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Memphis Area - "Must Do's"

I am going to be staying on Beale St @ Westin, Oct 31-Nov 2, going to see Auburn @ Ole Miss football game. We have only enough time to eat 1 breakfast, 2 lunches, and 2 dinners in the area. Please provide me with your top 5 "Must Dos" or requirements for someone new to the area.

We eat everything. I have never been to area, but am excited for some good southern food, but will eat anything notable, hamburger, sea food, steak.....whatever is excellent in Memphis, we will try it. We will have a car and are willing to drive 20 min, or if food is on the way to Oxford or in Oxford, we can make that happen as well.


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  1. For Dinner in the downtown area; Hunt-Phelan House(modern southern), Encore(eclectic, from the former chef at Chez Philiipe at the Peabody), Automatic Slim's(Carribean-Southwestern in an interesting setting), Felicia Suzanne's(also modern southern) Bari, for Puglianese Italian(actually in Midtown, but worth the drive,about 10 minutes) Erling Jensen, for modern European(also about 15 minutes East, but also worth it). For lunch; Gus's for great fried chicken, the Barbecue Shop on Madison, Four Way grill, for plate lunches. For breakfast, The Arcade, Paulette's or Brother Juniper's. There's more good food, but these are pretty much the best, IMO

    2 Replies
    1. re: chazzerking

      If you're willing to go into Midtown, Restaurant Iris is wonderful (modern Creole). Interim (about 15 minutes east) has the best burger in town. Some of the best Mexican anywhere is in Germantown at Las Tortugas (upscale Mexico City style street food). In Oxford, I would recommend City Grocery for a supper or Big Bad Breakfast for breakfast or lunch.

      1. re: mamasquirrel

        I haven't eaten at Big Bad Breakfast yet, but I have heard it is excellent. City Grocery is very good for upscale. There's a new blues club on the square called the Rooster that serves up pretty good Southern-style cuisine. It's a good place to go for a drink too, though it will be slammed packed late a night.

    2. I will try to give you options downtown and within the driving distance you mentioned. (yes, i know i'm repeating some answers)

      downtown - The Arcade (South Main St.). that's all you need to know because nothing else downtown touches this place

      on the way to oxford - in hernando ms (14 miles south of memphis on !-55), there's a new restaurant called memphis st. cafe. it's my new favorite, mainly because i live in hernando, but the food is incredible. it's under a store called accents, on the square in hernando. from 55, exit 280, go west on commerce st to the heranndo square. the building is the first on the right once you pass highway 51.

      downtown - gus' fried chicken (it is THE best fried chicken you will put in your mouth) (it's on south front st.), alcenias (on north main), or some of the places on beale have good lunch specials. some like alfreds or kings palace might have the best southern type food on that strip. (food snobs might tell you to skip beale, but there's some good stuff there); for downtown bbq, go to cozy corner over on north parkway (not the best in memphis, but pretty darn good. plus great atmosphere and owners). pearls oyster house would be a good choice for cajun/seafood. the arcade also has a great lunch.

      outside of downtown: Paynes bbq on lamar ave for some of the best bbq you will put in your mouth. Soulfish on cooper st. for some good catfish and overall great southern food. and, this is a stretch, but worth the drive, uncle johns restaurant in crawfordsville arkansas. the drive is only 15 min from downtown. think southern cuisine mixed with italian food. get the ribs and spaghetti. simply devine. if you happen to make it on friday, get the catfish. best i've ever eaten.

      downtown, no trip to memphis would be complete without a trip to the rendesvous. the food isn't the best, but the atmosphere is awesome. if you miss this, it would be like missing graceland. Encore is a good choice for more upscale dining. one place that gets overlooked is McEwans on monroe, it's a favorite of mine. stella is also a good choice.

      out of downtown: getting cramps from writing, so i'll simply offer city grocery in oxford. it's very good. there are many optioons in midtwon memphis, but since youa re downtown, i'd stick down there.

      good luck and enjoy your trip.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fijitodd

        1. You definitely need to eat BBQ at least once.
        2. You definitely want to go to Gus's for some delicious fried chicken.
        3. McEwan's, Encore, Hunt Phelan, Spindini, Felicia Suzanne's if you want upscale dining Downtown.
        4. Automatic Slim's is really good too, but I've heard they are about to renovate it.
        5. If you are driving towards Midtown or East Memphis...Cafe Society, Ronnie Grisanti's and Erling Jensen's are very good fine dining places. EJ's is not cheap. I've heard great things about Iris, but have not yet eaten there.
        6. If you decide on eating on Beale, I think Blues City has the best food on Beale...ribs and catfish.
        7. Late night dining...soul burger at Ernestine and Hazel's.
        8. If you are a late night partier, go to Raiford's (aka Hollywood Disco). No food, but one of the most interesting places you've ever been to in your life.

      2. You must go to Taylor Grocery outside of Oxford for dinner. Be sure to bring plenty of bourbon or wine because the wait will be at least an hour, but that is half the fun. Note that you have to get there before 7 to get your name on the list. See http://wikitravel.org/en/Oxford_(Miss... for more about Taylor Grocery and other restaurants in the Oxford area. There are some great restaurants in Memphis, but one of the coolest is Gus' Fried Chicken. They serve fried chicken and 40s, and that is about it. The chicken is awesome.

        1. Listen to mammasquirrel+tennreb. They nail the must-eats, including Tortugas.

          1. Great feedback, thanks!

            1. Sorry I never gave a final recap of my trip, so here it is....

              Memphis is a great food city. I will be back as I only got to taste just a few of the jems suggested to me by fellow chowhound posters. Here is a summary:

              1st Meal: Gus's Fried Chicken -
              My plane landed near 1pm, I met up with 2 other friends at the airport, drove to our hotel (Westin) Beale St......checked in and immediately asked bell-hop directions to Gus's. We were less than 1 mile away, perfect.
              Immediately upon entering I could tell I was going to like Gus's. Excellent place for what we were looking for at that moment, quick meal, famous local cusine. We all shared a fried chicken platter. I also ordered fried pickles and jalapenos, with a cold beer. I also believe we had fries....

              The Chicken was sensational. Yes, it had a perfectly thin, crispy crust, with a hint of pepper/heat....perfect. Meat was high quality, moist....all told some of the best fried chicken I have had, right up there with Strouds in KC, but a bit different.

              Pickles and Jalepenos were also very good, excellent meal, nice cold beer.

              2nd Meal: Rendezvous BBQ

              Originally my brother wanted to take us to Corky's, but we met up with some Ole Miss fans before the game at Rendezvous, which was just fine by me. I read up on all sorts of suggestions for BBQ in Memphis, obviously this subject creates great debate, and I am sure everyone's argument has merit and at some point I will try 4-5 in Memphis and find my fav.

              I got dry rub BBQ slab. I read many people suggest that Rendezvous is very inconsistent, one day it is great, one day it is mediocre. I am pretty sure my slab was mediocre, as far as Rendezvous goes. I know great places have good days and off days, so I wasn't about to write off Rendezous BBQ. My friend got brisket, it was sensational. My brother got wet, I thought it was good.

              The highlight was the BBQ nachos. The best nachos I have ever had. They use their dry rub seasoning on them and that my friends is what makes them great. I order the dry rub seasoning to this day.

              One day I will try Rendezvous again, but not before I try other suggestions.

              Meal 3: Ajax Diner (Oxford, MS) After the Ole Miss v Auburn game. Afternoon Lunch

              My brother was here 5 years ago and recommended it. Here I got catfish. I wasn't going to leave the area without getting catfish. This place might be my dream restaurant. Rather casual, but with some style. A casual southern menu, every kind of southern staple on the menu.

              My catfish was excellent. The hushpuppies were great and the mac n cheese was very good. Oxford is a very attractive city, I hope to return to try a few other places on list, such as City Grocery.

              Meal 4: We wanted to watch more college football, so we went to a chain (crappy food) I won't hold it against Memphis....unfortunately football watching took priority Sat night.

              Meal 5: Dryer's (hamburgers)

              After watching football, I walked down Beale St to try some of these famous fried burgers. I am a burger expert so I was interested. I did note that Memphis seems to have many highly rated original burgers, I picked Dryers due to unique frying and location.

              Overall I felt the burger hit the spot. It was quite good and I would have it again. I got the double/double and that was the perfect amt of meat. I can see someone complaining that the patties are thin and light on beef flavor, but I can apprecieate for that they are, delicous grease, but not drippy, burgers. Cheese was perfectly melted....

              Last meal: Corky's Airport - we were tryinig to drive to Paynes on way to airport, but got turned around twice and ended up in the hood. We decided to play it safe and get to airport.

              There I got a BBQ pork sandwich w slaw. a w Slaw BBQ sandwich is what I wanted, I prefered Paynes or one of the other famous places, but we had to get going.

              It was good, but know there is better our there. Obviously the airport is not going to do it as well as stand alone locations, so I know next time I will make this sandwich a top priority.

              Memhis/Oxford was a great food trip and I can tell a top US food city, at least for me.


              1 Reply
              1. re: BeanoCook

                Good post. The funny thing is, that if you were in the 'hood, Payne's was probably next door.

                I am also a fan of Ajax, some tasty offerings there.

                Come back soon!