Illustration by Julia Rothman
Today’s Memphis City Guide update is from original writer, Kerry Crawford. Kerry blogs about the Memphis indie scene at i love memphis, and today she’s sharing her suggestions for where to shop, eat, drink, site-see and stay in Memphis. If you’re headed south soon, I hope you’ll take Kerry’s guide with you. Thanks for this great update, Kerry! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
The best things in Memphis are a little out of the way — think bars tucked into industrial neighborhoods, the best bands you’ve never heard of and incredible food in unlikely places. Memphis is relaxed, unpretentious and friendly. It has a history of creativity and plenty of room for experimentation. Here’s a list of some of Memphis’ most awesome shops, bands, restaurants, bars and things to do.
Toad Hall Antiques: Toad Hall has been voted the best antique shop in Memphis. It’s an adorable two-story shop filled with home decor items, antiques, jewelry and candles.
Stash: Memphis knitters love the selection at Stash in Cooper-Young. The small shop is stuffed with yarn, fibers, needles, ribbons and patterns, and the friendly staff is always willing to help you get started on a project.
The Beauty Shop: Located in an old salon, the Beauty Shop has a great Southern-fusion menu, fantastic desserts and incredible decor.
Tsunami: Chef Ben Smith’s restaurant serves seafood and Pacific Rim-inspired fusion dishes in an airy space in Cooper-Young. Try the small plates, which are daily dinner specials that are less expensive than regular entrees.
Do: Some of the most unique sushi in Memphis can be found at Do. Try the Kona Strawberry or BLT&A rolls, a bowl of pho or the daily bento box special.
Burke’s Books: Burke’s is Memphis’ oldest independent bookstore. They’ve got new and used titles, textbooks, works by local authors and a killer staff recommendations section.
Goner Records: Goner is more than a local record store — it’s a label, festival and destination for garage and indie rock fans worldwide.
Alchemy: This high-end cocktail bar specializes in whiskey drinks and small plates. Make reservations — it fills up fast on the weekends.
Cooper-Young Festival: On the third weekend in September, a huge annual street festival takes place over the intersection of Cooper and Young in Midtown. Vendors sell crafts, vintage clothing, art and food, and bands play on two stages. The festival is a day-long party, so plan accordingly.
South Main Arts District
Delphinium: This cute boutique in the South Main Arts District carries accessories, home decor items, makeup and jewelry.
Muse: Stylish Memphians love Muse’s huge selection of clothes and accessories from well-known and independent designers.
Earnestine and Hazel’s: Grab a Soul Burger and a beer from the bar, drop some change into the amazing jukebox and explore one of Memphis’ most authentic juke joints. Earnestine and Hazel’s is a former brothel, and the staff is happy to tell you stories about the building’s checkered past.
Hoot + Louise: This boutique specializes in adorable. They carry vintage clothing for guys and girls, small designer labels, housewares and handmade jewelry.
Bluff City Coffee: The coffee at Bluff City Coffee is good, but their house-made pastries, muffins and scones are the real reason to stop by.
Charlotte: All of the jewelry at Charlotte is interchangeable, which makes each piece unique and fun (like adult Legos).
Memphis Farmers Market: Farmers, bakers, florists and craftspeople from all over the mid-South bring their wares to the pavilion behind Central Station on Saturday mornings from April through October. The market is more than just food; each market has live music, cooking demonstrations, activities for kids and complimentary pet sitting.
South Front Antiques: This huge downtown shop is the best place in town to find architectural antiques like doors, light fixtures, fireplaces, furniture and findings.
Lit Restaurant Supply: Lit is a kitchen wonderland. It’s the place to find commercial-quality supplies, inexpensive dishes, appliances and party supplies.
Cozy Corner: The family-owned Cozy Corner is the perfect place to try authentic Memphis ribs and pork shoulder. The house specialty, Cornish game hen, is also not to be missed.
Lansky 126: Think of Lansky 126 as the cooler, younger sister of Lanksy Bros. (the guys who clothed Elvis). They sell trendy clothes, shoes and jewelry in their shop in the Peabody Hotel Lobby.
Mollie Fontaine Lounge: The Mollie Fontaine Lounge is located in Victorian Village, across the street from the home that its namesake is said to haunt. The lounge serves up tapas, drinks and live music in a unique historical setting.
Gus’s Fried Chicken: There are few things more Memphis than eating some of Gus’s famous hot and spicy fried chicken and washing it down with a “40” (a 40-oz. beer). Gus’s has been mentioned on all sorts of “best of” lists, but locals love it for the laid back atmosphere, spicy fries and perfectly greasy fried chicken.
National Ornamental Metal Museum: The only museum of its kind in the US, the National Ornamental Metal Museum is a gallery, library and forgery located high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The museum grounds are free whenever the museum is open and feature sculptures by local and national artists.
AutoZone Park: Catch a Memphis Redbirds triple-A baseball game at Autozone Park. It’s a gorgeous brick stadium in the middle of downtown. Sit on the bluff to watch the game — tickets for the grassy hill are less expensive than regular seats.
FedExForum: Memphis is a basketball town, and there’s only one place to see both of our favorite teams — the NBA Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Tigers — play at home. Pick up a blue t-shirt and watch the city go nuts over every basket.
Orpheum Theatre: Memphis’ historic vaudeville theater is now home to touring Broadway shows (recent seasons have included Wicked, Shrek, Jersey Boys and Chicago), Ballet Memphis performances, Opera Memphis and concerts. The ornate gilded theater is said to be haunted by Mary, a playful ghost who has a reserved box seat.
Memphis in May International Festival: Memphis in May is a month-long festival celebrating music, barbecue and the cultures of honored countries. Events include the Beale Street Music Festival (the area’s largest music event), the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, International Week and the Sunset Symphony. Most events take place on the Mississippi River at Tom Lee Park.
Peabody Hotel: Someone once said that the Mississippi Delta starts in the lobby of the Peabody. The grand hotel is one of the finest in the South. Don’t miss the famous daily Duck March, in which a handful of trained mallards march down from the roof of the hotel for a swim in the lobby fountain.
Westin Memphis: The Memphis Westin is sleek, modern and just a few steps away from Beale Street and the FedEx Forum.
Madison Hotel: The Madison is an independent luxury hotel downtown. It’s got an old-school martini bar, uniquely styled guest rooms and an amazing view of the city from its rooftop terrace.
The Talbot Heirs Guesthouse is an independent hotel tucked discreetly into a nondescript building on Second St. All of the guest rooms at the Talbot Heirs are suites, and if you send a grocery list ahead of time, they’ll have the kitchen stocked for you.
Flashback: This “vintage department store” carries vintage and reproduction modern furniture, housewares, clothing and shoes.
Five in One: Pick up handmade jewelry, toys, art and screenprinted t-shirts from local designers at Five in One. It’s an art collective as well as a store, so be sure to stop and check out the latest displays and shows.
Maggie’s Pharm: For more than 20 years, midtowners have flocked to Maggie’s Pharm for handmade bath products, healing herbs, spices and kitschy housewares. Any of Maggie’s shampoos, lotions and conditioners can be custom scented with essential oils.
Joe’s Wines & Liquors: The rotating, neon Sputnik outside of Joe’s Liquor is a local landmark. On the inside, Joe’s is full of lovely mid-century design and racks of liquor and wine.
The Cove: The Cove is the classier of Memphis’ two pirate bars. They’ve got incredible handmade classic cocktails, a boat-shaped bar (pulled from an old surf n’ turf restaurant) and cult movies playing in the background. It can be a little tricky to find, as it’s located in a semi-industrial neighborhood, but it’s worth the drive.
The P&H: There’s no better dive bar than the P&H Cafe (the P&H stands for “Poor and Hungry”). Pick up a pitcher of cheap beer and a patty melt from the bar and check out the walls, which are covered in posters, paintings and photographs.
Brooks Museum of Art: The Brooks is home to a large permanent collection of Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionist paintings, as well as furniture, sculpture and modern art. The museum also hosts traveling exhibitions, films and special events throughout the year.
Overton Park: A huge urban green space in the center of Midtown Memphis that’s home to the Levitt Shell amphitheater, a playground, a golf course, the Memphis College of Art, trails and more than 100 acres of old-growth forest.
Memphis Zoo: The Memphis Zoo has undergone major renovations in recent years. The zoo is park-like, and the animals live in spacious habitats just like those they would inhabit in the wild. The zoo was ranked number one in the country by TripAdvisor in 2009.
Memphis Roller Derby: The toughest ladies in Memphis lace up their skates every month to play flat-track roller derby. The WFTDA-affiliated league is made up of three home teams and one all-star team. Bouts are family friendly and tons of fun.
Goner Fest: Record store/label Goner Records hosts an annual indie, garage and punk rock festival that brings bands from all over the world to Memphis’ clubs for three days of rock n’ roll.
Hi-Tone Cafe: Midtowners pack the Hi-Tone nightly to hear local and touring bands, drink cheap beer, dance, and play ping-pong. Don’t miss the pizza menu — the Hi-Tone’s pies are well above average.
Levitt Shell: This historic outdoor amphitheater was the site of some of Elvis’ first concerts. Now, it’s home to an annual season of free concerts. Pack a picnic and bring a blanket or lawn chair to the shows, which run Thursday through Saturday nights during the summer and fall.
Minglewood Hall: Minglewood Hall is a huge music hall in the center of Midtown Memphis. Their concert schedule features local bands, national touring acts and special events.
Otherlands Coffee Bar: Midtown’s favorite coffee shop stays open late on Friday and Saturday nights for live acoustic music.
Restaurant Iris: Award-winning chef Kelly English’s Midtown restaurant is a local favorite (particularly for special occasions). For the true Iris experience, order the five-course tasting menu and let the kitchen surprise you.
Pilgrim House Hostel: Memphis’ only hostel is located in the trendy Cooper-Young neighborhood, an easy walk from restaurants, bars and shops. There are private, semi-private and dorm-style rooms, a full kitchen, free internet access and bike rentals.
Spruce: Every item for sale at Spruce is handpicked by the shop’s interior-designer owner. Expect vintage jewelry, one-of-a-kind decor, kids’ items and furniture.
Sachi: Sachi carries trendy, youthful designer clothes and accessories. They’ve also got a large girls’ section.
Jerry’s Snow Cone: No matter which snow cone flavor you order at Jerry’s, make sure you order it “supreme.” If you do, the friendly kids behind the counter will layer your snow cone with vanilla soft serve ice cream. It’s hard to miss Jerry’s — the building is bright pink, and there’s a giant ice cream cone mounted on top. Be sure to stop by an ATM — Jerry’s is cash only.
Muddy’s Bake Shop: All of the cakes, pies, cookies and cupcakes in this adorable East Memphis bakery are made from scratch. Crafty types will love the wall of handmade aprons, postcards and t-shirts.
Celery Resale: If you’re looking for designer clothes on a budget, this consignment store is the best place to find them. They only carry extremely gently used clothing from well-known labels. Grab a sale card at the front counter for extra discounts.
Dixon Gallery and Gardens: The Dixon boasts a large permanent collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and decorative art and large, well-maintained gardens.
Cosmic Coconut: Cosmic Coconut is Memphis’ only all-vegan juice bar. Order a fresh juice or smoothie and a snack from their huge organic menu.
Lucchesi’s: There’s more to Lucchesi’s than specialty Italian groceries. Order lunch from their prepared food counter, or pick up homemade frozen ravioli and sausage.
Las Delicias: Locals swear by Las Delicias’ super fresh, chunky guacamole and frozen margaritas (which are always made with fresh limes).
Johnny Cash (musician)
Ginnifer Goodwin (actor)
Chris Parnell (actor)
Elvis Presley (musician)
Al Green (musician/holy man)
Cybill Shepard (actor)
Pat Kerr-Tigrett (clothing designer)
Fred Smith (FedEx founder)
Alex Chilton (musician)
Anfernee Hardaway (basketball player)
Larry Finch (basketball player/coach)
Craig Brewer (filmmaker)
Ira Sachs (filmmaker)