Love List 2020, Day 18: Pappy and Jimmy’s Restaurant

By Brantley Ellzey

This whackadoo souvenir plate has hung in the kitchen at Ellfrow (our house name) for over twenty-five years and always makes me smile. I have a great appreciation for totally tasteless objects. As style guru Diana Vreeland once said, “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika.” 

Pappy and Jimmy’s was the offshoot of Pappy’s Lobster Shack, a storied Memphis institution that had existed for decades. Pappy (Lehman C. Sammons) retired from the restaurant biz in the 1940’s but later decided to partner with his friend Jimmy Mounce and open a new place. The first Pappy and Jimmy’s was on Madison, but the one I was familiar with in the 80’s was at the corner of Poplar and Hollywood, the current location of a Sonic Drive-In.

Pappy and Jimmy's Memphis Restaurant

Memphis had so many great old campy places when I first moved here – Pat’s Pizza, Ferguson’s, the Alamo Plaza Motor Court – now all gone. Pappy and Jimmy’s was a favorite of my parents, and, when they visited, we would have lunch or dinner there. The restaurant itself was exactly what you wanted it to be – unpretentious and unchanged – but the biggest draw for me was the spectacular neon sign that featured the heads of Pappy and Jimmy on giant lobster bodies whose claws would open and shut maniacally. Aren’t we lucky that it was immortalized on a plate? 

The quirky little plate that hangs to the left of our kitchen sink is very special. It makes me think of happy times with my sweet parents, the many celebrations we’ve enjoyed at Ellfrow and also of a Memphis that now only exists in memory.

Anyone who lived in Memphis from the 1940s through the 1980s surely remembers Pappy’s Lobster Shack at 2100 Madison, a ramshackle establishment created by a man who became known as “The Lobster King,” “The Mayor of Overton Square,” and — considering he was still working at age 100 — “The Oldest Active Chef in America.”

His name was Lehman C. Sammons, but everybody knew him as Pappy.

Over the years, the unusual place continued to attract celebrities, and Pappy was friends with such stars as Tyrone Power, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Dizzy Dean, Yogi Berra, and countless others.

~Vance Lauderdale, Ask Vance, Memphis Magazine, April 2007

I’m including a wonderful article about Pappy’s by Vance Lauderdale published in the April 1, 2007 issue of Memphis Magazine. Enjoy with both claws!

Pappy and Jimmy's Restuarant

My name is Brantley Ellzey and I was born and raised upriver from Memphis in Osceola, Arkansas. In January of this year, I began this daily blog on Facebook called Love List 2020. I hoped it would act as a happy counterpoint to the constant barrage of troubling news and turmoil that fill our modern lives. Select posts are republished here, bi-weekly and parts in between.

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