Perhaps spring's been delayed a bit too long, because lately, I've been feeling an ITCH to travel. So, this past weekend, off to Memphis, TN I flew with a friend. Why Memphis, you might be thinking - the answer is simple, through trifold - blues, BBQ and GRACELAND.
While our flight was delayed on Friday night, we managed to have a day and a half+ of jam-packed fun in the city; below a timelined recap:
9:00pm: Arrive at Memphis International Airport, jam out to the classic soul and blues playing on our way to pick up the rental car at Avis.
10:00pm: Check in to The Peabody Memphis, a historic hotel located in Downtown Memphis, conveniently close to Beale Street. While the lobby is grand, I felt that we paid a bit too much ($305/night for a double) for the room. Luckily, my doubts were assuaged by the very famous Peabody Ducks (cap required), who make a grand procession from their home on the roof of the hotel (think of it as a DUCK PENTHOUSE) to the fountain in the lobby at 11am each day. You'll want to get downstairs early for this spectacle.
10:30pm: Head to Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, a pretty legendary though perhaps besieged by tourists (it seemed to be a popular recommendation from concierge types) BBQ joint. Ribs are their specialty and dry rub at that - though my friend Janessa dug the pork shoulder.
12:00am: Head to Bourbon Beale Street in an attempt to find a libation or two - quickly realize our mistake, but it's too late to turn back, so grab a local Mississippi microbrew at the low key Beale Street Tap Room.
11:00am: Our music tour of Memphis commenced exactly where you'd expect - Graceland, home of the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley. By today's standards, I can't say that Graceland was particuarly opulent, but I can say: DAMN, THIS MAN LIKED A ONESIE (there was an extensive exhibit of Elvis' 70's era jumpsuits, in fact). Another highlight - a tour of the Lisa Marie, Elvis's private plane, named for his daughter. Think blue suede furniture and seat belts plated in 24k gold - DONE.
3:30: The music tour rolled on with a trip to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. A killer education on music, including some major, yet relatively unknown soul artists who influenced bands as iconic as The Rolling Stone. Also, and more importantly in my book, ISAAC HAYES' Peacock Blue and 24k gold plate trim Cadillac, in all of it's glory below. Can you tell that I'd 24k gold plate my life if given the option?
5:30pm: Arrive at the birthplace of rock & roll: Sun Studio. Still an active recording studio, Sun is where Elvis recorded his first record and was also home to legends like Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Tours at Sun run on the half hour every hour, and are staffed by locals (some musicians) who treat the studio with the love and reverance it deserves. $12 well spent!
7:00pm: Based on recommendations from the friendly folks at Sun, we made our way to Molly Fontaine's Lounge, a quirky and gorgeous space located in Memphis' "Victorian Village." Here we met our new friend "Frenchie," a bartender wise beyond his years and Canadian to boot (hence the nickname!) Eat the macaroni & cheese here - that's really important.
9:00pm: It's universally acknowledged (or so it seems) that a trip to Memphis is not a trip to Memphis at all without time spent at Earnestine & Hazel's. A former brothel, and thereby a dive in the truest sense of the word, Earnestine & Hazel's has even been acknowledged by Esquire as one of the best bars in America. Drink a beer, eat a Soul Burger and don't forget to sneak upstairs to chat with Nate, the septuagenarian who mans the back bar. Just be careful - the space is said to be haunted by the spirits of three prostitutes killed there - spooky!
10:00am: While The National Civil Rights Museum doesn't open until 1pm on Sundays, it was a memorial that we didn't want to miss. Here, seemingly frozen in time, is The Lorraine Hotel, with a wreath marking where Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. While there's apparently been substantial controversy over the construction of the Museum, I found it to be a moving memorial and wish that we could have spent time exploring the exhibits themselves.
11:00am: After the Civil Rights Museum, we explored the thriving Downtown Arts District. My only regret? We didn't find time for a trolley ride down South Main!
11:30am: Though we had brunch reservations at 12:30, the temptation was too much to bear as we passed by Central BBQ, a favorite of Memphians. So, in we went, and experienced a pulled pork sandwich, with home made potato chips. Super delicious and wise decision on our part, you guys - applause all around.
12:30pm: Before we headed to the airport, Janessa and I went on to brunch (or SECOND BREAKFAST, as one might say) at The Beauty Shop. With a slogan like Look Good, Eat Good, I knew that I was home - and the vintage salon chairs inside were just gravy. Home to the best Bloody Marys in Memphis, The Beauty Shop is definitely worth at stop on any Memphis itinerary - and in fact, it's actually the sister restaurant to Mollie Fontaine's - chef/restauranteur Karen B. Carrier clearly has a golden touch!
If you're looking for a mini-vacation, consider Memphis - and if I missed any of your favorite stops, leave a comment below!
The Trolley on South Main in Memphis.
The Beauty Shop
Charles Vergos' Rendezvous
The scene upstairs at Earnestine & Hazel's
The Peabody Hotel Memphis
The MLK Memorial at The National Civil Rights Museum.