Memphis Trip - May 22-25, 2014 (long)
Memorial weekend in Memphis May 22-25, 2014
We headed down to Memphis from Columbia MO on Thursday May 22 and first stop for eating was Logan’s Roadhouse in Cape Girardeau for a late lunch. We had never been to one of these before, and it turned out pretty well. I had the Anything & Everything salad with Ranch dressing, and a Dos Equis (XX) lager to drink. DH had the Jammin’ Fried Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese dressing, and an Original Roadhouse Tea to drink. Their dressings are supposed to be made in house, so that’s a point in their favor. They also served fresh, hot yeast rolls with our salads that were yummy. DH said his drink was good, but not much booze in it. Oh well, we still had a couple hours drive ahead of us, so we didn’t need to be liquored up. Our waitress, Ramsey, was efficient and friendly, and I would recommend Logan’s as a steakhouse chain.
Arrived in Memphis and checked in at the Holiday Inn Downtown across from the Peabody Hotel on Union Avenue. For the price they charged us per night, I think we may stay at the Peabody next time. Anyway, it was getting close to 5:30 or 6:00, so we decided to go out the front doors of the Holiday Inn, hang a left, and go down the alley to Rendezvous BBQ. We didn’t make it there our last time in Memphis, so we wanted to be sure and try it this time. I had the Pulled Pork Shoulder sandwich with mustard vinegar slaw and BBQ baked beans, and a couple drafts of local craft beers…a Ghost River golden lager and a Wiseacre Tiny Bomb, which is an American pilsner. Liked them both, but the edge went to Ghost River. Rendezvous only serves beer and wine, no full bar. Hubby had a pork ribs and beef brisket combo, slaw and beans, + two Bud drafts. We really liked their slaw and beans; the slaw had a nice hot mustardy taste, and the beans were flavorful and meaty. He said the brisket was some of the best he’d ever had. We also liked the fact they serve the meat dry, and you can apply sauce at the table. Their hot BBQ sauce was very good. We liked the experience of going to Rendezvous probably more than the actual food, but were glad we went because now we can say “been there, done that”. Service was excellent, by the way.
Friday morning was the start of our day trip down Highway 61 to Clarksdale, Mississippi, to visit the Delta Blues Museum. Stopped at the Blues Trail Visitor Center in Tunica and got some souvenirs. The building is cool; it’s an old train depot, circa 1895, that was moved to its present location. Proceeded on down to Clarksdale and arrived in time for lunch and chose the Ranchero restaurant for our midday meal. I had read a little bit about it beforehand and it sounded good; been around for 60+ years, so it had to be good, right? Boy, it really was…it hit the spot with maybe the best dozen oysters on the half shell we’d ever had. They were huge and yummy. When I saw them on the menu, I asked our waitress if they were really good, she said yes, and by god, she wasn’t lying. I was finally able to have a typical Southern “meat and three” choosing from among their five lunch specials. I had the catfish filet and really carbed it up with my three sides: rice and gravy, creamed potatoes (a Southern word for mashed, apparently), and field peas, which may be another name for black-eyed peas. They were delicious. DH had a fried shrimp poboy and onion rings. He said the poboy was fine, although not New Orleans worthy, and I can attest the onion rings were big and fried in a great-tasting batter. He had two bottles of Bud, and I had water. If ever in Clarksdale, check out Ranchero…although if we go back, we’re going to try Abe’s BBQ at the famous crossroads of Highways 61 and 49 where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil.
After eating at Ranchero, we went to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. If you are a fan of Delta blues, or are the least bit interested in blues music in general, this is the place for you. It is housed in a former train depot and is a very extensive exploration of the birthplace of blues music, the Mississippi Delta. After the museum, we went catty-corner to the Ground Zero Blues Club for a peek at the place co-owned by native son Morgan Freeman and the mayor of Clarksdale (forgot his name). We didn’t eat there, although we could have (still too full from Ranchero), but just had a couple drinks (I had some kind of local microbrew, Magnolia Brewing I think it was, and hubby had a Bloody Mary). Talked to a local musician, Steve Kolbus, who fronts the band Clarksdale Blues Review. This was the middle of the afternoon, so hardly anyone there, but I’m sure this place is hoppin’ in the evenings when bands play.
Made it back to Memphis right around dinnertime. We went back to the hotel, freshened up a bit, and then walked over to Déjà Vu at 51 South Main. It is a New Orleans style restaurant, and while it “will do” in Memphis, not sure about if it were in NOLA. The owner and chef is indeed from New Orleans, and he came out and talked to us, very friendly and inviting. But I truly can’t say it was as if I were transported to New Orleans while dining there. Food and service were fine, but nothing to shout about. Again, like Rendezvous, no full bar, only beer and wine, and no oysters on the half shell (sniff)!! I had the Big Easy pasta with shrimp, chicken, and Andouille in it, and an Abita Purple Haze served in a frosty mug. DH had Big Keith’s (named after the owner) Combo, with grilled catfish, topped with lump crab, shrimp and crawfish, and an Abita Amber, also served in a frosty mug. He chose collard greens and fries for his sides; collards were excellent. This Main street location is Déjà vu’s second in Memphis, the other is on Florida Avenue, which perhaps might be more of an authentic experience.
Saturday morning was brunch at Automatic Slim’s. We started with one Mimosa (me) and Bloody Mary for hubby. They had 100-ounce Mimosa “bongs”, but since DH is not a fan (of Mimosas, not bongs), he opted for the BM. In fact, after I tasted his Bloody, I had to get one of my own. To eat, I had the Chicken and Waffles (love that combo) with fried cubed potatoes, and he had the Blackened Salmon Eggs Benedict. Very good food.
Next stop was the historic Sun Records Studio at 706 Union Avenue. Were glad we went there to be able to say “been there, done that”, but have to tell you, if you have any mobility issues climbing stairs as I do (MS), this place will be challenging. The staff is full of precious hipsters as well, so if you can deal with that, you’re golden. It’s pretty much a cattle call: herd ‘em in and herd ‘em out. Definitely not an interactive place, it’s all doled out to you with snippets of music during the tour. Sun Studio doesn’t hold a candle to our next stop: Stax Museum of American Soul Music on McLemore Avenue. Wow, this is a must-see for all music lovers. I dare you to walk through without wanting to stop and dance and jive and finger-snap to all the soul and R&B music contained therein. Highly recommend Stax Museum.
Dinner on Saturday evening was the Flying Fish right beside Automatic Slim’s. Flying Fish was great. It apparently is a small chain with most locations in Texas. We had our second order of a dozen oysters on the half shell, and although not as good as Ranchero’s oysters in Clarksdale, these were still pretty yummy. Our only quibble was the shucker did not do a thorough job; DH had to go through all 12 shells for us and tear off the oysters from the still-attached membrane. That was a pain, but still tasted good. I had the grilled tilapia crispy fish tacos and a side of pickled green tomatoes, and hubby had the 4-piece fried catfish and fries. All food was yummy. Flying Fish had perhaps the best frozen margarita I’ve ever had: 18 ounces served in a frosty goblet for $9 each. We had one each. Best part was it actually had some tequila in it. Always nice to spend a little $ on a drink and actually get a buzz from it.
Sunday morning headed home and unfortunately ended on a dreary note with breakfast at the Apple Barrel beside the Drury Inn at Hayti, MO. Breakfast wasn’t bad: scrambled eggs and diced ham with American (home) fries for me, and a 3-egg omelet with lots of stuff in it that I can’t remember for hubby. But I just can’t get past the fact that some restaurants still allow smoking in them. Even though we sat on the “nonsmoking” side, it still permeates the atmosphere and is offputting to say the least. But apart from Apple Barrel, our long Memorial weekend to Memphis was quite fun, and an overall success in the eating/drinking department. Already making my next dining plan of attack….cheers!