By Cole Bradley, for High Ground News
High Ground’s signature “On the Ground” series embeds our team of journalists and photojournalists in a Memphis neighborhood for 1-6 months of intensive, hyper-local coverage.
While we’re there, we eat. A lot.
We chose a different locally-owned, neighborhood restaurant every Friday for team lunches. And it wouldn’t be right to pen a profile on a restaurant without trying it ourselves, right? It’s a tough job, but we’re always ready to step up.
In “Destination Eats,” we’re rounding up some of the best restaurants we covered in our 14 On the Ground neighborhoods. Second up is Madison Heights.
See the first here: “Destination Eats: Hickory Hill has what you you’re craving“
Madison Heights sits roughly between Poplar and Union avenues to the north and south and Interstate 240 and McNeil street to the west and east. It’s radiates out from its core at Madison Avenue and Cleveland Street.
Local restaurants are a big part of our city’s culture and economy, and the industry has been devastated by the pandemic. They need our support and we all need to eat so let us help you work up an appetite.
We recommend getting it to-go to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. All in-person dining ends at 10:30 p.m. but some businesses may still offer curbside and delivery for food only after 10:00 p.m.
Bonus Fact: “Madison Heights” is a forgotten name. Madison Heights began as a township that was annexed by the City of Memphis prior to 1900. The name was still in use as late as the late 1990s, but most people now refer to the area as Midtown or the Medical District. The area’s community development corporation and a few area business owners are trying to revive the name to give the area a more distinct identity that they hope will spur renewed interest and investment.
Riko’s Kickin Chicken
1329 Madison Avenue | 901-726-5347
Currently 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Riko’s chicken is definitely kicking. Customer favorites include the hot wings and whole chicken, broccoli and cheese, shrimpburger, fried fish, and kickin fries loaded with peppers, bacon, cheese, and ranch sauce. Their wing sauces are bold and complex, and they’ll even dip your fish in any flavor you want. Honey gold catfish should be on your Memphis foods bucket list. Read more about Riko’s Kickin Chicken here.
Phillip Ashley Chocolates
1200 Madison Avenue | 901-572-1011
Currently 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
Dubbed a “real life Willy Wonka” by Forbes Magazine and the “King of Chocolate” by Black Enterprise, Memphis-based chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix has created custom chocolates for FedEx, Nike, and the Grammy and Emmy awards. Lucky for us, his Madison Heights storefront serves Memphis too.
Rix’s chocolates are known for their bold, swirling aesthetics and non-traditional flavor choices and combinations like strawberry hot sauce, fig jam, and barbecue sauce. Read more about Phillip Ashley Chocolates here.
Viet Hoa Food Market
40 North Cleveland Street | 901-726-9388
9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily
Viet Hoa isn’t a restaurant but it makes our list as one of the best Asian markets in the city.
It stocks some fresh produce, meat, and grocery items typical to any U.S. table alongside household, food, holiday, and religious items specific to Southeast Asian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese cultures. Read more about Viet Hoa Food Market here.
The Pumping Station
1382 Poplar Ave | 901-272-7600
Currently opens 5:30 p.m., in-person dining ends at 10:30 p.m.
The Pumping Station is one of the last gay bars in Memphis, but they welcome everyone to shoot some pool, check out their tree house, and eat some good food. They have beloved bar staples like hot wings, pizza, and cheese sticks, but we love the steak night and taco night specials. The fried mac-and-cheese and meatball sliders are worth a trip too, and their bartenders know how to pour a mean cocktail. Read more about The Pumping Station and Dru’s Bar here.
Slice of Soul Pizza Lounge
1299 Madison Avenue | 901-509-2087
Currently Wednesday-Saturday, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Excellent pizza and a great staff—you can’t go wrong with Slice of Soul. Stop in for a slice or whole pie of Memphis Meat Mafia, Cooper Young Cheese, or Westwood Whole Wings. And don’t skip dessert. The Strawberry Staxx and Crosstown Carmel cakes can’t be beat. Read more about Slice of Soul Pizza Lounge here.
Here are some other favorites we visited while embedded in Madison Heights:
Los Comales | 1322 Madison Avenue | 901-440-8393
10:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; in-person dining ends at 10:30 p.m.
Tops Bar-B-Q | 1286 Union Avenue | 901-725-7527
9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily
The Cupboard | 1400 Union Avenue | 901-276-8015
7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily
Vietnam Restaurant | 74 North Cleveland Street |
10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily
Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole’s worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.