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Oct 5, 2007 07:01 PM

Top 5 Memphis places to eat!

I think it would be great, if someone of the most active Chowhound's in Memphis, would post their "Top 5 must-visit chow destinations in Memphis" for purposes of educating us newbies.
I don't want to start a big discussion of what should qualify to be on everyone's list. If it qualifies for discussion as chow on this board, it qualifies for your list. It is personal to you as far as your own choices. I just want to see a condensed version of some of the most often talked about places on this board.

Name for me the 5 places you would take me if you were to show me what you consider to be your very favorite chow places in Memphis. You are my shepherd and I am your grasshopper. Assume I am open to try anything you want to show me. It is your most perfect list of places. Maybe the 5 places you would personally go to if you found out you were leaving Memphis forever.

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  1. Okay, I'll take the bait. Let the battle begin:

    I've been here for over 20 years, since Memphis was a wasteland. Things have improved. I'm going to do two lists. One of the places I go to whenever I can, and one of the best meals I've had here in the year or two.

    Where I always go when I can:

    Gus's Chicken - I loved the Mason place but haven't been since the fire. Good food downtown also.

    Pho Saigon - I go there all the time. I love the eggrolls and the Spicy Hue Style Noodle Soup. Very friendly and huge portions for little money.

    Automatic Slim's - The go-to place for downtown. I've never had a bad meal there and the service is usually top-notch.

    Bari - Maybe I go there all the time because it's near where I live. But the food has been very good recently. They're sort of up-tight about odd stuff (like the no butter rule) and the service is iffy, but it's usually a good meal for the money in a great location.

    Sekisui - No, it's not always great but most of the outposts are consistently good. I've lived in Memphis since sushi was virtually non-existent, and this has filled the void. I go to Midtown most often, but also the original and Pacific Rim.

    Honorable Mentions: Lobster King - because I think it's the most authentic Chinese in Memphis and usually excellent.

    Rendevous - not because the food's that good, because it's not, but because it's an institution where you usually will get something at least decent and a fun experience. Perhaps this is more for tourists.

    Best Meals -

    Tsunami - My best meals in Memphis have been here. Yes, I've been to Erling Jensen's and the like, but the only dishes I've had in Memphis that have wowed me have been here.

    Stella - I've had great meals here and always had fun. Maybe Felicia Suzanne's or McEwen's or Grill 83 (or even Circa) can be as good, but this is where I want to go.

    Beauty Shop - The menu seems always to be in a state of flux, but I always want to go back. I've had some amazing dishes here (duck, guacamole) and always want to return.

    Folk's Folly - It can be a crapshoot, but when it's on it's totally on. Yes, it's a totally different environment from the others - but if one's stuck having a business dinner it's hard to think of a better place. I've been disappointed there, but also very impressed. And the service never fails.

    RIP - Cielo - It's where I always wanted to go. I haven't been to the replacement, but I memorable meals there.

    1. It changes often, but for now, in no particular order, Bari, Lobster King, Gus's Fried Chicken, Payne's BBQ, and Erling Jensen (for a splurge).

      1. It's a hard decision, but here goes! In no particular order...

        River Oaks - One of the top two best meals I've had. The chef and staff are super friendly. Their duck stuffed with foie gras is superb. If you get the chance, splurge for the chef's table. It may be cramped, but you'll be happy and stuffed when you leave.

        Encore - Jose Guiterrez was at Chez Phillippe in the Peabody for years. Encore's got amazing food at equally amazing prices. Get the pissaladiere--never anything left on the plate when it's ordered.

        Super Sub Shop - Close to the University of Memphis campus near Southern and Highland. It's cash only. For sandwiches, you have the choice of soft or hard bread, but I've never been able to tell the difference. Whatever's in the special sauce is scrumptious.

        Pho Hoa Binh - It's a family run Vietnamese place. Everything there is delicious and affordable.

        Interstate BBQ - Everyone has their opinion on BBQ in Memphis, but this one's my favorite. (The BBQ Shop on Madison is a VERY close second.) The ribs and the bbq spaghetti cannot be missed.

        1. That is a really tough question. I learn more towards road food, not because Memphis doesn't have some great upscale restaurants, but because it's what Memphis does best.

          1. Payne's BBQ--this place is so good that they should serve it at the state mental hospital to show suicidal people that life is really worth living. The pork sandwich, hot with slaw (of course), may be the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. At less than $4, I feel like I've robbed a bank with each bite.
          2. Gus' Fried Chicken--I grew up eating fried chicken at dinner-on-the-ground in rural Mississippi, and Gus' compares with the best. It's not quite as good as my grandmother's, but almost. It's the best served in a restaurant anywhere. I won't even eat fried chicken anymore unless it's Gus'. I've replaced the sweet tea of my youth with a forty of PBR, making the chicken all the more better. Though, their sweet tea is darn good too in case you have to get back to work.
          3. Los Tortugas Deli Mexicana--Whenever I travel in California, I'm on a quest to find the perfect fish tacos. I've eaten some good ones in San Diego, but none compare to the redfish tacos at Los Tortugas. They're fresh and perfect in every way. Even better with a fresh-squeezed limeade.
          4. John Besh's N'awlin's(Horeshoe casino)--The barbeque shrimp here aren't served head-on like they are supposed to be (the chef explained to me that the Yankees up here just won't eat them that way), but they are absolutely amazing. They're even better than where they originated at Pascal Manale's in New Orleans. Ask for extra bread to mop up the sauce. You'll need it.
          5. Taylor Grocery--No, it's not in Memphis but an hour and half away, but I still have to put it on the list because it is every bit worth the drive. They have hands-down the best catfish, and the atmosphere may be the best in America. The Dickey sauce served with it is just tartar sauce, but is named so because poet/novelist James Dickey, who wrote Deliverance, once lapped up a bowl of it and claimed it was the best soup he'd ever eaten. And have you ever seen a restaurant where people bring bourbon and tailgate as they wait on a table?

          5 Replies
          1. re: tennreb

            1. Formosa - the best Chinese restaurant in the South, IMO, try the hot & sour soup, the String Bean Chicken too.

            2. Central BBQ - though you may get a better sandwich at Interstate or Bar-B-Q Shop (sorry, I don't understand the cult of Payne's) they are the best overall BBQ restaurant in America. The BBQ Chicken can be had wet or dry, and the ribs (dry, of course) are unequaled.

            3. Taqueria de la Guadelupana - Anywhere I can get a goat burrito and a Mexican Coke (bottled in Mexico using cane sugar, NOT corn syrup) is great, and they have other great dishes as well.

            4. Flying Fish - funky, fresh, and the best place to eat fish in the city.

            5. A-Tan - not for Chinese, or for the Japanese Steakhouse, but for the sushi. Yes, rave about Bluefin or Sekisui, but the sushi is BETTER at A-Tan, IMO, and it's better-priced. It's great quality at an outstanding value, with a 5-7 happy hour for sushi each day.


            1. re: sjs1959

              I'm with ya on Guadelupana - love, love, love that place! Give me a goat sandwich and Mexican coke, and I'm happy.

              1. re: megany09

                Please try Taco Loco on Lamar! No exaggeration, best mexican I have ever had!

                1. re: Its Still Mooing

                  I'd have to agree with Mooing. Taco Loco is a little hidden gem. Get the barbacoa (spelling?) if you can on the weekends. I wasn't sure I would like goat, but it was delicious!

              2. re: sjs1959

                I'm glad to hear that Formosa is still there. We used to go there when I lived in Memphis back in the 70's.

            2. I see a pattern developing here. for me ( in no particular order) Erling Jensen, Bari, Gus's,(although the original location in Mason is actually better), Encore, SPR. Also Automatic Slim's, Central BBQ, Pho Saigon, Dish, The arcade(for breakfast), Interstate BBQ, Felicia Suzanne's and the Beauty shop, are all good choices as well