What to eat in Memphis? by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 1/18/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) As throngs come to Memphis from all over the world for the truly awesome International Blues Challenge, one question is oft heard, "What's the best place to eat?" As a gourmand and professional trencherman, it is incumbent upon me to attempt to guide my fellow blues players, fans and enthusiasts.

If you are staying downtown for the IBC and have no car, your choices are somewhat limited as Memphis public transportation is really not even mediocre. In fact, it sucks. The city's population is spread out over a huge geographical landscape, a fact which makes it a more comfortable place to live than say, Manhattan, whose population density is rather scary to non-city dwellers, but consequently brings about a real need for transportation to get to the outlying good snacks. This is dedicated to those of you who are stuck downtown without a ride.

Taxi cab service is really unpredictable in the outlying precincts and this fact will remind you that Memphis is really not a big city, but an overgrown town. That is actually part of its charm as long as you know what you are getting into before you get too hungry. The city covers 256 square miles so don't get talked into a long cab ride anywhere.

Dining On Beale:


Dyer's the classic fried burger

Dyer's - run by my friend Felix Vega, this place rules the local burger kingdom at 205 Beale Street. Here's a link to their site:

Pig on Beale - good barbeque joint without driving too far out. their site:

Rumboogie Cafe: Good gumbo and red beans and rice everyday at 3rd and Beale.

Fine dining:

Itta Bena - upstairs on the 3rd floor above B. B. King's Club at 2nd and Beale...fine dining. See my friend Susan Marshall sing on the weekends. She is a Memphis treasure. For reservations:

Downtown Trolley

I will also mention some good food that is available along the downtown trolley line. The trolley is cool and it runs steadily all the livelong day from 6 AM until 11 PM on the weekdays and until 1AM on Friday and Saturday. Sunday they quit running at 6 PM. A three day trolley pass is only 8 bucks, a daily pass is only $3.50 and a two way pass is just $1.50 so check out their site and see if this will suit your needs:

Food on the Trolley line:

Earnestine & Hazel's - damn fine Soul Burgers but not much else food-wise except in the back bar at night. The place is cool as hell though with pictures of great musicians all over the walls. Tell Russell or Clarence that Nighthawk sent you in for the free tour. The place used to be the Mitchell hotel, a rooming house that accommodated the likes of B. B. King, Earl Forest, Johnny "Ace" Alexander and many more famous musicians...located on south Main across from the Arcade at the end of the trolley line.

Pearl's Oyster House - great New Orleans style dining and consistently fine food and service.

Their site:

Arcade Restuarant - Memphis oldest eating place across from the train station on south Main. I have no idea what their hours are so call ahead at (901) 526 - 5757. The food is good, especially the pizza.

Here's the link:

Café Francisco 400 N. Main, (901) 578-8002 European style eatery and coffee shop with a DSL connection.

Texas de Brazil 150 Peabody Place, (901) 526-7600 Great steaks located next to the Peabody Hotel. You will not leave hungry.

Take the virtual tour:

Huey's 77 S. Second St., across from the Peabody Hotel, (901) 527-2700 Good for beers and burgers, casual dining.

Gus's Fried Chicken 310 S. Front, (901) 527-4877 This is the best damn fried chicken in the world. Located about a block west of the trolley line.

52 S. Second St , (at Union Avenue) , Memphis, TN
Phone - (901) 523-2746 This is one of the city's oldest and most interesting destinations for ribs and barbeque.

Spaghetti Warehouse Italian Grill 40 W. Huling, (901) 521-0907 Italian chain restaurant with pizza, pasta and more.

Majestic Grill located on south Main directly on the trolley line in a renovated movie house built in 1913, this lovely atmosphere and fine dining is sure to please.

Circa 901.522.1488 fine dining located on south main on the trolley line. For reservations:

Grill 83 83 Madison Ave., The Madison Hotel, (901) 333-1224 fine dining

If you have a car and want barbeque, you might like to try Central Barbeque, Tops, Payne's or perhaps Leonard's.

© Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010

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