac-N-Cheese.
Breakfast will include a variety of options raging from Oats in the Wind hot or cold oatmeal to a Grit & Grind grits bowl with eggs and meat to .357 Magnum Caribbean-style rice and beans topped with eggs (Self suggests ordering this with a side of fried plantains).
Self collaborated with his partner Jorie Williams (known as Chef J) to design the menu.
“We are 901 originals,” Self said. “We are from Memphis, and we are showing what Memphis has to offer.”
Paper Plate Pavilion will continue to operate its food truck, in addition to having a permanent location in Tom Lee Park. The full menu can be viewed at paperplatepavilion.com.
Vice & Virtue Coffee: Lattes, Mocktails and Snacks
Memphis coffee roaster and coffee shop Vice & Virtue Coffee will also have a stand next to the playground near and Sunset Pavilion. Hours of operation will be 7 a.m. until one hour before the park closes. (Park hours are dawn to dusk.)
Vice & Virtue owner Teri Perkins said the decision to open a second coffee shop for the brand in the park was a no-brainer.
“As a business owner, homeschool mom and lifelong Memphian, the new Tom Lee Park represents the world-class gateway this city deserves. Why would I not want to be part of this?” said Perkins, who runs the day-today operations for the coffee business she owns with her husband, Tim.
The coffee shop with offer a full espresso bar menu, including drinks like its signature Bourbon Mocha made with Vice & Virtue’s Bourbon Barrell-Aged Coffee Beans.
Perkins said they will also offer an assortment of pastries, baked goods and snacks.
In the evenings, Vice & Virtue will offer mocktails and non-alcoholic beers for those coming down to the park to enjoy the sunset views.
Vice & Virtue also has a coffee shop in the lobby of the Arrive Memphis hotel at 477 S. Main St. Their coffee beans are available in stores and coffee shops across Memphis, as well as online at viceandvirtuecoffee.com.
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Ben & Jerry’s ‘Cow Mobile’: Ice Cream Scoops
Marc Tate said he has been watching the park construction with anticipation, and wasn’t sure if his Memphis franchise of Ben & Jerry’s would be chosen as a vendor for the new park.
When he got the news, he was thrilled.
“We need this park to be successful — and I am eager to be part of it,” he said.
His Ben & Jerry’s “Cow Mobile” will be parked near the Beale Street Landing entrance to Tom Lee Park.
Painted with Ben & Jerry’s signature Holstein cows and clouds, the cow mobile will feature several flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, as well as treats like waffle cones and a variety of toppings. In the winter, Tate said he plans to serve his popular hot chocolate ice cream floats.
And here’s an interesting fact. Memphis is the only city in the United States to have two of its signature cow mobiles. Tate also has one located inside Memphis Zoo.
Tate said he has not set his hours yet, but he expects to be open mid-morning to early evening seven days a week.
Tate also operates the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop at 5007 Black Road in East Memphis.
Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.
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