Cafe Hours:

Tuesday-Saturday: 8am - 2pm
Sunday-Monday: Closed

12 S Main St, Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 509-2469

Cafe Keough

In the afternoon around three, as the low sun floats in, Café Keough takes on a soft glow.  At this time of day jazz wafts from the speakers, jiving with the light tap dance of the law school laptops.  Soon enough the banker ambles around the corner for a chat. The newspaper publisher comes in to hash out river city politics.  And then the lawyers - can't seem to get away from them.  Even married one. The Brazilian interpreter says this place is Buenos Aries.  The Parisians say it’s Paris.  The Germans say it’s Vienna and I just smile and say welcome to Memphis.

Café Keough is owned by Kevin Keough and his investment partners.  The general manager is Terry Jenkins and Brent McAfee is the chef de cuisine.  The Café is open throughout the week and mid-day Sunday for brunch.

Kevin Keough’s restaurant experience began in gritty Memphis blues joints tracking down the wandering musicians on Beale Street so they could finish the next set.  He next created a synergy with Karen Carrier’s culinary originality and design to make Automatic Slims the Downtown Memphis scene of the 1990s.  The two partnered up in 2005 to create The Beauty Shop Restaurant, a highly successful and award winning restaurant anchoring the City’s vibrant Cooper-Young District.

Kevin opened Café Keough at the tail end of 2013.  Situated on Main Street between the fourth and fifth presidential streets, Madison and Monroe, the Café is around the corner from the University of Memphis law school and down the street from the historic Peabody Hotel.  It occupies part of the ground floor in an upscale residential tower known as “10 South Main”.

At about 3,000 square feet, the mood of Café Keough undulates throughout the day from lively breakfast to quiet work/study time, exploding at noon in a bustling lunch crowd and settling into the evening wind down with drinks and tapas.

The atmosphere of the Café reflects Kevin’s desire to create an old Memphis café from scratch using bits and pieces of remembered images from trips around Nice, Prague, New York and New Orleans – crystalizing that wonderful sense of being in a special place.  Kevin’s fingerprint is literal, honed into the plaster of the ceiling and the paint on the kitchen floors.  He worked alongside the contractors and tradesmen to tease the whispers out of the historic walls of the 100 year old Commerce Title Building.  Now the aroma of the panini press wafts up to those old beams and the fragrant coffee warms the belly. 

Café Keough is a beautiful place with a simple café design that honors the existing architecture by using the original granite, recreating the Corinthian capitals and repurposing the old Commerce Title Building sign as community table tops.  New but old touches include a long custom bar, crisp white subway tiles, and benches reminiscent of the train station at the more southern end of South Main.

A soft light filters in beautifully during the long afternoons and at night the chandeliers and sconces collected from basements and dusty antique store backrooms give off a warm glow.  The deep window seats provide a front row view of the trolleys and horse and carriages that rumble past on the cobblestones outside.

The menu is designed to tickle every taste bud, including inventive paninis and salads that use fresh ingredients in clever tasty ways.  The day begins with the signature Bavarian Breakfast of black bread, fresh fruit, soft cheese & a boiled egg, or perhaps a bacon, onion & gruyere quiche.  Alternatively, one can choose organic oats with Vermont maple syrup, freshly made local granola & yogurt, or a variety of croissants and Danishes.

At lunch, the smoked turkey with cranberry jam, provolone, sweet onion & tomato is a favorite as is the roast beef with horseradish crème fraiche, sweet onions, mushrooms & arugula.  A side of the French onion soup with a generous dollop of gruyere is a must, and the red beet and French feta salad competes with the Nicoise for most popular.  In the evening, a crisp glass of chilled wine with Meze platter of hummus, olives, quinoa, feta, domas and pita provides the base for languorous conversation.

Café Keough boasts a full bar and a growing selection of locally brewed beer.  General Manager, Terry Jenkins, known to all as TJ, creates fun social events where tourists, young professionals, Downtown denizens and law students can gather and play.

Kevin Keough never intended to put his name on the place, even though his entrepreneurial great-grandfather’s name marks a road east of the City.  Surrounded by so much of historic Downtown Memphis he thought for sure he could tie the name into the Spanish and French explorers or the cotton traders, rascals and personalities that make Memphis so great.  He tried a million names in his mind before settling on the most obvious one of them all.  In the end, he is just another Memphis man trying to make his mark doing what he loves.  It is a café run by a Keough.