Memphis has many nicknames: Bluff City, Barbecued Pork Capital of the World, Home of the Blues.
But whatever you wish to call Tennessee’s largest city, which sits astride the Mississippi, its treasures of music, history, food and culture are there to see if you just know where to look.
It was here that the blues made its first logical stop on its gradual climb northward from the Mississippi Delta, with Beale St. now the local epicenter of its magic. It was here as well that a rock star and native son of the Magnolia State set up his multimillion-dollar estate. And it was here that one of the lions of the civil rights movement breathed his last on an April morning in 1968.
Memphis has so much to experience, but above all is its music, which permeates every aspect of its identity, great and small. The Washington Times spent a weekend walking in Memphis to see, experience and eat and drink in all that this amazing place has to offer.
Soon enough it’s dinnertime, so Tim and I head to the hip Overton Square neighborhood to dine at Lafayette’s Music Room (2119 Madison Ave, Memphis, Tennessee, 38104, 901/207-5097), a do-drop-in that serves up down-home Southern cooking while you enjoy live blues music. Tonight soul artist Marcella Simien is up on the stage, a well-known Zydeco player of these parts.
Tim and I are joined by Jeff Hulett, the director of public relations for the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, and a longtime resident of these parts. Like Tim, Jeff has an easy, welcoming manner, and offers suggestions from the menu from having dined here several times before.
For starters we go with the fried green tomatoes, which I’ve never much fancied, but these particular offerings are divine, supplemented by some stellar crab dip. To lubricate the evening, I go in for a blueberry lemonade spiked with Pickers, Tennessee’s first craft vodka.
Being in a Southern-fried mood, I opt for the shrimp po’ boy for my entree, which is not as amazing as the appetizers, but nonetheless is filling. I top it off with a High Cotton ESB, a local brew.
Oh, but we’re not done, Jeff says. For right outside Lafayette’s is Amurica, a traveling trailer that entices the dutifully sloppy to come in and take photographs with props like flags, hats and various ephemera. Jeff and I do this, and upon seeing the results, I assure you, it was worth it. (Ask nicely and I may even share.)