Memphis, TN here I come
August 1, 2006 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Suggest places to eat/drink/hang out in Memphis

I’ll be in Memphis all of next week for a conference (right downtown). I’m looking for cool bars and restaurants that locals hang out in (cheap would be a bonus). I used to live in New Orleans so Beale Street does not appeal to me (unless there's something I must see).
Also, any other suggestions on off-beat stuff to do in the area would be appreciated. Thanks! I’ve seen this thread but it’s a bit old.

PS: Not a big Elvis fan. Is Graceland worth a visit?
posted by special-k to Travel & Transportation around Memphis, TN (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Lamplighter is good for a beer or two. I was told that Joplin and Kristopherson used to drink here.

Graceland is well worth seeing, but also check out Al Green's church, the Rock n Soul museum and Lorraine Motel.
posted by the cuban at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2006

I'm not really an Elvis fan, but I thought my trip to Graceland was kind of fun. I especially enjoyed the trophy room and the fact that the guide says that he was found dead on his bed.
posted by NoMich at 2:01 PM on August 1, 2006

I've heard Graceland is not worth it. I skipped it because of the huge entrance fee.

I really loved the King's Palace Cafe on Beale Street. Best goddamn ribs I've ever eaten, and the waiter was The Man. Seriously, we were like "could we have..." and it would appear on the table without the sentence being finished. The website is cheesy, but the place has been there a long time, and is really tasty old school Memphis.
posted by The Michael The at 2:14 PM on August 1, 2006

Corky's or the Rendezvous for ribs is a must when I am back in town (grew up in the suburbs). The ducks at the Peabody are worth a chuckle too.

And I believe everyone should see Graceland at least once. It is worth the cost.
posted by karmaville at 2:18 PM on August 1, 2006

The pork sandwiches I had at Payne's BBQ in Memphis rank among the top five things I have ever put in my mouth.

I drove 500 miles [caution: self link] to have lunch there once (sort of), and would do it again.

It's a converted gas station / garage, so it's not exactly a hip / cool / hangout place, but the best BBQ places never are.

Cheap, however, it does in spades.
posted by dersins at 2:20 PM on August 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

Earnestine and Hazel's is pretty decent. if you come up Madison, there's a decent amount going on in Midtown - Bosco's, Blue Monkey, P&H Cafe, and others. more around cooper & young is celtic crossing, the young avenue deli, cafe ole. I personally don't like beale street that much, but when on it, I usually go see the outdoor acoustic set a couple local musicians do at Alfred's - it's early (around 6:30 Wed.) and the cheap beer is cheap and Beale is usually uncrowded enough to not be annoying. (is all covers of 70s/80s/90s rock music, though, if that's not your bag.) afterwards, The Dempseys play down at Blues City Cafe. they're a rockabilly band but fun to watch if you don't like the music, and the cheap beer's pretty cheap there too.
posted by mrg at 2:28 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

BB King's Blues Cafe is good, if a little cliche. Definitely worth a visit.
posted by Doohickie at 2:28 PM on August 1, 2006

The Arcade is a great place to get a typical Southern breakfast. It was in the movie 21 Grams and in the background of Mystery Train.

And if you're going to be there the second Wednesday of the month, this free indi Memphis cinema club movie night might be interesting to check out.

I love Memphis. Have a good time!
posted by dog food sugar at 2:48 PM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


In fact, if you go this Friday night, you'll run into friends of mine.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:21 PM on August 1, 2006

The Memphis Zoo has gotten a number of major upgrades in the past few years, and is worth a visit. You can even hang out overnight on a Zoo Snooze, if you can hook up with a group.

The Memphis Redbirds are playing at home Friday evening the 11th, and a double header on Saturday the 12th. The ballpark is right downtown, and is a nice place to see some good minor league baseball.

The Mud Island River Park event schedule is pretty light next week, but if you're looking for some places to walk around in the evening, you might enjoy the river views.

Graceland? Sure. Leave your pre-conceptions in a cocked hat, and go. Not because you're a big Elvis fan, but because so many other people who want to go there so badly, can't. Scoff from a distance, but there is something ineffably shrine like about the place, that somehow overcomes the kitsch, and that you see in the faces of people coming and going. You shouldn't miss it, any more than you'd pass up a visit to the Coliseum if you made it to Rome. If you don't want to spend the time or money for the whole tour, at least leave a "tribute" on the wall out front.

Memphis folk think their barbeque is the shizz, so say nice things while you're in town.
posted by paulsc at 3:34 PM on August 1, 2006

I second the Civil Rights Museum, Al Green's, the Redbirds, and the Arcade. Don't waste your beer money at Graceland.

Looks like your conference has some decent field trips if you don't mind getting hot and sweaty. I know a few of the people leading trips, so feel free to email me if you want to know who might get lost and leave you to die in the woods.

Huey's is the only place you need for burgers and beer. I like the original midtown Huey's best but the downtown location is also excellent. You must go to Gus's for fried chicken. That's all they make but they make it so well.

My local barbecue place is the Bar-B-Q Shop, which is every bit as porkalicious as Corky's or Neely's. And all of those are miles better than the fun but overrated Rendezvous.

The Gibson Guitar Factory gives tours if you like the geetars, and the Gibson Lounge is a great venue for live music.

If you really want to party with the locals, you must swing by Raiford's at about two in the morning. It's well worth the cover charge if you like to dance. You can buy your discount pimp hat beforehand at A. Schwab's on Beale.
posted by naomi at 3:35 PM on August 1, 2006

Thanks naomi. I am psyched to be in Memphis. Unfortunately I'm not going on any of the field trips. I'll be at the conference most of the day and (hopefully) partying through the night.
posted by special-k at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2006

All good suggestions, especially The Dempseys (I believe they were in "Walk The Line," Raiford's, Huey's, The Arcade. As for BBQ, I'd say avoid Corky's (not downtown, not worth the drive), any of the other suggestions are great. If you're up for it, Graceland Too in Holly Springs, MS is about 45 minutes away, but would probably be faster than going to Elvis' Graceland. If you're into local wackos, Graceland Too is your place.
Previous Memphis threads here.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:28 PM on August 1, 2006

BTW, you can show up at Graceland Too 24 hours a day, pay your five bucks and the guy will give you a tour.
posted by Frank Grimes at 8:28 PM on August 1, 2006

If you are here by Sunday, there is a Southeastern Indian Festival at the Chucalissa Museum that should be lots of fun. Dancers and ball players from the Choctaw nations of Mississippi and Oklahoma and from the Chickasaw Nation will be on hand for lots of dancing and demonstrations.
posted by jmgorman at 6:13 AM on August 2, 2006

Second Rendezvous and the Zoo!
posted by jckll at 7:18 AM on August 2, 2006

There was some bar we went to that was in a old brothel. Downstairs it looked like a normal bar. Normal to me, anyways, but you'd walk upstairs and to your left was a room containing a toilet and a bathtub. There was a little bar up here too, and some rooms with couches. It's was all pretty dirty and dingy looking. Does anyone know what I'm talking about? It was a great time, so if it's still there, definitely go.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:36 AM on August 2, 2006

Mr. Gunn: I think that's Earnestine and Hazel's. I've been in the place you describe but it was late one besotted night so I can't be sure of the name.

Additional details on many of the joints mentioned above are here.

If you go to the P&H Cafe I recommend the patty melt.
posted by Carbolic at 1:04 PM on August 2, 2006

Some things I haven't seen mentioned here yet:

Stax/Volt Records Museum (on McLemore): you know all those fringed glittery outfits R&B artists wore in the 60's and 70's? They're all there.

Flying Saucer pub (downtown): lots of good beer on tap, often surprisingly good local live music

There's a good Ethiopean place on Poplar in near east Memphis, believe it or not. Can't recall the name.

Second the Civil Rights museum, it's really well done.
posted by oats at 7:49 PM on August 3, 2006

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