I have to admit, I am a sucker for french fries — especially when they are hand-cut, crispy and come presented on a plate in a dramatic fashion. I have never been more grateful that my dinner date on a recent weekend was a family member, so I could sneak a few fries off my daughter’s plate when her Steak Frites arrived at the table.
The Steak Frites ($28) at Edge Alley may be one of my favorite versions of this dish in town.
It’s a simple bistro dish executed flawlessly. A perfectly cooked, tender cut of beef is topped with a flavorful chimichurri compound butter full of fresh herbs and a hint of garlic. The steak itself is beautifully plated, but those fries are what I considered the “piece de résistance.” The hand-cut fries come spilling onto the plate out of a capsized tumbler. They are fried to perfection — crispy outside, yet still fluffy and tender inside. And don’t even think about asking for ketchup. This is a French-inspired dish, so there is no better dipping sauce than the citrus-aioli that chef Tim Barker serves with it.
I first discovered Edge Alley a few years ago when I started working full time at The Commercial Appeal. Edge Alley was the closest spot with easy parking to our old offices on Union Avenue. I stopped by often for a salad or avocado toast often for lunch. Sometimes in the afternoons, I’d run over for a cup of coffee or a sweet treat.
Barker has always done everything he could by scratch. His passion for his craft is evident from the first conversation you have with him. He roasts his own coffee beans, made oat milk from scratch when he wasn’t happy with what was available from purveyors, and even makes crackers from leftover grains from his neighbors at High Cotton Brewing Company. If he can make it, he does.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Barker and his wife, Lena, sold their hand-crafted pantry staples to his customers. Ingredients like oat milk, freshly baked breads and pimento cheese tided their loyal customers over until they reopened July 1.
The restaurant has been cranking out some delicious eats since reopening. Barker, like many chefs in town, seems to have gotten a boost of creativity from the COVID-19 quarantine. I know the exhaustion of financial worries over bills, rent and staffing have been overwhelming; but these amazing talents have brought their A-game back as they tackled the obstacles of running a restaurant during a pandemic head-on.
That recent Saturday night, we started with cocktails (I enjoyed a spicy yet sweet “No Daisy at All” pineapple, jalapeno and tequila agua fresca) and a bowl of warmed olives ($7). The olives remind you of a dish you’d get while sitting on the coast in the Mediterranean. Plump olives of assorted variety are cured in house with citrus, herbs, olive oil and a hint of red pepper. It’s a nice shareable snack.
I enjoyed the market fish of the day; since the fish changes daily, so does the price. That night, sablefish was served over what I would best describe as a delightful summer stew reminiscent of a French ratatouille. The broth-based stew was full of fresh summer vegetables, including okra, fresh peas, eggplant and cherry tomatoes. A basil emulsion tied it all together. I am not sure if I enjoyed the buttery piece of fish or the base of the dish more. I have to admit, that stew would make a delightful vegetarian main over a bed of grits.
If you haven’t had a dessert at Edge Alley, you may not know this secret — always save room for dessert. Barker’s pots de cremes ($7) make chocolate lovers swoon. The flavors change often. I have loved every bite of a mint-flavored one and a Nutella one in the past. The night we went it was s’mores inspired. The velvety chocolate custard was served with bruleed marshmallow fluff. A house-made graham cracker with dark chocolate provided the finishing touch.
I was also intrigued by the Avocado Fudge Ice Cream listed with the Avocado Affogato ($5), so of course I ordered that too. Oh my! It was a creamy dark chocolate sorbet that I would have never known was made of avocado or was vegan. I wish they would sell it by the pint.
Edge Alley also has an outdoor patio for those who prefer to dine al fresco these days and that’s where we sat. I felt like every COVID-19 safety protocol was in place and was well executed. Service was attentive, friendly and knowledgeable.
Edge Alley is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch
And I will admit that I am already planning my next trip. I have also had a few friends rave about Edge Alley’s burger. And guess what? It comes with those to-die-for fries.
Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.
At a glance
Where: 600 Monroe Ave.
Hours: 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Phone: (901) 425-2605