Lest you think Memphis is little more than barbecue, biscuits and yardbird, I’d like to turn your attention toÂ Restaurant Iris – a sterling example of what owner/chef Kelly English has coined “progressive Southern” cuisine. The beautiful thingÂ aboutÂ that phrase is how perfectly it encapsulates the essence of what chef EnglishÂ is doing: farm-to-table cooking rooted in honestÂ SouthernÂ traditions. Which means that of course the salad has a bacon component – yet it’s lardons ofÂ artisanal pork belly from Alan Benton’sÂ local smokehouse. (If you don’t know Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the miracle of their mail order.)Â AndÂ theÂ lettuces are a peppery local arugula, dressed with grilled scallions in a ginger-soy vinaigrette. Topped with crispy “croutons” of sweetbreads – a bit of genius – there’s nothing outwardly Southern about this dish, yet the counterpoint of tastes and textures is undeniably comfort food at its most refined. Shrimp and grits might be a classic ofÂ Southern cooking but it, too, transcends expectations in the hands of chef English: the coarse-grind Delta grits are closer to polenta, bathed in tomato broth au pistou that’s thick with the taste of the sea. A refined dice of andouille adds just enough heat to prickle the palate while six meaty Gulf shrimp top it off as regally as a crown roast. When it comes to dessert, I’m not at all surprised there’s a cheese course on offer. (It’s at this point that I berate myself for not indulging in the degustation menu.)Â As if the food were not enough, Restaurant Iris also has an ideal genteelÂ setting: an intimate Victorian house on midtown’s Overton Square. Marked by exceptionalÂ service (a waiter drove to my hotel to return anÂ accidentallyÂ left-behindÂ credit card) and stellar cocktails to boot (the Sazerac sings)Â Chef English will upendÂ everythingÂ you thought youÂ knewÂ about Southern dining. And masterfully so, I might add.