Lindsay Hanlen 0000-00-00 00:00:00
On the corner of Second and G.E. Patterson, family means everything. The cool bluesy atmosphere of Marmalade Restaurant and Lounge evokes the feeling of home, and everyone who passes through the front doors automatically becomes a member of the Marmalade family. Marmalade was the lifelong dream of owner Mae Smith. “When I was in school and working part-time at Curry’s Club Tropicana and other local restaurants, I dreamed about and planned to someday own my own restaurant business,” Mae explains. “I knew there were places Downtown where you could get lunch, but none like I envisioned.” Since opening Marmalade in 1982, Mae’s menu has run the gamut of comfort food, including Buffalo chicken wings, Southern fried chicken, grilled pork chops, barbecued ribs, catfish steaks, New Orleans gumbo, assorted vegetables, cornbread, and peach cobbler. Almost all of the recipes are family specialties, whether from the Smith family or One of their beloved customers. “People come in here and ask for something we don’t have on the menu, then later bring me a recipe,” Mae says. “Customers are considered part of the Marmalade family because eating here is more than just a ‘taste bud experience.’” The sense of family that built the menu pervades the atmosphere, as well. Looking around at the pennant-lined wall in one room, Mae explains, “I’m not a sports fan, but people see and admire them and then send us ones we do not have!” Between portraits of B.B. King and the Ford family dynasty hang Mae’s macramé creations. “I did this one as a hobby when I worked for the post office,” Mae says as she brushes by a six-foot-tall piece. The creative hobbies of Mae and her husband, L.B., hint of their earlier careers with the U.S. Postal Service and Memphis’s school system and decorate various alcoves. But it’s the entryway walls covered with photographs of Marmalade’s non-biological family of friends that the Smith family takes The most pride in. Musicians, longtime friends, and regular customers are mixed together on the walls. “We’ve been here a long time,” Mae explains. “Our customers come here and remember coming here. We aren’t just another stop on a trip. People sit down and have a good time.” And most people who have a good time here come back to see their pictures added to the wall. Each one reminds Mae of a different story about a delightful person. The menu touts that Marmalade is “just like eating at home,” and the way the Smith family runs the business is part of that promise.It is a family business through and through.Mae and L.B., their daughter, Czenzie, and their son, Audie, all make their contributions to the success and fun at Marmalade. L. B. and Mae share the day-to-day work of restaurant ownership. Czenzie, a City of Memphis government employee, serves as a hostess on weekends, and Audie, a professional musician and FedEx employee, holds special performances with his band. Music makes New Year’s Eve a massive occasion at Marmalade. Whether it’s with a full house or just a few of the regulars, New Year’s Eve quickly becomes a spirited year’send event. “Audie always plays here when he’s available,” says Mae. “Other musicians fill in on occasion.” These “other musicians” include Willie Covington, Michael Rainey, Toni Green, and many others during the past 30 years. Marmalade is a center of consistency. The menu may grow longer and the Smiths may add a few more pictures here or there, but for the most part, life for this G.E. Patterson gem stays the same. Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner starting at 6 p.m., Marmalade is a virtual snapshot of Memphis. The dimly lit rooms with cushy, round-back chairs and icecold pitchers of lemonade set the tone. An excited conversation with any member of the Smith family about good music and even better food makes the meal. Ask for a tour after dinner. Maybe Mae will show you her favorite Picasso. Marmalade Restaurant and Lounge, 153 G. E. Patterson, 522-8800.
Published by Downtowner Magazine. View All Articles.
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