Memphis Essentials

Here, the best places to eat, shop, play and more in Memphis, TN.
By: Alyson McNutt English
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Food and Drink Essentials: The Best Places To…


Miss Cordelia’s, 737 Harbor Bend Rd., (901) 526-4772

Forget the huge mega-store chains. Miss Cordelia’s is what a grocery is supposed to be like. Nestled in the cozy neighborhood of Harbor Town on Mud Island, Miss Cordelia’s is a pantry-style grocery store that consciously stocks local and organic foods, and if you don’t find something you need, just ask: the staff at Miss Cordelia’s is incredibly friendly and helpful, and have even been known to special order items for customers. Attached to the grocery is a small eat-in area called Cordelia’s Table where you can grab breakfast or lunch during your shopping trip. While you’re feasting, you can enjoy the store’s free wi-fi internet, too. And if you’re in a hurry, don’t worry. Miss Cordelia’s lets you order your lunch online will have it ready for pick up when you get there.


Folk’s Folly, 551 S Mendenhall Rd, (901) 762-8200

When in Memphis, skip the national chains and search out this beloved local steakhouse with a fun name and fantastic history. Folk's Folly was started by a local businessman, Humphrey Folk, Jr., who missed the fine cuisine of Louisiana when he came home to Memphis from his frequent business trips to the bayou. So in 1977, he opened a restaurant he named Folk’s Folly, since all his friends told him he would lose his shirt in the venture. More than 30 years later, this steakhouse with a butcher shop is one of Memphis’ most beloved places to feast on filet and other fine cuts of meat. Try the fried pickles or Bleu Cheese Mountain (kettle-fried chips topped with a bleu cheese foundue and crumbled bleu cheese) for starters, but pick your favorite cut of steak for an entree. From T-bone to Porterhouse to New York Strip, you won’t be disappointed in the meaty delights at Folk’s Folly.


CK’s Coffee Shop, Numerous Locations

This local joint is a Memphis classic not because of its menu or its ambiance, but because it is just so very Memphis. The food at CK’s is reminiscent of an I-HOP or Waffle House, but better. The waitresses are the cooks, and this beloved local chain is open 24-hours a day. This classic all-hours dive with thin layers of grease that glaze the menus and a smoke-friendly atmosphere may not be for those with highly refined sensibilities, but for those who are craving a greasy spoon at 3 a.m., CK’s is the place to go.


Memphis Pizza Cafe, Five locations

Memphis Pizza Cafe is a local favorite. It opened for business in 1993, and has been voted “Best Pizza in Memphis” fourteen consecutive years since 1994. With five locations in the Memphis metro area, you won’t have to travel far to feast on MPC’s thin-crust pizzas, stuffed calzones or sandwiches served with chips and pepperoncini.


Otherlands Coffee Bar, 641 South Cooper St., (901)278-4994 Starbucks it is not. Otherlands has a laid-back, crunchy-granola feel and eclectic sensibilities. Situated in the heart of Midtown’s Cooper-Young district, this kid-friendly, vegetarian-friendly, morning-to-night coffee house is unpretentious and delicious. The Chai latte actually packs some bite, and the carrot cake will sweeten your palette without sending you into a sugar shock. Bring your own mug to fit in with the decidedly eco-smart vibe, and pack along your computer to enjoy the free wi-fi and relaxed environment. Just don’t get there too late or you may find yourself in standing-room-only territory.


Boscos, 2120 Madison Avenue, (901) 432-2222

The tag line for Boscos’ is “The Restaurant for Beer Lovers,” and it doesn’t exaggerate. The food menu is not slouch, featuring brick-oven-baked pizzas and cedar-plank cooked salmon. But the handcrafted beers are the main attraction at Bosco’s, like the “Famous Flaming Stone Beer,” which is created by dropping 700-degree pink granite into the beer while it’s brewing to give the brew a sweeter caramelized flavor. Other local favorite beers include the award-winners like the hop-filled Boscos Bombay IPA and the malty, nutty Midtown Brown.


Felicia Suzanne’s, 80 Monroe Avenue Suite L-1, (901) 523-0877

Just down from the riverfront sits Felicia Suzanne’s, a top-flight restaurant run by chef Felicia Willet, who trained under Emeril Lagasse at his flagship New Orleans restaurant, starting as an intern and moving up to becoming one of his top assistants, even writing on his Food Network show. But Willet is emerging from Lagasse’s large shadow at her own restaurant, which has a hip-but-upscale feel and some of the best food you can find outside the bayou. Try the complicated-sounding but incredibly delicious “Tennessee Bonnie Blue Goat Cheese and Caramelized Sweet Onion Tart” for starters, and feast on perfectly cooked beef tenderloin or the “Grilled Organic Niman Ranch Double Cut Pork Chop” for your main course. Everything on the menu is good, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to give your compliments to the chef in person, as Willet sometimes emerges to mingle and make sure her patrons are enjoying their meals.

Outdoor Essentials: The Best Places To...


Shelby Farms Park, 500 North Pine Lake Dr., (901) 767-7275

In the middle of Memphis sits Shelby Farms Park, a former penal farm where inmates grew food for the prison population that is now the best green space in Memphis. Filled with trails for running and biking and horseback riding, dense tree covered areas ideal for bird watching and even a dog park for your four-legged friends, Shelby Farms has something for everyone. Bring your picnic and enjoy the mid-south sun, or enjoy one of the many lakes where Memphians fish and sail in the middle of town. A BMX park attracts extreme bike enthusiasts, and an area designated for the take-off and landing of miniature radio-controlled aircraft will delight aviation enthusiasts.You can even spot the herds of grazing Bison in the middle of the land. Anything you can imagine enjoying in a pristine public park, Shelby Farms probably has a place for it.


Dogs Rule Daycare and School, 2265 Central Ave., (901)276-3210

At Dogs Rule in Midtown, the name says it all. This deluxe doggy day care and school has three outdoor playgrounds and two indoor playgrounds, including a big bouncy play area reserved for high-energy dogs, a playground with climbing stations and toys for mellower breeds, and a special area for small breeds that’s complete with a pool and right-sized toys. Each area is closely supervised by experienced dog handlers who watch all the pets closely to ensure each animal is kept safe and sound. Before enrollment, each dog has an entrance interview to ensure her temperament and needs are a fit for this chic pooch paradise.

Entertainment Essentials: The Best Places To...


BB King’s Blues Club, 143 Beale St., (901) 524-5464

If you want to hear classic blues while you’re in Memphis, head straight to Beale Street and find BB King’s Blues Club, an upscale and trendy hot spot that even the locals love in the heart of this world-famous music district. Founded by the eponymous musician (who still plays here occasionally), some of the best blues musicians in Memphis and the surrounding areas flock here to entertain the crowds, which are hearty every day of the week but really bustle on the weekends. And while you’re eating up the music, don’t pass over the club’s menu, which features classic southern fare like catfish and fried pickles.


Hi-Tone Cafe, 1913 Poplar Ave, 901-278-8663

This hip, casual hangout takes it vibe from the diverse, inclusive sensibilities from the Memphis College of Art, where it’s located. Housed in a building adjacent to the MCA’s auxiliary gallery space, Hi-Tone opens only at night and welcomes some of the best music in the city. Elvis Costello recorded his live DVD Club Date: Live in Memphis at the Hi-Tone, and it continues to welcome an eclectic mix of sounds, from jazz to punk to acoustic and everything in-between. The martinis are a house speciality, but all the spirits are good at this joint, where pizzas and sandwiches round out the casual menu.


Memphis Zoo, 2000 Prentiss Place, (901) 276-9453

Memphis may be a city known for its blues and barbecue, but there are also lots of great places to hang out with your kids. Animal lovers can get in touch with their wild sides at the famed Memphis Zoo. You and the kids can take in exotic animals like pandas, white tigers and komodo dragons at one of the top-rated facilities in the U.S.

The Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave., (901) 320-6320

For history buffs, The Pink Palace Museum is just what it sounds like -- a gigantic pink marble mansion that, along with its annex, now houses an IMAX theater, planetarium, and many traveling historical exhibitions.

Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Rd, (901)636-4106

Little naturalists will swoon at the Memphis Botanical Gardens, which offers seasonally-themed programs for homeschoolers and school groups.

The Peabody, 149 Union Avenue, (901) 529-4000

Both kids and kids-at-heart will want to check out the famous duck procession. (Read the children’s book John Phillip Duck before you go to make the event extra-special!)

Memphis College of Art, (1930 Poplar Ave, 901-272-5100)

Finally, Memphis College of Art’s (1930 Poplar Ave, 901-272-5100) Saturday School programs for kids from 5-16 offers your budding Picasso the opportunity to indulge his artistic sensibilities with multiple media, from chalk to clay to paint to fabric, all in classes run by MCA students.


Memphians love their sports. From the high-flying University of Memphis men’s basketball team to the city’s beloved Memphis Redbirds and NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, there are tons of opportunities to let your fan flag fly in The Bluff City.

Basketball rules at the fantastic FedEx Forum (191 Beale St., 901-205-1234), which the Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers both call home. Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (335 South Hollywood, 901-274-8467) not only plays home field to Tiger football, but it also hosts the annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl. And Memphians love their AAA Redbirds, who play in the most expensive minor-league ballpark ever, AutoZone Redbird Stadium (175 Toyota Plaza, Suite 300, 901-721-6000). Memphis fans splurged on their team’s home field knowing they won’t ever be moved away; like the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, the Memphis Redbirds are owned by the non-profit Memphis Redbirds Foundation, which ensures they’ll continue to thrill generations of Memphians for years to come.


Roof of the Peabody Hotel, 149 Union Ave.

After night falls, head to the top of the famed Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis and gaze out across the I-40 bridge to Arkansas to enjoy the best view in The Bluff City. The M-shaped bridge lights up the evening sky and the illuminated arches glitter over the mighty Mississippi, creating a postcard-perfect picture.


If you’re looking for something fun to do but can’t find the funds to do it, just check the calendar. Many Memphis attractions have free admission days, including:

The Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave., (901) 320-6320

Free admission on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. until closing. This doesn’t include the planetarium, IMAX or Enchanted Forest.

University of Memphis Art Museum, 3750 Norriswood St., (901) 678-2224

This fantastic showcase for contemporary and Egyptian art is free every day.

Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 4339 Park Ave., (901) 761-5250

The Dixon houses a grand collection of impressionist art, and its gardens are some of the finest in the Memphis metro area. You can check it out free of charge on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon.

Mud Island River Park, 101 N. Mud Island Rd., (901) 523-9876

General admission to the park is free everyday.

Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Rd, (901) 636-4106

Admission to the park is free on Tuesdays from noon until 6 p.m.


Flashback, 2304 Central Ave, (901) 272-2304

If you want to find funky local Memphis businesses, head straight to Midtown and the Cooper-Young district and check out Flashback. This vintage department store will thrill lovers of authentic early-20th century goods, particularly its large selection of European Art Deco furniture. But don’t limit yourself to chairs and settees; whether you’re looking for an authentic “Betty Draper” dress or a luscious lava lamp, check out Flashback. You never know what you’ll find, but the thrill of the hunt is half the fun.

Nightlife Essentials: The Best Places To...


Earnestine & Hazel’s, 531 S. Main St., (901) 523-9754

Don’t come to Earnestine & Hazel’s before 5 p.m., because you’ll find yourself sitting curbside waiting for this classic Memphis dive bar to open. But once the nightlife gets going, this joint far off the beaten path of Beale Street has a rep as one of the most historic places to savor a nightcap in the city. In a former life, this building housed a brothel with a bar on the first floor, but now this hot spot is known as a great place to grab a drink and a late-night bite with what some say is the best jukebox in town.


Paulette's, 2110 Madison Ave., (901) 726-5128

Step inside Paulette’s and you’ll be transported from Memphis’ urban blues vibe to a cozy European inn. If you’re going for a classically romantic feel, Paulette’s will serve nicely. The menu items range from escargot to Louisiana crab cakes, but the foods that really take center stage at Paulette’s are the desserts. The Kahlua-Mocha Parfait Pie is probably the most well-known and well-loved item on the dessert menu, but you (and your date) will love any of the palette pleasing sweet treats, from Jamaican almond crepes to the classic creme brulee.


Club 152, 152 Beale St., (901) 544-7011

If you’re looking for a dance party, Club 152 is the place to be. Situated along bustling Beale Street, it has three floors with three different feels where revelers bask in techno, house and alternative dance tracks. There’s no cover charge to get in until late in the evening, and the patio on the first floor is a great place to mingle away from the loudest music and engage in some people-watching. Live bands rock the main level until late, when a DJ takes over and spins dance tracks from several decades. As you move up to the second and third floors, the atmosphere can get a little hotter and the crowds a little more raucous--the club itself calls what happens on the third floor “upscale freakism.” But don’t be afraid to try Club 152, which has the hottest dance scene in town.


The Cooper-Young District, Midtown The Cooper-Young district in Midtown is a hip, up-and-coming area, and the local restaurants that dot the neighborhood are some of the best places to find other young couples. Places like Blue Fish Oyster Bar, (2149 Young Ave., 901-725-0230 which is run by Gulf Coast expats who brought their fresh fish sensibilities to the blues city, and Celtic Crossing, a pub with a “see-and-be-seen” vibe that is packed on “Trivia Night” Wednesdays, attract young couples from around the trendy downtown and Midtown areas.

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