Memphis trip report – 6/3/11 to 6/6/11 - Long
First of all, many thanks to all the posters regarding Memphis dining options. I never needed to post any questions, as I seemed to get all my answers by scanning the forum.
We arrived in Memphis early evening, on Friday, after driving from Madison, Wisconsin.
We checked into the Doubletree and walked over to The Peabody for some cocktails. Missed the ducks, but loved the libations. Very nicely made, good specialty concoctions, and fine service. What a nice space in which to relax with a beverage.
Now we’re hungry but are NOT getting in that damn car again. We want BBQ so we go across Union to Rendezvous. They had us cool our heels for one beer, upstairs, and then our name was called. Off to a table in the basement, way in the back. Our server, Dean, was very personable and we asked for, and took his recommendation of the ribs and brisket combo. I think everyone at the table had the same thing. We all agreed on two points. One: The brisket was delicious. Two: The ribs were dry and tough. We knew that this was a dry rub rib, but the meat was very dry.
Now the caveat: We are from the north and know our bratwurst better than our ‘cue. We may be all wet in our assessments, so we’ll stick to our personal opinions.
We had asked Dean for recommendations for places to go for a couple of cocktails, after dinner. He steered us towards Local and Bar None. We cornered a young server at Local and asked him where HE would spend his “hard-earned” on ‘cue. He came like a ball off the wall with “Germantown Commissary”…more to follow.
Very put off by Beale Street on a Saturday…’nuf said.
Up and at ‘em Saturday morning. We read good things about Arcade, so we hoofed it (in the heat) down there for breakfast. I had their country-fried steak and a side of grits. My wife had the sweet-potato pancakes. My steak was very flavorful, but the winner on my plate were the two biscuits…WOW. (Non-sequiter: I passed up the opportunity to buy and “import” back to Wisconsin, some real southern flour for biscuit making…White Lily, etc…did I make a mistake by not taking this opportunity?) My wife ordered best, though. The flavor in those pancakes was awesome. What a great joint.
To the Civil Rights Museum….wonderful place, I don’t have words to do it justice.
BACK into the car to run to lunch. Got to Germantown Commissary JUST at noon. Very short wait and were sent to our table. (Funny phenomena: At both Rendezvous and GC, we were TOLD where to go, not escorted to our table…never had that experience, before.) Our friends had shoulder sandwiches and my wife and I split the Boss Hog, so that we could try all their offerings. We both loved the shoulder and ribs. We were almost equally delighted about the sausage. I really liked the chicken, but my wife was off-put by the texture the meat attains in the low/slow process. We all had deserts and I loved my lemon ice-box pie. This place has great flavors and we will return if ever given the chance.
Toured Sun Records. Stood where giants have stood. Speechless.
Drove past Graceland…meh.
Dinner Saturday was at Sweet Grass. We love low-country. Got there a bit early and decided to have a beverage at Next Door. Nice little place, but we were put off by the rudeness of our server…my wife especially so. Seems his disdain was reserved for us, because other tables were treated substantively better. (It would have helped to at least get a “Sorry for spilling beer on you, sir, while pouring your wife’s beverage.) Ah well, it was vacation and I couldn’t let this get to me.
Sweet Grass was everything I’d read. Casual/classy with a dynamite menu. Ordered a Sazerac and my wife got a pomegranate martini. Good Saz and I shouldn’t compare to Napoleon House…so I won’t. We both had the Low-Country Shrimp and Grits. You’re going to add scallops, sausage and ham to the party, on top of some really tasty grits? I’m in favor! Seriously, we loved the dishes. Our guests had the Frogmore Stew and could not say enough good things. We truly appreciated Sweet Grass.
Sunday was drive to Shiloh National Battlefield Park and back. More history…very moving. Didn’t find any gems, didn’t look that hard.
Back in Memphis for the late afternoon, decided to give Beale Street one more chance. Stopped in BB King’s for a snort and chatted up the bartender about good options for dinner. After discussing the options, based on who is open on Sundays, we veered away from barbecue. We had never been aware of Dyer’s and their deep-fried burgers. After the rationale, for this heart-stopping meal, that “we only do this on vacation” we headed to Dyer’s. What a great burger. Done just right and paired with some fantastic fries. Accompanied by a cold Yuengling, it was a darn good culinary capper for me.
We then listened to some music at Rum Boogie Café and ended the last night of vacation at Bar None reviewing our trip amongst ourselves and with the (very knowledgeable) bartender.
Thank you, Memphis, we’ll be back.
Rum Boogie Cafe
182 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103
Great report. Thank you.
Rendezvous is something that every visitor should experience once. Go for the atmosphere and the experience, though, and not necessarily for the food, which is inconsistent at best. It's surpising to me that your server recommended brisket, and even more surprising that it was good. When it comes to BBQ, Memphis is a pork town.
I hate that you had to make that drive out to Germantown, when there are several better options in town. I've never been impressed with GC, even after numerous visits. It's OK, though...when you come back to Memphis, you can sample the good stuff!
And kudos for going to Dyer's - that is one really good hamburger!
I DID kind of "ignore" many recommendations, from CH, by going to GC over Central, Bar-B-Q Shop, etc.
Ya rolls the dice and ya takes your chances. We were happy with our choice, but have no basis of comparison.
And yes, we were shocked that the BEEF was more tasty than the PIG at Rendezvous.
We appreciate your town, and the hospitality we experienced.
Bar-B-Q Shop Restaurant
1782 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
Glad to hear you enjoyed our city. Your observations are pretty consistent with the locals'. The Rendezvous is hit-or-miss. Sometimes the ribs are dry like that, and sometimes they are delicious. It's fun though. Beale Street is touristy and ugly, except after a basketball game, when a good crowd descends on it from the FedEdx Forum. Graceland is in a ugly part of town, but if you stop and tour it next time you're here, I bet you enjoy it.
Germantown Commisary is good, and you should have tried the potato salad, but next time, right? Since you were downtown, an easier lunch spot would have been BBQ Shop in Midtown, and it may be the best in town all around.
Come back soon.