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Highway 61 Road Trip Report Part 1-Memphis & MS (long)

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PeterB Nov 3, 2009 07:10 AM

My wife and I took a long awaited Blues Road Trip recently: Memphis to New Orleans via Highway 61. Here’s a chow report for Memphis & MS. New Orleans and LA are reported on the New Orleans Board http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/664345 .

In Memphis, we were going casual since New Orleans awaited down the road. The first night, we went to Bardog near our downtown hotel. Bardog has a cool neighborhood bar vibe and a kitchen that makes very good food. Run by expatriate New Jersey Italians, pasta and red gravy are prominent, a good thing. We both had the Pasta Arrabiatta special, which was spaghetti with a spicy red gravy, peppers, and Italian sausage. A great deal including a good side salad and bread.

The next day for lunch we made a pilgrimage to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. All the accolades for this joint were spot on. Absolutely the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted. It must be the batter, which was golden brown and perfectly crispy over moist and delicious chicken. The sides were fine but the chicken was the star. They also have a great jukebox with lots of Memphis artists represented. After a heavy day of tourism we went to Flying Fish for dinner the second night. Flying Fish serves good seafood cheap in a fun setting. I had the daily special, which was Tilapia Veracruz. My wife had a grilled salmon salad which they made spicy with Cajun seasoning (they do a little ritual where the order taker calls out “Make it Snappy!” which the line cooks reply back with the same shout). I can’t recommend anything for breakfast in downtown Memphis. Even the Starbucks off Beale was disappointing. If anyone knows a good breakfast place downtown please share.

Day 3 we headed down Highway 61. Let me say that everyone we met in Mississippi, starting with the ladies at the welcome center near Tunica, were as nice as they could be. After doing some blues tourism in Clarksdale, we wanted some authentic Mississippi tamales. The gentleman in the Delta Blues Museum steered us toward Hicks’ Tamales. What a great call. I had a plate with 3 tamales, slaw, and beans. Mississippi tamales are smaller than the Mexican versions they serve around our home town of Durham, NC, so three was a good serving. The cornmeal was moist and not too heavy, the beef filling was tasty, and the red sauce spicy but not over the top. My wife enjoyed the bbq sandwich: smoky pork served with slaw. She put it in the same league with our good local ‘cue, such as Allen and Sons. They also have a great display of President Clinton’s visit in 1999. Apparently the prez had ribs along with his tamales. Heading down the road to our evening destination of Natchez we stopped for a coffee break in Vicksburg. Vicksburg has a handsome old downtown perched above the Mississippi and we found the Highway 61 Coffee Shop on Washington St. where they serve a great cup of coffee in a cool old building. The Attic Gallery above the coffee shop has a lot of interesting art as well. We rolled into Natchez after a long rainy day and went to the Magnolia Grill near our hotel. The restaurant is in old building in the historic Under The Hill section right on the river. We really enjoyed our meal here. We started with a crabmeat stuffed mushroom cap appetizer. I had the special plate with grilled catfish, grilled asparagus, and sweet potato fries. It was the best catfish I ever tasted. They state that the catfish is local, fresh, never frozen and grilled to a perfection. My wife had the gumbo and a Caesar salad and was very pleased. It was a preview of our next day’s destination: New Orleans.

After a morning look at the splendid mansions of Natchez we headed down the road. Check out the rest of the trip on the New Orleans board.

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Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
310 S Front St, Memphis, TN 38103

Magnolia Grill
49 Silver St, Natchez, MS 39120