Dining in Memphis: Where the Locals Eat
If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Memphis, you might need a little help from a local. From burgers to barbecue, gumbo to cheesecake, there’s something for whatever hunger you’ve got.
“Ask the locals.”
It’s the best advice you’ll ever get about eating in an unfamiliar city. Sure, you could play it safe and stick to the chain restaurants you find all over America, but trying a city’s unique culinary offerings is a large part of experiencing the culture. That’s especially true of Memphis, Tenn. With a rich history touching everything from rock-and-roll to the civil rights movement, there’s plenty to see and do, but anyone can tell you that sampling the local flavor is a must.
You can find restaurant reviews anywhere, but most sites aren’t as concerned with us University folk. If you want to know where the college crowds hang, you’ve come to the right place.
A few foods have become staples in American cuisine. You can’t go wrong with a burger or a slice of pizza. Finding those tried-and-true edibles is easy enough, but these local favorites offer up a little something extra.
Huey’s has been voted best burger in Memphis for over 30 years and for good reason. Huey’s is more than just burgers, though; it’s about the experience. Where else can you shoot your toothpicks into the ceiling and write on the walls? Plus, with live music every Sunday night, there’s hardly a better hangout in the city. There are seven locations, but you should definitely visit the original (and the best) in Midtown.
If you like your food a little flatter and rounder, Memphis Pizza Cafe is your spot. They can easily please the standard pepperoni-and-cheese types, but I recommend the “Alternative,” a sauceless masterpiece. Fair warning: if you don’t like thin crust, try Garibaldi’s or Johnny Brusco’s instead.
If you want chicken, the only name you need to know is Gus. Not only is Gus’s Fried Chicken mouthwatering, it’s cheap. The downtown location is small, though, so expect to wait a few minutes if you have a group.
Memphis is a diverse place. You’ll find every kind of people here, and it shows in the food.
Bayou Bar & Grill offers delicious Cajun fare such as jambalaya or duck and sausage gumbo. They recently moved into a bigger building, and there’s even a nice patio if you want to enjoy your gator bites outside.
Celtic Crossing is an Irish pub in the Cooper-Young district. They have separate menus for each meal, but you’re sure to be satisfied no matter when you visit. If you’re lucky, you might catch a rugby game on the tube or some Irish folk music. Monday thru Saturday, it’s 21-and-up only, so have your I.D. ready.
Battle of the Barbecue
Oh, boy. The quickest way to start a fight in Memphis, Tenn. is to talk about barbecue. Everybody has a favorite, and they’re quick to defend it.
The truth is, it’s hard to go wrong here. After all, Memphis is famous for its rich and delicious barbecue history. You’re unlikely to be disappointed anywhere, but a little local knowledge can help you with your decision.
First, there’s Corky’s BBQ. Some locals dismiss it because, with over twenty locations in seven states, it’s hardly a uniquely Memphis experience. Ignore the elitists. Corky’s is great, inexpensive, and family-friendly.
You have to try Central BBQ, especially if you’re looking for BBQ chicken. Everything else is fantastic (recently voted Best Barbecue), but the chicken, as we say in the South, will make you slap your mama. (Note: Neither the author nor MyCollegeRoadTrip.com takes responsibility for any mama-slapping.)
Rendezvous, tucked in an alley downtown across from the Peabody Hotel, is a hot spot for visitors. It’s guaranteed to be crowded on any given night, especially the weekend. Some locals think it’s a little “touristy”, but if you’re looking for ribs, especially dry rub, this is the place to go. If you can’t find the place, just ask a horse carriage driver. They know everything.
So many choices…
There are so many more wonderful places to dine in Memphis that no single article could cover them all, but this should get you started. If you run out of new places to eat, ask someone who looks like they know something you don’t. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Best burgers: Huey’s; Seriously. Just go there already.
Also check out: Belmont Grill, Young Ave. Deli (Try the sweet potato fries!)
Best Mexican: Molly’s; If you want Mexican, this is it.
Also check out: Taqueria La Guadalupana, El Porton
Best Pizza: Memphis Pizza Cafe; Heaven on a thin crust.
Also check out: Garibaldi’s, Johnny Brusco’s
Best bar food: RP Tracks; Right next to the University of Memphis. Their BBQ tofu nachos are yummy and veggie-friendly.
Also check out: Young Ave. Deli, Flying Saucer
Best fried chicken: Gus’s Fried Chicken; It’s cheap, it’s greasy, it’s fantastic.
Best dessert: Cheesecake Corner; Try anything, it’s amazing. I recommend their huge brownies.
Best breakfast: Brother Juniper’s; If you’re up early enough for breakfast, don’t miss this place.
Best sandwiches: Super Submarine Sandwich Shop; Cash only. We know it as the Chinese Sub Shop, but do not order Chinese food. Trust me.
Also check out: Fino’s from the Hill (A small Italian grocery); Memphis Pizza Cafe
by Jarrod B. Taylor