On October 7, hungry guests gathered at the Premier Palace Ballroom at 629 Monroe Avenue in The Edge for the Taste of the District event. There they sampled signature dishes from 19 food and drink businesses located in the Medical District.
The event was hosted by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative as a part of its Buy Local program, which connects vendors with anchor institutions to support local spending. MMDC's anchors include most of the district's large medical schools and facilities like Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, UT Health Science Center and Southern College of Optometry.
“The Taste of the District event was designed to create vital connections between our institutional partners and the unique food and beverage options available in the District," said Latasha Harris, Buy Local program manager for the MMDC.
"Our primary target audience included procurement teams and administrative staff who make or influence food purchases at the institutions,” she continued.
The MMDC is a community development organization that works to encourage minority- and woman-owned businesses across the Medical District, improve livability and provide support for the neighborhoods that form the district, which includes Madison Heights, Victorian Village, Uptown, The Pinch and The Edge.
“Our intention is to make this an annual event to highlight the food options in the district," said Harris.
An invitation-only crowd gathered at the Premier Palace Ballroom to sample fare from Medical District restaurants at the Taste of the District event hosted by the Memphis Medical District Collaborative. (Kim and Jim Coleman)
Sunrise Memphis, Trolley Stop Market, Slice of Soul, Los Comales, Bhan Thai and Riko’s Kickin’ Chicken provided options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Samples of desserts and sweet treats were provided by Phillip Ashley Chocolates, Sweet Magnolia Gelato and Pop-A-Roos flavored popcorn while High Cotton Brewing Company and Comeback Coffee kept the drinks flowing.
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“We wanted to feature a variety of restaurants and catering companies with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and beverage options. What makes this event attractive to vendors is the opportunity to share both small bites and small talk with institutions with whom they may not yet have a relationship,” said Harris.
“Our main goal in coming here was to find vendors we can connect with. It has been very good for that,” said Sarah Reschae with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “There’s a lot of restaurants that we go and eat at personally, but we didn’t realize they cater.”
Reschae also said the hospital is actively working to take a more localize approach to catering.
“We were invited to this to try and support the Medical District so we can expand our catering events to more local than just chains,” said Reschae.
Paradox Catering offered small bites of their Creole Beef with Corn Mash and salad at the Taste of the District event. (Kim and Jim Coleman)
Taste of the District also afforded the vendors the chance to connect with other district food and beverage businesses.
“The Medical District Collaborative is doing such wonderful work bringing everyone together, expanding all of the businesses that are popping up," said Darrin Dante, general manager and catering director of Evelyn & Olive while standing over a chafing dish of the restaurant’s signature jerk chicken.
"Everyone is really neighborly. That is one thing I really like about [the district]," he continued. "Pretty much everyone here, we all interact with each other. I go to Sunrise, I go to Slice [of Soul], I interact with every restaurant. So it is good that we are expanding, but we are expanding as neighbors — as a family, really."
He has also noted how the district has expanded its number of small business since he joined Evelyn & Olive in 2013, a year after it opened.
“We didn’t have any neighbors when we first opened," he said. "We have been here waiting for this growth spurt to happen, and it’s happening. We are here for the whole ride so we are always excited when the Medical District calls us to participate."