The rumors are true: Memphis at the Santora–the downtown SanTana restaurant that was a pioneer in turning OC's county seat into a hipster mecca upon its opening in 2001, which helped to spur OC's cocktail revolution, which fed multiple generations of Weeklings, won more Best Of awards than I can remember, and which served as my watering hole–is closing sometime in February.
Whenever someone eventually does the history of OC restaurants, Memphis will be up there, not just for what it offered but what it represented for a segment of Orange County during the 2000s. It was a place where cuisine could be something more that greasefests or Newport Beach's hoity toity bullshit. It was a bar that hired talents that went on to bigger and better places (Dave Mau, Johnny Sampson, our own LP Hastings). Along with its fellow Costa Mesa restaurant, The Gypsy Den, Memphis set its flag in downtown SanTana far before the plethora of places–and it's that plethora that chipped away at its business, slowly but surely.
The Memphis Group, the lads who also own the original Memphis Cafe in Costa Mesa (which will stay open) and the Tin Lizzie, aren't done unloading properties. They're also selling off their just-as-iconic Detroit Bar, as equally a WTF?! moment–but you'll have to wait for our Heard Mentality cabrones to post their thoughts on that.
I could have a much-more eloquent eulogy for Memphis at the Santora, but I plead conflict of interest–after all, the place owns my liver. In the meanwhile, check out our 2005 cover story on the Memphis Group, a copy of which continues to hang at Memphis at the Santora. And this line sums it best: "If the mark of any institution is the hole its absence would leave, then it's not only difficult but frightening to picture life–specifically nightlife–without Memphis."