A guide to two days well spent eating and experiencing Memphis, Tennessee.
- Something local! We found out about Pink Palace’s craft fair at Audubon Park through the ILoveMemphis blog and also found a number of other activities on TimeOut Memphis ranging from comedy shows to EDM music.
- Embark on the Gibson factory tour while workers are present. This is a unique opportunity to see how these incredible guitars get crafted. I’d recommend planning your visit when the factory is in full swing, so check the schedule before planning your trip. For once, I was on the opposite side of the looking glass observing my husband bounce from piece to piece in a cadence of interest completely foreign to me. I began to realize how excruciating it must be to follow me around in a department store. *Cue a new sense of appreciation*
- Consider spending a bit of time in downtown Memphis. There’s a lovely, haunting essence in the weathered brick buildings and abandoned factories that had once housed busy people long ago.
- Beale Street is a great place to begin. Think of it as a warm introduction to the colorful narrative that has taken place in this city. Strangely enough, it reminds me of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco in that it is an amusing tourist trap with many redeeming qualities. Be that as it may, it’s a fun place to order food and (alcoholic drinks) curb-side, peruse through the souvenir shops with kitschy magnets, and saddle up inside one of the many live-music venues. We were fortunate enough to catch a soulful band covering the musical stylings of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Ben E. King at BBKing’s.
- In case you need to take a break from the excitement of Beale street, the ever-famous The Peabody hotel is just a few minutes walk away. You’ll know you’ve come to the right place when you start seeing bronzed duck prints on the sidewalk in front of the entrance and abundance of duck paraphernalia inside. Despite a history of difficult circumstances, this hotel has always bravely opened its’ doors to the community, even during the yellow fever epidemic in 1878. Many people will tell you about the daily duck procession that happens, but no need to fret if you miss it. The hotel itself is a well-preserved marvel of history and is a lovely place worth visiting.
- Before heading out of the downtown area, catch sights of the suns’ orange and golden rays against the Mississippi River. I’m told this is the time when the river looks most blue. The combination of the stunning colors at the Mississippi River Park, the liveliness of dancing teenagers snapchatting on their phones, and ambitious runners transposes a sense of daily life in Memphis.
- There is no shortage of live bands in this music mecca, so you should take advantage of it! Cafe Ole in midtown has a leafy outdoor patio, stage setup, and abundance of vacation-sized cocktails in all different colors. There are also several other restaurant and music venues at the intersection of Cooper and Young if you want to hop around.
- Regretfully, I did not get the chance to experience the Civil Rights Museum, where minister and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The building facade and several areas remain preserved from its identity as the Lorraine Hotel. This is at the top of my list for my next visit to Memphis, as well as a stroll down the historic “Victorian Village” on Adams Street.
- Tender ribs (wet) with a signature crispy bark accompanied by a healthy helping of slaw, mac’ and cheese, and beans at Central BBQ.
- Perfectly battered and juicy hot and spicy fried chicken at Gus’s. An enticing version also lives at Porcellino’s Craft Butcher nestled between two biscuits.
- Deliciously messy pulled pork sandwich piled with slaw by Germantown Commissary.
- Crusted fried sides such as okra, tomato, pickle chips/spears, and hushpuppies served up searing hot at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
- Sumptuous bread pudding (which I noticed popped up on quite a few menus). The cinnamon roll pudding at Porcellino’s is to die for.
Memphis is a gentle blend of the familiar and the new. It is a place that can tell you about perseverance through adversity and why family and community are so important. There is an unspoken respect for great food and music, which I had the privilege of experiencing during my short visit. I know it won’t be long until I come back again.