restaurants

Chef Justin Young, Amy Young, Chris Thorn and Chef Jimmy Gentry are making the Town Square a dining destination thanks to Raven & Lily and P.O. Press.

They went to culinary school together 20 years ago at Johnson & Wales in Charleston. Lived in dorms two buildings apart. Now Chef Justin Young and Chef Jimmy Gentry are just around the corner from each other again, purely by coincidence.

Raven & Lily

Young and his wife Amy relocated Raven & Lily Restaurant last month from Oakland, Tennessee, to 120 E. Mulberry St. The restaurant is named for Scripture – Luke 12:24 – and the couple had talked about opening a place for years, taking the leap of faith last January. “It means God’s got it,” they both said.

Much like when the Youngs first met at La Tourelle, a bygone Memphis fine-dining establishment, he runs the back of the house and she runs the front. The space formerly occupied by Brooks Pharm2Fork feels more open. Inside, they took out half the front wall, added bench seating and put tables in the storefront windows.

The menu sings French classic meets Southern comfort. Chef Young shares his secret to the house favorite Shrimp and Grits: roux made fresh from mussel stock and house-baked bread good for sopping. The salads are fresh, the fries are shoestring, and the portions are often enough to take home for later.

In addition to offerings like Fried Green Tomatoes with lemon caper remoulade and Roasted Chicken Breast with house-made pasta and black pepper carbonara, there is also a kids’ menu and fresh-squeezed lemonade.  

“We want people to feel comfortable,” Amy Young says of the cozy atmosphere. “A good meal doesn’t have to be a special occasion.”

Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Raven & Lily also serves early breakfast on Saturday mornings, as well as Sunday brunch. A full bar is coming soon.

P.O. Press

A stroll away at 148 N. Main St., Chef Jimmy Gentry and Sommelier Chris Thorn will open P.O. Press Public House and Provisions on October 1. Named for the building’s history as the original Post Office and later home to this very newspaper, the P.O. Press take on dining focuses on New American cuisine and craft cocktails made from locally-sourced ingredients and spirits.

Chef Gentry, who led the kitchen at Erling Jensen: the Restaurant to six consecutive “Best Restaurant” awards in local publications, is also co-owner of the successful high-end boutique company Paradox Catering and Consulting.

“New American cuisine takes into account our blended culture like the Asian influences in San Francisco, Cuban in Florida and French down in the Quarter. I’m recreating those flavors with what’s available around here in season,” he said.

The ever-evolving menu features a selection of shared plates, house-cured charcuterie, regional entrees, and creative takes on fresh produce.

Chris Thorn curated the wine list heavy in domestic offerings, with a few nods to France, by the glass, bottle and a wide array of half-bottle selections. The cocktail program focuses on lesser-known local and American regional provisions. Nick Manlavi and Mitchell Marable prefer to be called bartenders rather than mixologists and take pride in crafting classic drinks with a local twist.

“People can try something new and have a conversation. Learn about local distillers, smaller operations,” Thorn says. His strategy to keep a quality, educated staff is simple: “Pay them well, and pay attention.”

While the bar offers a more relaxed atmosphere with rustic fixtures and community tables, the once vast dining room is divided by deep seating with half-round “gangster” booths along the wall. The atmosphere is sophisticated without pretense. A covered patio overlooks historic Main Street, tucked away from busy Poplar Avenue traffic.

P.O. Press will serve dinner Monday through Saturday. The bar will open early for happy hour and remain open after the kitchen closes, as well as during Sunday brunch.

Local Chance

Neither chef knew of the other’s plan to offer Collierville residents an original dining choice outside the strip mall box, but both restaurants want to help make the Historic Town Square a vital center of town. Instead of paying for transportation into the city, local businesses offer new options to enjoy an authentic evening out closer to home.

Over decades, both Young and Gentry have developed their own unique cooking styles. While there is a friendly helping of competition, everyone involved is happy to have the other close by.

Amy Young says, “The more choices people have on the Square, the more they come and walk around. And that’s a good thing for everybody.”