Memphis soul food restaurant sticking with to-go orders as COVID cases continue to climb

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After Gov. Bill Lee extended his emergency COVID order in Tennessee on Monday, one Memphis restaurant decided to take safety a step further and go all the way back to Phase 1.

Chef Tam’s Underground Cafe in the Edge District is still doing plenty of to-go orders. But Tamra Patterson, owner of the popular soul food restaurant, said the decision to keep customers out of the dining room was personal.

“As much as we love to be around our guests, we love to have the live music and the laughter, we just kinda had to take a step back and realize these numbers aren’t decreasing. We have not flattened the curve as they say,” Patterson said.

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Her 16-year-old son works the front of the restaurant doing to-go orders, she said.

“When you stop and ask yourself if my 16-year-old got sick with COVID and had horrible symptoms and I couldn’t be in the hospital with him because they don’t allow guests, would I be OK with that?” Patterson said.

She then considered other families and decided now isn’t the time to be fully open. 

Patterson said 10 employees she was able to bring back after they were initially laid off at the start of the pandemic will still be able to work. 

Instead of enjoying their meal inside, masked customers were waiting outside Tuesday to pick up their orders. 

Oree Hunt was one of them. He’s fine with not going inside. 

“We can’t take any chances. We’ve never experienced anything to this magnitude,” Hunt said.

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