5100 Poplar, Suite 3300
In the Spickler family, we typically don’t associate dark wood paneling, festive piano music and a carving station with places we would take our five-year old and 15-month old monkeys for Sunday brunch. In fact, we typically don’t even allow thoughts so luxurious to enter our minds. We still play a fair amount of dodge-Cheerio at Château Spickler, and we took down the wood paneling in ’83.
So, you can imagine our delight when we received an invitation from our neighbor and new manager at The Tower Center (formerly The Summit Club), Chey Fulgham, to come check out Sunday Brunch at the Summit free of charge. All he wanted in exchange was some honest feedback from those of us brave enough to dine in public with people who poop their pants and eat mac n cheese for breakfast. He didn’t have to ask twice.
With visions of Santa Claus and made-to-order waffles dancing in our heads, we set out to Clark Tower (5100 Poplar Avenue) on a crisp, December Sunday morning. We had a reservation for 11AM, the perfect time, especially considering we got in before the rush and got situated at a primo corner table with breathtaking views of our fair city on two sides. If you don’t know Clark Tower, it’s the taller of the two conspicuous high rises near Mendenhall and Poplar in East Memphis. And The Tower Center, open to the public for Sunday brunch, is located on the 33rd floor with views extending to the horizon in all directions. Aside from Sunday brunch, it operates as an executive conference and special events facility.
The main dining room is on the west side, and you can see downtown and beyond through the floor-to-ceiling windows, the ones that our oldest monkey quickly sullied with his nose and palms. A train passed during the meal, and he could hardly contain his glee, standing face pressed to the glass for five solid minutes as he watched every last one of the empty coal cars pass beneath him and disappear around the bend. I must admit; I’ve seen my share of spectacular views and trains, but the combination of the two was like seeing the best model railroad exhibit you could imagine, complete with tiny cars, toothpick telephone poles and fluffy autumn foliage.
While our oldest was enthralled with the heights and views, our youngest was most interested in the stack of small raspberry and white chocolate scones that had been placed in the middle of our table when we sat down -- a nice touch, considering the patience level of a hungry 15-month old. I’d like to report on the tastiness of said scones, but they only gave us four of that particular flavor combination, and . . . well . . . let’s just say we weren’t going for nutritional balance. We were going for peace and quiet, and we got it, so, they must have been good. (My wife managed to sneak one, and she did say they were delicious.)
As for food that was not scones, it’s difficult to know where to begin. There was so much of it. And our server kindly explained the layout before we set out to fill our plates. There was a cold food table in the middle with some of the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had, along with a variety of salads, fresh fruit, quiche and the desserts (more on those later). Against the wall and nearer the kitchen doors were the hot food stations: a waffle station with classic toppings like blueberries and whipped cream and decadent add-ins like a chocolate/white chocolate/Reese’s peanut butter chip combo sure to satisfy the sweetest tooth; a carving station with beef and pork tenderloins; and finally, a made-to-order omelet station surrounded by shrimp and grits, scalloped potatoes, sausage, bacon, biscuits and portabella bread pudding. Yes. Portabella bread pudding. Yes. It was fantastic. As were the herbed, cheese biscuits. And the bacon was crispy and warm. My omelet was light and just the right size to allow me to try plenty of the other offerings.
Finally, the pièce de résistance: a pair of tables featuring chicken fingers, mac n cheese and a sugar cookie decorating station. Why would you ever leave? In fact, after his second helping of what appeared to be a decent version of the cheesy stuff, our monkey offered this jewel: “Daddy, I used to want to have all of my birthdays at Huey’s, but now I want to come here every time.” He was staring slack jawed at the sun peaking through the clouds over East Memphis as he said it.
Unfortunately, for dessert we only managed one piece of chocolate cake among us, if you don’t count Mr. Sconehead’s trifecta. But even though it didn’t land on any of our plates, the presence of one particular dessert overshadowed everything else in the dining room. Krispy Kreme doughnut bread pudding! I didn’t even look at it. I couldn’t. For fear it might leap directly into my arteries. Maybe next time.
Santa was there, and he made the rounds spreading cheer (and fear) throughout the room. He was there with his favorite contractually obligated professional photographer. (Prints not included.) We opted to spare all involved considering the sudden death grip our little one employs every time he lays eyes on the guy.
As for the logistics, costs and other details, getting in and out was a breeze. The website advertises parking in the surface lot to the west of the building where we parked and covered parking in the adjacent garage. The cost for brunch is $24.95 per adult, $11.95 for children 6-10 and $5.95 for five and under. Our bill would have been around $60 since we didn’t have any alcohol. Coffee, juice and milk were included (in a special fire safety cup with a straw for the kids). The staff was very attentive to the needs of the grownups and the little ones alike, and we never wanted for anything. We weren’t the only ones with young children, and they even sat us all on one side to contain the potential damage, but it was never an issue. Even with decorate-them-yourself sugar cookies as fuel. The piano player and his Christmas carols kept the background noise at a very nice level. There was a diaper-changing episode in the men’s room that is worthy of a blog post of its own, but this one is clearly long enough, so let’s just say, there are no changing tables for the brave dads, but there is adequate dry counter space. At least until your little stinker discovers the automatic faucets. Mommy reported a separate counter away from the sinks but no changing tables in the ladies’ room either. I just had to be the hero.
As we mentioned, we don’t do Sunday brunch very often anymore, but our research into other fixed-price options showed this to be very competitively priced, and we thought it was a great bargain considering the experience, atmosphere, service and food quality. If you’re looking to introduce your monkeys to a unique and quality Sunday brunch experience, you couldn’t do any better than Brunch at the Summit. Next time we’re bringing binoculars!
Editor's note: I asked Josh about the attire and this is what he said...
There were definite church people with holiday sweaters, ties and blazers, and there were plenty of khakis and sweaters. Generally, nicer than average. I had on jeans, a collared shirt, sweater and tennis shoes (recall what I did the day before [The St. Jude Marathon!]; I wasn't about to put on dress shoes), and I didn't feel like people were staring at me. The boys were in khakis and sweaters, which is quite formal for them.
No comment on the fact that he doesn't recall what his wife was wearing!
Thanks again for a great review, Josh!