Restaurant review

A glimpse of the Knifebird Wine Bar in Midtown Memphis

Owner Kate Ashby jokes that she selfishly opened Bird-knife because she wanted a bar like this to hang out.

“I used to live in Brooklyn and around every corner there is a cozy bar,” Ashby said.

Knifebird is his take on what a cozy bar should be.

She describes her establishment as “a neighborhood wine bar”. It’s an apt description for a place where Memphis wine and cocktail lovers gather for drinks with friends.

Ashby opened her wine bar in June in an 1,800 square foot space that was once a clothing store.

If you haven’t already, you’ll probably come across Knifebird if you’re not careful. This little gem is tucked away on the corner of the Strip Center in Central and Cooper, between the Pavo Salon and Urban Outfitters. This is not where you would expect to find a trendy new wine bar.

Ashby, who designed the space herself, paid attention to every detail to make the space inviting. Modern and chic floral wallpaper, small area rugs, wood finishes, and leather covered chairs are all stylish and bring warmth to the room.

Seating is, of course, available at the bar, but other comfortable seating arrangements such as small cafe tables and sofas around the low tables invite patrons to linger while enjoying a glass of wine and chatting. . The restaurant can seat around 50 people. It’s the perfect place to meet a friend for an aperitif drink or to get together before or after dinner. The atmosphere is calm and encourages conversation.

Knifebird barmaid Madeleine Holdford brings a "Villa" of cheeses and cold cuts at a table.

On my first visit, I met a friend. Because it was only the two of us, we sat down at the bar. High back leather bar stools are not only striking, but very comfortable. I loved sitting at the bar and watching the bartenders in action as they mixed each craft drink.

The cocktail menu is small but interesting. Ashby worked for award-winning restaurant group Starr Restaurants in New York City for almost 10 years. The cocktail offerings were created by his friend and former colleague Mark Murphy, who is now a New York-based bar consultant. The drinks are creative but accessible – with ingredients you recognize.

The “Pickled” is as the name suggests. A martini made with Hangar 1 vodka and pickle brine with an olive wrapped in prosciutto. If you are a pickle fan, this is your drink. Personally, I preferred “The Nico” – a gin based martini with Malfy Gin, Dolin Blanc and orange bitters. This ice cold and refreshing libation had just the right hint of orange bitter – complementing, without overpowering, the drink. Bitter Betty is an alcoholic bourbon concoction made with Henry McKenna bourbon, cynar, Campari, ginger and lime.

One of the things I enjoyed about sitting at the bar was being able to talk to the bartenders. Friendly and knowledgeable, they happily described menu items and answered our questions.

A cocktail at Knifebird, a wine bar in Midtown Memphis.

On a second visit, I met some friends. Our party of four slid two of the small cafe tables along the back wall.

During this visit, I went through the wine list. Ashby has a carefully curated list of 12 reds and 12 whites, as well as a few roses and sparkling wines. The menu changes often and features wines you may not have heard of before.

“There are so many underutilized wines available in this town,” Ashby told me. “Our wine list gives people the chance to challenge people to try something new.”

Customers can order a single glass of wine or choose from a volley of three wines, each with a 3-ounce serving. I tried the Scarlett Fever red wine theft. I enjoyed all three samples. For my second round, I just ordered a drink of my favorite of the three.

The Knifebird bar in Midtown Memphis.

At Knifebird, the focus is on drinks. That said, Ashby does offer a small list of delicious snacks to complement your drink.

“We have what we call a ‘cold kitchen’,” Ashby said. The only equipment is a refrigerator, a meat slicer and a toaster. Despite the limited facilities, Ashby and her team whip up several items you’ll want to try. Snacks like cold cuts and cheese platters, duck liver pâté, and unique variations of bruschetta and crostini are some of the offerings.

Knifebird opens at 4 p.m. daily except Monday. Happy hour, during which guests – for $ 30 – can enjoy a bottle of house wine with a small house board, is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

On a recent Tuesday, I pulled up to the right around 4 p.m. and several tables were already full of friends. I think during this holiday season we might all need to take their lead.

Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at [email protected], and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.

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Or: 2155 central avenue

Hours: 4 pm-11pm Tuesday to Thursday; 4 pm to midnight Friday and Saturday; 4 pm-11pm Sunday. Closed on Mondays.

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