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Top 5 Memphis places to eat!

  • j

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

              1. I moved away from Memphis almost a decade ago so my list is more the places I have to go when I am back for a visit. No particular order
                1) BBQ: Rendevous (ribs), Germantown Commissary (pulled shoulder) or Central BBQ (BBQ bologna)
                2) Huey's, burgers and fries like no where else I love Overton Square but Cordova is good too
                3) Breakfast: Brother Juniper's or Blue Plate Cafe
                4) The Arcade for milk shakes
                5) Paulette's/Three Oaks Grill

                1. 1. Bryant's Breakfast on Summer Ave. Food just doesn't get any better than their country ham, egg and cheese biscuit.

                  2. The BBQ Shop- best ribs I've ever had

                  3. Central BBQ- 2nd best ribs I've ever had

                  4. Dyer's hamburgers- They really are cooked in old grease, and they really aren't greasy

                  5. Gus's chicken- although tamales from Blues City General Store might be just as good

                  1. In no order:

                    Encore - always good
                    BBQ Shop - best sandwich ever, and i could eat the BBQ spaghetti every day
                    River Oaks - try it all!
                    Guadalupana - tongue sandwich please
                    Super Sub Shop - cant believe someone else picked it! two yums up!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Its Still Mooing

                      Like tennreb, I have a bias towards lower end places, because that's what Memphis has historically done best. But since the fine dining has improved remarkably over the past 8 or 9 years, I'll throw a nice place in there as well. In no particular order:

                      Payne's: I spent a couple of weeks this past summer trying out virtually every reputable bbq restaurant in Memphis, and for my money Payne's assembles the best chopped pork sandwich in Memphis. That is all I can vouch for.

                      Rendezvous or Central: I think Central's ribs are better, but they aren't THAT much better, and the experience at Rendezvous has always just felt like Memphis to me. I don't really know how to explain it differently.

                      River Oaks: No, it doesn't have much history, and it may not even be the best fine-dining in Memphis, but I have always had very good to grat food there, and the place has a warmth that I keep returning for.

                      Gus's: It's that good. Really.

                      Dyer's: Why not? It's unique, it's fun, and you bite into a double cheeseburger and try to tell me it isn't delicious in al the wrong ways.

                    2. I ate in a place tonight that always looked interesting, but I've never seen it mentioned here: The Half Shell, on S. Mendenhall... Despite the fact that they were out of oysters (a place called the Half Shell being out of oysters?), my food was really, really good.

                      I had the Voodoo Shrimp.

                      So, does this place make it on anybody's list?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Clarkafella

                        I like their oysters, especially during their oyster fest, but I could skip it other than that. I don't find their seafood very impressive. It seems like everything is fried, but then I think it's fairly difficult to find great seafood in Memphis.

                        I can't believe they were out of oysters...

                        1. re: megany09

                          TO get good fresh seafood, try Aisan restaurrants such as SPR, Bluefin or Lobster King, or Italian places such as Bari or Ronnie Grisanti's. All of there serve fresh high quality seafood in creative ways. Although there aren't any really good"seafood" places, it's not hard to find good seafood to eat.

                          1. re: chazzerking

                            The Flying Fish is also a good source of seafood.

                            1. re: chazzerking

                              You can't beat the freshness at Lobster King, since it's swimming next door before it gets cooked.

                            2. re: megany09

                              Oyster fest(or whatever it is called) was nice last year - got some tatamagouches, kumomotos, and apalachicolas. Other than that, I can go there for a drink, but I usually don't touch the food. I'll head over to SPR or even Ryu(another little gem) for the ol seafood.

                              BTW, does anyone else here like beef tataki? I usually head over to Saito in Bartlett for that.

                              1. re: Its Still Mooing

                                Well, I was still wanting some oysters the other day after striking out at the Half Shell. I was driving around downtown, about to give up, when I accidently came across Pearl's Oyster House! Though the oysters were pre-shucked, they still tasted fresh and salty and wonderful!

                                The oyster po-boy? Not all that great... Don't know why you can't get decent french bread in Memphis... This bread was soft and sweet, and very tasty, but it just wasn't the type of bread that is used for po-boys. And it didn't have enough oysters either...

                                Overall though, I enjoyed the experience very much- I really loved the look and "feel" of this place- might not be in my top five, but I will be back...

                                1. re: Clarkafella

                                  As soon as the French Bakery gets back open, you'll be able to get not only good, but rather excellent baguettes and pain de compagne and the best lavosh around. They are supposed to be opening soon at a new location on Mendenhall, just South of Poplar.

                                  1. re: chazzerking

                                    I don't know if anyone here has tried it, but The Pita Cafe - on Poplar, just in front of Clark Tower - has some pretty tasty sandwiches. You can't go wrong with a guy that tells first time customers, "If you don't like what I suggest, I'll gladly make you sdomething else off the menu."

                                    On that note, Foozi isn't bad, either.

                                    OOf course, neither are top 5 material.

                                    1. re: Its Still Mooing

                                      My pita at The Pita Cafe was delicious, but had a bone in it, which prevented my return. I found Foozi kinda ordinary, especially compared to Ciao Bella, which was 200 yards away the last time I visited.

                            1. re: Choppedonion

                              I'm with Choppedonion. Neely's ribs are great. Huge servings at a great price, too.

                            2. Awesome thread. Being new to Memphis, I will take this list to heart. This board rarely steers me wrong.

                              Though i am far from being able to list my "top 5," since I haven't tried all that many yet, here's what I've liked so far:

                              Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana- We have been here over and over in our three months in town. LOVE the snapper tortuga and snapper salad. Everything has been absolutely wonderful. MMm, the corn.

                              Bombay House- We've tried this out of convenience and it's really growing on me. Any dish they make with the tandoori chicken in a sauce is great. Naan is mediocre. Also tried Golden India, which was fine- best part was the chaat app.

                              Jarrett's- Very good. Were out of the two entrees that I wanted to order. It was late on a MOnday night, though.

                              Bahn Thai and Bangkok Alley- Both are decent. I see there is a new "Thai Bistro" opening on G'town Pkwy in Cordova. Any info on this? I love Thai food.

                              Edo Japanese- really enjoyed our meal there. The sushi wasn't as great as I would hope, but our non-sushi food was great.

                              Encore- Good meal.

                              That's it for now. We try to get out on weekends when we can get babysittes. (though I take my son lots of places- his favorite so far is Swanky's. Perfect for a one year old.)

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: LizR

                                i'm coming in from atlanta so what would be some of the offerings that i wouldn't be able to get in atlanta (so that eliminates ethnic food) ...

                                I've got 2 on my list that are must eats...
                                1. gus's
                                2. central bbq...

                                Now i know everybody's got opinions on Q, so i guess two others would be BBQ shop on madison and Kozy Korner @ danny thomas & N. Pkwy

                                I used to live in memphis, but its been a decade since i've been back...so please let me know if there's anything else of note


                                1. re: gan911

                                  I would like to help, but I am afraid I am missing the gist of your post. I know that in any city, you can get any kind of food that you want. Are you meaning cuisine or experiences or both? Are you looking for something that screams Memphis(besides BBQ)? Possibly some examples from other cities would help.

                                  1. re: Its Still Mooing

                                    like in LA i hit up chung king in SGV, some taco joints, the thai temple on sunday, soot bull jeep (korean bbq), and pink's...those are some of the harder to find stuff ....stuff that I don't have in atlanta.

                                    In memphis, I know i have to hit up gus's and 2 bbq joints ... i'm just trying to gather which ones i should hit up and what else that is well done in memphis and harder to find everywhere else...kinda like something that is special to memphis.

                                    1. re: gan911

                                      For a real foodie experience, go to Payne's BBQ on Lamar. It's in the ghetto, and it isn't a tourist stop, but it may be the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. Ask for some "skins" (not on the menu).

                                  2. re: gan911

                                    Those are some great "Memphis-only" places. Just about any of the fine dining in Memphis is probably replicated in Atlanta. However, there is a new upscale place above BB King's called Itta Bena (the delta town where he is from) that is excellent. The food isn't particularly unique (steaks and seafood), but it is very good. The atmosphere is really cool, though. There's no sign because they want to keep tourists from taking over the place. You go in by a staircase on third street. A cheap but great Memphis place is Soul Fish in Cooper-Young for excellent fried catfish (the best in Memphis and as good as just about anywhere in Mississippi).

                                    1. re: tennreb

                                      Well, there is always BBQ spaghetti- I've never seen it anywhere but Memphis. It is kind of nasty, though. Then there is BBQ shrimp- which I've only tried two or three times in Memphis, but was very good every time.

                                      But I just realized that the OP asked for "Top 5 must-visit chow destinations in Memphis"- though they don't serve food, the Winchester Farmers Market would certainly qualify- I've never seen anything like it anywhere in the south!

                                      1. re: Clarkafella

                                        I LOVE BBQ SPAGHETTI! Especially from the BBQ Shop. BBQ Nachos from Al's on Raines are great as well. Sampler Platter from Interstate is a great way to get a "little of everything".

                                        I also like Interim's burger, best in Memphis.

                                        Out in Collierville is the Tennessean, I'd give that place high marks for everything - it's in a modified train car on the town square. Definitely worth the drive.

                                        I also am very fond of the Winchester Farmer's Market. Speaking of, I do like going to Lobster King and then going to the market next door, or vice-versa.

                                        Please don't let anyone talk you into going to the Rendezvous.

                                        1. re: Its Still Mooing

                                          At last- someone on here who has been to the Winchester Farmers Market! Isn't that place incredible? I've never seen anyplace like it anywhere...

                                2. BURGERS....Kudzu's on Monroe (never could figure out why Huey's always gets the "Best Burger" in the Memphis Flyer. I guess it's just a popularity thing)
                                  VIETNAMESE... Lotus on Summer Ave. (Been there forever I think)
                                  MEXICAN....La Guadalapana on Summer Ave. near Mendenhall
                                  BBQ..... Interstate for sandwich...Jack's (Old Summer Rd) for Ribs
                                  FRIED CHICKEN.. Gus's (I actually like the one downtown better than the original in Mason,TN)

                                  1. We just had a two night stay in Memphis and I wish we could have eaten at every eatery suggested...however, here are a few updates according to a CA girl....

                                    ...The Inn at Hunt Phelan- had an exceptional meal. There is so much history there. Four different Presidents have actually stayed at the Inn. You can dine in the mansion or in the open bar area. I would definitely recommend it. I hear Sunday Brunch is a real winner there too. The grounds are beautiful. Oh, and it is a bread and breakfast. It is a little further down on Beale St by Danny Thomas Pkwy.

                                    ...Gus' Fried Chicken was a great recommendation. I would go back again and again...

                                    ...Then Itta Bena above BB Kings was a fabulous suggestion. There was a long line waiting to get into BB Kings so I looked for the "Ambassador"...the guy in the yellow suit and asked about the possibility of going upstairs for fine dining....oh, he just kind of rolled his eyes and said "follow me!" What an experience. Our meal was delicious and I would definitely go back and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun experience.

                                    Thanks to all you Chowhounds for taking the time to share your experiences so we know where to go when in town.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tapdancer

                                      There is an unmarked staircase on the back of BB Kings that leads directly to Itta Bena, so you can avoid the downstairs crowd.

                                    2. So I'm home for the summer in Memphis after my first year of college and in my time being away I've realized just how much I missed my 'go-to' Memphis eateries (lived here for 18 years). Also, keep in my mind that I'm a broke college student (meaning my money is involuntarily directed to pay for an edjukayshun...uh, food tastes better). My budget is, by my own standards, around 6 dollars. So my three ultimate favorites:
                                      Chinese Sub Shop - by U of M, whatever's in their bread absolutely hits the spot everytime. And the amount of food for 6 dollars is RIDICULOUS... I've never not been satisfied. Get a sandwich, not Chinese food. I don't know what a Chinese sub really is by convention but whatever they're doing, they're doing something right.
                                      Taqueria de la Guadelupana- on Summer, this is absolutely the best Mexican I've ever had. Not quite as filling as CSS, but gets the job done with a good-sized burrito. Also comforting is the fact that those off Hispanic/Latina heritage frequent this place in greater numbers than regular customers...
                                      Pita Wraps- on Poplar by Clark Tower. I have no idea how so much is packed into these pitas, but they are absolutely filling. The sauces are the icing on the cake (4 or 5 different kinds blend together perfectly). Any gyros are pretty good and a very have-it-your-way deal.

                                      I'd be remiss if I didn't include...
                                      Gus's - it's just good chicken. It's a tradition if anything else and a must-visit. Pretty straightfoward, get the fried chicken and you're in business!
                                      Pho Hoa Binh- Limited buffet but good quality. Great vegetarian choices too (show ME the meat). Only 4.95 for the lunch buffet. I believe it's on Madison. My boss took me out for a treat here for lunch and it was good stuff, as filling as all-you-can-eat.

                                      Keep in mind this is all for 6 dollars mostly (no drinks or sides) and the places I miss most after a year in Atlanta...

                                      1. I'm glad this thread was revived recently because it's time for an addition - Restaurant Iris. I've been there twice now, once soon after it opened and then yesterday. It was good the first time, great the second. It's mostly New Orleans style menu with some nice twists - a great brussels sprout salad (and I don't usually like them) and amberjack "cafe au lait" with an amazing sauce really stand out. Also excellent service and a very reasonably-priced wine list with wines I haven't seen elsewhere in Memphis. It's a great addition to the Memphis dining scene - up there with the best in the city.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Piranha

                                          Restaurant Iris is wonderful. I saw N'Awlins mentioned earlier in this thread. For those who aren't aware, N'Awlins is gone, but the chef, Kelly English, stayed around to open Iris.
                                          Las Tortugas is always great. There's so much passion about the food there. Talk to them about what they make - you'll learn something new every time you visit.
                                          El Taco Loco on Lamar is the best cheap taqueria style Mexican in town. The weekend soup and barbacoa are amazing.
                                          Payne's is the best barbecue sandwich in town, but I'm really surprised that no one has mentioned Cozy Corner yet. I love their Cornish hen.
                                          Interim makes the best burger in town and works with local farmers to get in the best local produce.
                                          Inn at Hunt Phelan is consistently wonderful and also works with local farmers.

                                          1. re: mamasquirrel

                                            Been a while since I posted on this one...I have to revise my list now.
                                            In no particular order..
                                            Itta Bena
                                            Super Sub Shop
                                            Taco Loco
                                            River Oaks
                                            Brooklyn Bridge

                                            Note not all of these are for the best food, but a combo of food and/or atmosphere.

                                          2. re: Piranha

                                            I really want to go to iris, but the only night I have to get to Memphis is sunday and they are closed. What would be your 2nd choice for fine dining? I rather nothing too white table cloth, but just a great culinary experience....

                                            Based on the board, although very different from iris, seems that Payne's BBQ on Lamar or Soul Fish would be good choices for me but I have been stuck in Jackson TN for 7 days and Id like to have something that worth the drive to Memphis and not fried. Possible?

                                            Soul Fish Cafe
                                            862 S Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38104

                                          3. Just moved home after being gone for 8 years and so far, here are my faves:

                                            Best Burger: Belmont Grill...sorry kicks Huey's in the butt.

                                            BBQ Sandwich: Payne's Payne's Payne's!

                                            Best "Small Plates" aka Huge Portion Apps: Tsunami

                                            Most Original: Umai next door to...

                                            Cheap Sandwiches: Kwik Shop on Madison

                                            Mexican: Mariscos Mazatlan (haven't tried Deli Mexicana, but have heard that while great, it is like dealing with the Mexican food version of the Soup Nazi in there, plus it is in G'Town and I try to avoid that part of town at all costs)

                                            Italian: Bari--just EXCELLENT. Great cheeses, wines and pastas. Have not dined in the dining room yet but have heard the fish dishes are insane(ly) fantastic. My fave is the sauteed calamari, olives and tomatoes.

                                            Lunch Buffet: Pho Hoa Binh on Madison

                                            Just really starting, but cannot wait to try Iris, Hunt-Phelan, Encore, A&R BBQ, Equestria and the later hours (ha!) at Cozy Corner.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: thakrza

                                              i will be passing through Memphis and want to stop and eat some bbq. i have been to Central and Rendezvous before and i did not care for Rendezvous to much {no smoke on the food} i loved Central and i want to try a few other places. i will be traveling on HWY 55 so i would like to stay close to the HWY if i can. i want to try Payne's because i hear they have the best pulled pork sandwich and thats what i look for in a bbq joint oh and also good ribs. is Payne's a safe place to eat? so i need 1 more place to try on the way back home. thank's.

                                              1. re: heavy d

                                                Payne's is my favorite. The barbecue sandwich really is as good as advertised. Also good are the baked beans. And the fried pies. I've never had the ribs. I hear they're good, but I can't get past that sandwich!

                                                I've only ever been to Payne's during the day, and though it is in an area that is kind of rough around the edges, I have never felt even remotely unsafe.

                                                1. re: heavy d

                                                  heavy d-
                                                  I'd either try A&R on Elvis Presley or the BBQ Shop on Madison in Midtown. Neither are too far from 55, but are in the city.

                                                  bbq shop is at www.dancingpigs.com

                                                  Bar-B-Q Shop Restaurant
                                                  1782 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                  A & R Bar-B-Q
                                                  1802 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38106

                                                  1. re: heavy d

                                                    I've never felt unsafe at Payne's either, even when I've gone alone (and I'm a woman). It's just one of those places that everyone loves, and no one in the neighborhood would disrespect it by doing anything to make anyone feel unsafe there. Your main concern would probably be timing. Payne's isn't open late, so you want to be sure to plan accordingly.

                                                    1. re: mamasquirrel

                                                      I have to agree with you about the place. Though I can't vouch for safety if you walk a few hundred feet in either direction.

                                                      I enjoy your blog, by the way.

                                                2. 1. Payne's - sandwich
                                                  2. Central - ribs
                                                  3. A&R - sandwich
                                                  4. Cozy Corner - rib tips
                                                  5. BBQ Shop - sandwich

                                                  If I get tired of barbecue, I'll hit Dyer's for a burger and a shake. The Dyers burger really is amazing - much better than Huey's, IMO.

                                                  1. best cheap food:
                                                    juicy jims-best philly cheese this side of pennsylvania.
                                                    chinese sub shop-unless you get the chinese food.
                                                    pita wraps-everything on the menu is 5.99. no questions. how much is the chicken shawirma? 5.99.
                                                    pho hoa binh-good for tofu, and a big delicious plate a food to fill an empty (and poor) tummy
                                                    mosa-on the corner of kirby and poplar...kind of hidden, sometimes overlooked, but amazing thai and chinese food for a tiny price.

                                                    also, good eateries....
                                                    three little pigs, for BBQ
                                                    buckleys! this one hasn't been mentioned on the list yet! locally owned, small business, amazing food, friendly staff. best shrimp n grits you'll ever find.

                                                    sigh...i wish it were possible to only pick five of the best places to eat in this town...

                                                    1. I found this topic while looking for info on the Chinese Sub Shop/Super Sub Shop on Google, lol.

                                                      I'm really surprised by only one person saying Edo. To be perfectly honest, they have some of the best and most authentic Japanese food out of any of the restaurants here in Memphis.

                                                      So without first ado, here's my top five favourite eateries, in no particular order:

                                                      Edo - Summer Ave off Mendenhall
                                                      Like I said, some of the most authentic Japanese food I've had in Memphis. They also have some of the best sushi out of all of the restaurants here. This is probably the only place I've been to that makes their tamago-yaki nigiri FROM SCRATCH. The only complaint is I wish they surved Japanese style curry, but that's beside the point. The servers there always make you feel welcome, so does the owner, and the place kind of has that nostalgic feel of a more traditional Japan. Seeing all the Japanese community constantly coming out here has to be saying SOMETHING, right?

                                                      Du Won Jung - Hacks Cross off of 385/Winchester
                                                      Du Won Jung is to Korean what Edo is to Japanese. Touted by my Korean friends as some of the most authentic Korean food in Memphis. It's a bit out of the ways compared to other restaurants (Southeast Memphis, borderline Germantown,) but it's worth the drive. The meals can be a tad expensive, depending on your tastes, but with all of the side dishes (which are refillable!) that come with your meal, the price is justified. Try their Korean style BBQ, it's incredible. Or for a nice one-dish meal, get the Dol-sot Bibimbap. A rice, meat and vegetable bowl that's served in a SIZZLING stone bowl. But PLEASE be careful! I've burned my finger on it before, it wasn't pretty. :(

                                                      Super Sub Shop, aka Chinese Sub Shop - Highland @ Southern by University of Memphis
                                                      Now this is a place to go to for cheap-eats! The sandwhiches are incredible and really cheap for a foot long, and the chinese food is pretty cheap too if you get a meal. They pile on the main dish, fried rice and give you a REALLY BIG eggroll that's absolutely delish. This is definately the go-to place for any college student.

                                                      Petras - Madison in Midtown
                                                      This one is a rare treat. It's a restaurant that serves both Greek and Korean food. Their kabobs are so, so delicious. It has to be the marinade! Their baklava is also a treat.

                                                      Grand Buffet - Exeter off of Poplar Ave in Germantown
                                                      Yes, a chinese buffet has made my list. I know it sounds sad. My friend Kati and I have become ADDICTED to this place because the lunch buffet is reasonably priced and has a smorgasbord of various (americanized) chinese entrees, as well as a Mongolian BBQ/Hibachi station and a surprisingly HUGE selection of sushi to choose from. Kati and I can't stop going to this place, I really recommend it!

                                                      I'm sorry my list is full of asian restaurants, but usually for american food we go to places like McAllisters, Buffalo Wild Wings, IHOP/Perkins, etc. and I don't really go out for those a lot.

                                                      1. After yesterday I have to chime in.

                                                        1. Ellen's Soul Food in a temp location on Elvis Presley across from AmVets Thrift Store and Family Dollar. See my larger review.
                                                        2. Tortugas Deli Mexicana much as been written. It's becoming legendary.
                                                        3. BBQ Shop Get the bologna/sausage/cheese combo plate and an order of dry ribs and a sandwich. Don't worry about sides.
                                                        4. The Cove Excellent drinks, oysters and better-than-bar food. Excellent drinks. Drinks.
                                                        5. Encore best upscale for the price in town. It feels like a 5 star chef having fun. Great bartender too.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: tater

                                                          My December re-do.

                                                          Encore - upscale
                                                          El Billares on Getwell - Honduran
                                                          Asiana Palace on Mt Moriah - Korean
                                                          The Emerald on Mt Moriah - Thai
                                                          BBQ Shop on Madison - BBQ!

                                                          1. re: Its Still Mooing

                                                            The Emerald Thai restaurant is so good, I had forgotten the name though! Thanks for the reminder. :)

                                                        2. I'm going to take this from the standpoint of someone who, while away from college, craved certain "memphis" foods that I couldn't replace or get something similar in Knoxville where I was. It ranges from everyday to nice items:

                                                          - Memphis Pizza Cafe
                                                          - Central BBQ
                                                          - Huey's
                                                          - Paulette's
                                                          - Bosco's

                                                          I chose these because I could go to these 5 restaurants only for a year and still not be sick of them.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. BBQ - BBQ Shop, Central, Toms (haven't been to Paynes). Not Rendezvous.
                                                            Pizza - Little Italy. Not Memphis Pizza Kitchen.
                                                            Burger - Belmont, I have heard great things about Alex's as well.
                                                            Chicken - Uncle Lou's is my favorite, but Gus's downtown is darn good too
                                                            Higher End Restaurants - Andrew Michael is my favorite. Creative fresh Italian with local fresh ingredients. Iris, Grace, Bari and Thyme are good as well. Midtown has much better options than downtown. If you are stuck downtown, goto Felicia Suzanne's or McEwan's.

                                                            Memphis Pizza Cafe
                                                            2087 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                            Felicia Suzanne's Restaurant
                                                            80 Monroe Ave Ste L1, Memphis, TN 38103

                                                            Little Italy
                                                            624 Main St Ste B, Nashville, TN 37206

                                                            1. i am sorry this is way more than 5, i did this a while back and just cut and pasted from my diary.

                                                              Barbecue and Smoked Meat:
                                                              * Payne’s Barbecue (get the hot rib sandwich with neon slaw and some fried pie and boiled peanuts)
                                                              * Central Barbecue (pulled pork)
                                                              * Hephzibah’s (sadly no longer)
                                                              * Neely’s Interstate (my memory is the ribs and sausage were pretty good, and they do barbecue spaghetti)
                                                              * Tom’s Barbecue (Greek spices in their rub, drier)
                                                              * The Bar-B-Q Shop (best barbecue sauce on the table for sure, but I'm not really a sauce person; their slaw and beans are good too)
                                                              * Germantown Commissary (decent pulled pork)
                                                              * Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous (maybe more for the history...when it's good it's good, when it's bad it's bad...kinda spotty)

                                                              Fried Chicken:
                                                              * Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
                                                              * Uncle Lou’s (more for the sides and zillions of spice options)

                                                              * Alcenia’s (slow but real, good home cookin', get the green beans and try her chow chow and other preserves)
                                                              * the Little Tea Shop (best greens)
                                                              * Deja Vu (maybe more for the novelty of gator stew and vegetarian options)
                                                              * Ellen’s (omg best gratis johnnycakes ever, sweet tea that will give you diabetes a la cozy corner, very good)
                                                              * Melanie’s

                                                              Mexican and Tex-Mex:
                                                              * Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana (the hype is true...neola brisket tacos, red snapper tacos, elote, queso fundido, jamaica agua fresca)
                                                              * La Guadalupana (my favorite of the summer strip taquerias...horchata agua fresca, the best huevos, cornish hen fried with salsa verde, chilaquiles)
                                                              * La Playita (leans more tex-mex-y but when that's what you want it's yummy...my favorite cop-out-but-delicious fajitas by far, known also for seafood, and they have tres leches cake)
                                                              * Los Compadres (similarly cheesy, for drunk or raucous parties back before it moved, but the super cheesy/guilty options like chimichangas were satisfying and they had these unusual baked-tasting chips that came with your salsa that were my husband's favorite. then they moved and the first few runs at the new spot were a little bumpy as to be expected, but now, oh my, try the little Cuban menu, particularly the appetizer platter. really good stuff--tamales, ham and cheese roll-ups that taste better than you expect them to, little crispy-pillow-y slightly sweet dumplings with ground meat, soo good plus pink sauteed onions and yuca and plantains with entrees)

                                                              Other Ethnic:
                                                              * Abyssinia Ethiopian
                                                              * Gereny East African and Mediterranean
                                                              * Caspian Persian (before it copped to the mainstream, back when it was doing fesenjan and other sweet stews, tons of jeweled rices like cherry and filet mignon, rosewater saffron and pistachio ice cream...and now gone entirely, alas)
                                                              * Chang’s Bubble Tea Cafe (good for the cheap lunch menu, the best cheap huge bowl of kim chi stew in town, and red bean bubble tea)
                                                              * Edo Japanese (hands down the best authentic Japanese, go for the soba)
                                                              * Pho Hoa Binh Vietnamese (best cheap lunch buffet in town, though the price is rising this fall apparently...the fried springrolls, lemongrass tofu, and green curry coconut soup, yum...really nice folks too)
                                                              * India Palace
                                                              * Woodlands Vegetarian (North and South Indian) (for huge dosas and things you can't get at IP like idli and the milk-coconut dessert sweets)
                                                              * Saigruha Indian (ditto)

                                                              Burgers and Pub Food:
                                                              * Huey’s (Midtown) (gold nugget ale, fully loaded cheese fries, fully loaded nachos, madison ave. burger...bizarrely, their diet coke on tap is the best ever too, i'm not the only one who's noticed it's different and way better)
                                                              * the Belmont Grill (fish sandwiches, decent fries)
                                                              * R.P. Tracks (all the black bean stuff is good, sweet potato fries)
                                                              * Fresh Slices (haven't been in a while, can't remember what was good...the bacon burger maybe, and the portobello sandwich, and some of the specials like seafood or steak salads maybe)
                                                              * the Young Avenue Deli (people complain about how bad the service is, maybe i've just been lucky all these years...the yankee club is maybe my favorite sandwich in memphis or tied only with bogie's lox and caper bagel one, and i like their fries and on-tap beer selection)

                                                              Deli Sandwiches and Wraps:
                                                              * Bogie’s Delicatessen (aforementioned lox and caper tomato bagel sandwich, the best potato salad in memphis, and three-layer cakes. makes me homesick for NY)
                                                              * Kwik Chek (spicy muffaleta, chicken bibimbap which i know is sacrilege but oh so tasty)
                                                              * Frank’s South Main Deli (decent sandwiches)
                                                              * Fino’s (admittedly have not been in years though)

                                                              * Little Italy Pizza (the only NYC pizza i've found here. it took me way too long to find it too...i made up for lost time very quickly)
                                                              * Lou’s Pie in the Sky Pizza (focus on pies starring vegetable toppings--all the toppings are super fresh...the eggplant and roma tomatoes are what i remember best about the pies, how awesome the quality was. the gut bomb is amazing too)
                                                              * Memphis Pizza Cafe (barbecue chicken pizza is pretty good, but this is west coast-style pizza crust, as a warning)
                                                              *The Pizza Shack isn't anything to write home about but they offer an ok pulled pork pizza, good for novelty

                                                              Breakfast and Brunch:
                                                              * Brother Juniper’s (the best cheese grits ever, it was like a religious experience eating them, i had hated them all this time and then tried these and they were like the best polenta in the world...the chickory-ish coffee and homemade biscuits and all the egg or potato or salmon dishes are wonderful too, and unlike any other southern breakfast place you won't leave the table feeling like a sack of bricks afterward)
                                                              * the Arcade (sweet potato pancakes, elvis sandwiches)
                                                              * Cockadoo’s (the catfish and grits dish is my favorite, but the sweet potato hashbrowns and barbecue omelet are tasty too)
                                                              * Bryant’s (biscuits and molasses)
                                                              * Bob’s Barksdale (more for the feel than anything...the food's meh)
                                                              * Au Fond Farmtable (really nice stuff for an upscale ladies who lunch vibe. tarragon chicken salad is dynamite)
                                                              * the Majestic Grille (weirdly affordable given the atmosphere, and fun too. with little unique touches like barbecue-spiced walnuts for their waldorf, a shamefully cheap mimosa deal anyone can afford with barefoot bubbly which is kind of cute, etc.)
                                                              * Bosco’s Squared (real nice peppery bloody marys, good smoked salmon dishes)
                                                              * the Hi-Tone (cheap brunch in an unusual place, ha)
                                                              * Crumpets (lapsang souchong tea all the way, and they had a great chef for a while who did amazing lunch-y things...not sure he's still there)

                                                              * Muddy’s Bake Shop (honey rosemary cookies, sweet and salty cookies, pretty much all of the cupcakes etc!)
                                                              * La Espiga (Mexican ornate sweet doughs, and i've heard rumors they'll do tres leches cakes if you call ahead for a special occasion and speak spanish)
                                                              * Makeda’s Cookies (the nut cookies are my favorite)
                                                              * La Baguette

                                                              Coffee Shop:
                                                              * Cafe Eclectic
                                                              * Republic Coffee (they were doing insane stuff with the menu for a short glorious period of time, things like brisket, it was crazy and delicious and affordable)
                                                              * Quetzal (they used to do floral martinis, but i haven't been in ages)
                                                              * Memphis Brew

                                                              * Jerry’s Sno-Cones (old fashioned chipped ice machine, crazy flavors like orchid, and the perfect neighborhood setting for it)
                                                              * Wiles-Smith Drug Store (cherry joe, chicken salad, the nicest counter people in the world)
                                                              * YoLo Frozen Yogurt Bar (too new to say, but some of the toppings, particularly the granola and cookies and nuts, are tasty)
                                                              * Hattie’s Tamales (delta-style, satisfyingly greasy)

                                                              * Restaurant Iris (it's true)
                                                              * Inn at Hunt Phelan (nicest bartender around a highfalutin place...what is it with bartenders being the nicest least pretentious people in fancy restaurants? i can think of one very pointed counterexample i won't say, but it's rare)
                                                              * Sweet Grass (the hype is true, and make sure to make a reservation because it's hot right now...the signature cocktail became my immediate favorite late-summer drink, and the mache, dried plum, pistachio salad with key lime dressing is the best salad i have ever had out, by a very long mile)
                                                              * Grace (i loved it when it first opened, perfect fall meal, but haven't been able to go back since; alas, too broke)
                                                              * Umai (just revamped the menu so i can't vouch for that, but the sushi is the best i've had in memphis and shockingly affordable)
                                                              * Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen (love some of the weekly events they do, interesting, invigorating approach)
                                                              * Bari Italian
                                                              * the Majestic Grille
                                                              * Texas de Brazil (cheesy i know, but the salad bar alone is worth it for lunch or something)

                                                              Bar and Grill:
                                                              * the Cove (i used to adore it back when andrew the bartender was still in town, the drinks were amazing and they'd play tom waits on the overhead and kung fu and b movies from the 70s and the anderton's shucker was still there and they had weekly oyster and sangria specials, and that oyster pizza ee...but circumstances changed everything, the gulf spill, the people leaving, everything, and it's a pale shade of its original self sadly. i'll still go but it inches more and more towards being a standard sports/cougar bar)
                                                              * the Lamplighter (you know why, or you hate it :)
                                                              * Earnestine & Hazel’s (soul burger and free jazz night)
                                                              * the Mollie Fontaine Lounge (pretty much drinking pimm's in a dollhouse, but haven't been in forever)
                                                              * Sweet Grass (see above)
                                                              * Side Street (pre-fire;didn't go to the soft opening but have high hopes...the food at times, especially the seafood, was shockingly good given what i expected. always ate outside in the late evening)
                                                              * the Flying Saucer (very cheesy but i did like it when i first moved here and was more obsessed with trying every beer i could think of)

                                                              Bar-B-Q Shop Restaurant
                                                              1782 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              Restaurant Iris
                                                              2146 Monroe Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              India Palace
                                                              1720 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              Memphis Pizza Cafe
                                                              2087 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              Belmont Grill
                                                              4970 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38117

                                                              Edo Japanese Restaurant
                                                              4792 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122

                                                              Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant
                                                              2600 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38112

                                                              Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana
                                                              1215 S Germantown Rd, Germantown, TN 38138

                                                              Barksdale Restaurant
                                                              237 S Cooper St, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              Little Tea Shop
                                                              69 Monroe Ave, Memphis, TN 38103

                                                              Little Italy Pizza
                                                              1495 Union Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              Los Compadres Restaurant
                                                              2617 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38112

                                                              Majestic Grille
                                                              145 South Main Street, Memphis, TN 38103

                                                              2015 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                                                              La Espiga
                                                              3024 Covington Pike, Memphis, TN 38128

                                                              Cafe Eclectic
                                                              603 N McLean Blvd, Memphis, TN 38107

                                                              Mollie Fontaine Lounge
                                                              679 Adams Ave, Memphis, TN 38105

                                                              Fresh Slices
                                                              8556 MacOn Rd, Cordova, TN 38018

                                                              2000 Meridian Blvd Ste 108, Franklin, TN 37067

                                                              Pizza Shack
                                                              4523 Summer Ave, Memphis, TN 38122

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: ifjuly

                                                                Great list! Many of these places I've tried, and many I've never even heard of- any chance of getting addresses added? I'm from out of town, but visit often...

                                                                1. re: Clarkafella

                                                                  Thanks! I see the board automatically adds the addresses to almost all of them at the end of the post--or is that something only I see? Sorry, I'm a newb when it comes to posting, just lurk a lot...

                                                                  and if there are any it's not picking up on, I'm pretty positive every place I mentioned is on Urban Spoon under Memphis. If there's a particular address or contact info you want, please let me know and I'll totally gank it and post it for you.

                                                                  Hope if there's any you go to, you enjoy them as much as I have. The one thing I love about living in Memphis is the sheer number of original places to eat and the variety.

                                                              2. Has anyone tried (or mentioned) Bombay House in Cordova? I stopped in tonight- had the Murg Mahani, some of the best stuff I have ever eaten anywhere! Tasted like Butter Chicken except they cooked the chicken in the tandoori first. And they use mesquite charcoal in the tandoori! Sounds weird but it works- just wish I wasn't alone so I could try more stuff!

                                                                Bombay House
                                                                1727 N Germantown Pkwy Ste 101, Cordova, TN 38016

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Clarkafella

                                                                  I had the tandoori chicken at Bombay House - it was just okay - will have to try what you had. Dining alone stinks -- I'm with you on that one. I usually get whatever to go -- beats sitting alone in a booth somewhere with a book!

                                                                  Bombay House
                                                                  1727 N Germantown Pkwy Ste 101, Cordova, TN 38016

                                                                2. It's been inconsistent in the past, but Pete and Sam's is always a family favorite. We also enjoy Brooklyn Bridge, especially for the spinach pizza. Unless you're diabetic, you'd be crazy not to go to Gibson's Donuts! The New Orleans is my favorite, but they're all worth the calories.

                                                                  1. 1) Restaurant Iris
                                                                    2) Sweet Grass
                                                                    3) Erling Jensens
                                                                    4) Tsunami
                                                                    5) Rendezvous (if you like dry rub) because you can't leave Memphis without some 'cue