How to Discover Memphis Like a Local
Now I am sure that I’ve made it clear that food is very important to me, and sometimes dictates where I travel to (please, don’t judge me!) In January, I decided that I was going to be hungry, and needed to find somewhere that would satisfy my appetite for some good BBQ. My craving led me to Memphis Tennessee. I figured that my first trip of the year (Yes this trip happened in January. Yes, I’m just writing the blog post now. Didn’t we already agree that there would be no judgements here??? Your girl has been busy!) Anyways…. As I was saying; I figured for my first trip of the year, I deserved some good BBQ, and all signs pointed right to Memphis.
Perhaps I didn’t pay attention in geography class, but I could have sworn Memphis was in the South. Therefore, it should be warm! Ha! Not….Nope….Not at all! Luckily for me, I packed for every season possible (which is why I will never be #TeamCarryOn), so I was somewhat prepared for the cold and rain.
Like most trips, I did my research beforehand of places that I must check out while in town, especially restaurants. That list totally went out the window when I was met at the airport by my Instagram boo’s Black Travel Gram. Black Travel Gram posts everything travel on instagram. Did I mention that they have over 50,000 followers? (I hope you guys are following them, they’re awesome!) I have to say that they have always been body positive advocates, and continually post plus size travellers, cause we travel too y’all! Once I was picked up at the airport, I read my list of places to eat, that were recommended by other travellers and guess what? I was told my whole list was trash! Ugghhh! Like I always say, it is always a good idea to talk to the locals. I ended up at a BBQ joint called Big Bills.
Of course they had the usual fried chicken and BBQ ribs. However, did you guys know that spaghetti was considered soul food? Don’t lie! You did not know! They had spaghetti on the menu and I had to try it.
I will say this, I am not positive that I’m sold on this idea, because the spaghetti is made with a barbeque sauce to give it a sweet taste, but I wasn’t completely mad at it.
The following morning I headed out in search of breakfast. Again, shout out to Google maps who told me the restaurant was a 19 minute walk, but I had to end up jumping in an uber after 20 minutes because it was raining and my boots were soaked. Like who’s steps are they counting when they determine how long the walk is? Definitely not my short pudgy legs! I ended up at the Arcade Restaurant, a diner style joint.
Just wanted to shout out the Redneck Eggs on the menu! Uhmmm what???? I actually had biscuits and gravy for the first time (yes, yes I know, I have lived under a rock!)
About 5 minutes away from the Arcade Restaurant is the Lorraine Motel, the site that Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated.
It is also now the home of The Civil Rights Museum. If you travel to Memphis, this is a must see. Even though I grew up learning about the Civil Rights Movement, I still have so much to learn. It still amazes me; the resilience of Blacks during the Civil Rights Movement. Because the museum is connected to the Lorraine Motel, you can also get a view of the hotel room that Dr King stayed in before his passing.
Now let’s talk about Beale Street. It is kinda like the hip strip of Memphis. The Bourbon Street of New Orleans. If you want jazz and soul food, you will most certainly find your way to Beale St. in Memphis.
Jazz and Blues was coming from every direction on Beale St. By day, it is a relatively quiet street that you can pick up souvenirs for your loved ones back home and by night, the streets are packed with people club hopping, taking in the live bands performing on the street. I checked out Miss Polly’s on Beale St.
I actually tried fried green tomatoes for the very first time. The verdict is still out on that one because it’s a tomato and it’s fried. Those two should not mix. Nevertheless, it worked, and is a very popular dish on their menu. I also had their chicken and waffles. Sweet Jesus. Have you ever just had a waffle melt in your mouth? I mean, I’ve had chicken and waffles before, but I think Miss Polly’s perfected the recipe.
By night, I checked out B.B. Kings. There is something so electrical about dancing to a live band. Firstly, the musician can actually sing. No auto tune at B.B. Kings. No shade to DJ’s at all, but it’s a turn on to be surrounded by musicians that have perfected their craft, and singers that can actually sing that vibe off the crowd just as much as we vibe off them.
Did I mention that I met up with Black Travel Gram again? Did I mention that they had me up and down the country, practically holding me hostage? Ha! They had me in 3 states in 1 night! 3!!!! We started in Memphis, then took a ride to a casino in Mississippi (I won $20… I’m rich, who dis?!), then decided to head to Arkansas (Ever wonder why it’s not spelled Arkansaw? Just me? Hmmmm)…but we went casino hopping there too. It seems like casinos are the flex over in the South because they were all packed.
Things You Should Know;
There is a $1 trolley that runs through the downtown core of Memphis. From my hotel, it legit took me $1 to get to Beale St. And the trolley runs until late night hours as well, in case you have one too many hurricanes on Beale St.
On Beale Street you will find Dyers Burgers. Their burgers look simple enough, but they pack some serious flavour. If you go at night, expect a line up outside the door.
Americans are very serious about their guns. A known tourist spot; the old Pyramid sports arena is now a Bass Pro Shop. A store dedicated to the outdoors. Everything you’ll need to camp or hunt, plus guns! This place was so huge that they created a hotel inside of it! You take an elevator to the top floor, and there’s a restaurant and terrace that overlooks the city. They even had live alligators on display!! This place was serious!
If you like hot chicken, and I do not mean temperature. I don’t even mean spicy. It’s just hot (I know I’m making no sense whatsoever) but, if you do like hot chicken, check out Gus’s. Their specialty is hot chicken. To be honest, I think it is a Southern thing. I broke a sweat eating it.
If you are interested in learning about American Soul Music, visit Stax Museum while in Memphis. You will definitely want to see the Cadillac that was donated to the museum by Isaac Hayes.
If you can, check out an amazing Black owned Cheesecake restaurant called Cheesecake Corner. Schedule a little extra time if you are going there, as I was in a 30 minute lineup to get a piece of cheesecake. It was well worth it though. It was still worth it, after yet again listening to google maps (apparently I like to torture myself), when it said it’s a 19 minute walk to get there, and it took me over 30 minutes. By this time it was dark. The streets were abandoned, and I could hear random screams off in the distance. But here I was, the naive Canadian girl, walking by herself at night in Memphis for a slice of cheesecake! You ever watch the summer Olympics, and see the speed walking race? Let me tell you, I could have won that race how fast I was walking to get to my destination. After the second random scream, I sped that up to a jog/speed walk pace! And do you know where I ended up? Two doors down from the Arcade Restaurant!! (The same restaurant that Google maps told me earlier was 19 minutes and I had to end up taking an uber!) I should seriously buy shares in Uber, because I jumped in one so quick to get my ass back to the hotel. All for a slice of cheesecake! I should be ashamed of myself….but I’m not. It was delicious.
I had to ask multiple locals “Where the Black people at?” I thought for sure I would see more Black people. To be honest, I only saw a handful. The common answer I got was “Black people don’t do cold and rain, come back in spring!’ Ha! So spring it is, who’s down?