We left bright and early last Wednesday, with the car loaded up and plenty of coffee to keep us going. The drive to Memphis, TN took us eight hours. We passed small brush fires as we drove through Southern Illinois. Some were small and would probably put themselves out, but some we passed were scary big and had firetrucks rushing toward them.
I had never seen anything like it, the smoke was clouding up both sides of the highway. As we approached Memphis, we passed over the Mississippi River, with the huge glass pyramid Bass Pro Shop looming to our left. When we reached our hotel, we checked into our room, only to discover we were put into a room with double beds. This was one of the few reasons I was a little underwhelmed with the hotel. But, that’s what you get when you book budget I guess! We took solace in the fact that it was simply a place to sleep and we wouldn’t be spending much time there. Mike and I headed out to explore pretty quickly after checking in. We could see the river from right outside our hotel, and we passed some beautiful buildings and parks on our way to Main Street.
We had dinner at The Majestic Grille, a restaurant fashioned to look like an outdoor movie theater with palm trees and twinkly lights.
Sabrina (the original with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart) played in the background as we waited 20 minutes for our beers to arrive. However, the trouble was soon forgotten when they brought over a basket of delicious, homemade bread. Our entrees were equally delicious. I had a grilled artichoke flatbread and Mike had a burger. After dinner, it was show time! We walked to the FedEx Forum, just off of Beale Street to enjoy the whole reason we were in Memphis in the first place: The Foo Fighters. Gary Clark Jr. opened and was fantastic. If you’ve never treated your ears to this man, you need to look him up immediately. The main event exceeded expectations.
They played a good mix of old and new tunes, and even did a couple covers. Halfway through, Dave Grohl invited an old Battle of the Bands foe to join him on stage, and they sang “Under Pressure”.
Earlier in the year, Mr. Grohl broke his leg, but instead of cancelling the tour, he had an amazing Rock ’n’ Roll throne made to play from. It was adorned with guitar necks and strobe lights, and had the Foo Fighter Logo emblazoned on the chair back. After the show, we hopped back over to Beale Street for some cheap drinks and Blues.
We went to Club 152, enchanted by the music coming from inside and happy about the no cover. After a while, we called it a night and wandered back to the hotel. The next morning, we went down to enjoy our free breakfast only to discover that it had already closed… at 9am. What?? So we walked over to Café Keough on Main Street for some coffee.
While the service wasn’t full of Southern Hospitality, the café was gorgeous, their menu was unique and my latte was superb. We walked through Memphis Park and over to the pedestrian walkway bridge that leads to Mud Island.
To go over to the island by foot is free, but the trolley and the tour are not. The island featured a Mississippi River museum ($10 for entry), a park, paddleboats, cafes, and a topographically accurate replica of the river from start to finish. The views from Mud Island were spectacular.
After we got our fill, we walked back to the mainland and over to Beale Street. We popped into some of the stores and sized up the bars for later. The whole scene was reminiscent of a mini Bourbon Street in NOLA (check out the New Orleans blog here). We went into the Gibson Factory to take a look around. Unfortunately all of the tours were sold out or cancelled, so Mike had to settle for drooling over the guitars in the gift shop. We went to the Rum Boogie Café for lunch, and it was my first Memphis barbecue experience.
I had BBQ pork with cole slaw and fried okra and Mike had a BLT with fried green tomatoes. Afterwards, we walked through some questionable territory to get to Sun Studios. A cab may have been a better choice, but it was definitely worth it. Sun Studios is a Memphis legend, it was the first studio to record Elvis Presley and was responsible for recording the first rock ‘n’ roll song “Rocket 88”.
Many amazing artists have walked through their doors, including: Howlin Wolf, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and many more. The tour of the studio was $13, and worth every penny.
Our tour guide was knowledgeable and charismatic and punctuated each music fun fact with a song that was recorded in the studio. In the same building is a café and gift shop which was fun to browse.
Later that evening, we went to Flight Wine Bar for dinner. We each got a wine flight with dinner, I had the Sibling Rivalry, all white wines. For dinner we got a few small plates to share, including: veal scallopini, chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits. The food was so flavorful and had me wishing we had ordered more than small plates.
After dinner, we walked back to Beale Street and sat down at King’s Palace Café Blues Patio to listen to some good music and enjoy a Beale Big Ass Beer.
Venturing a little further down Beale Street, we ended up at Jerry Lee Lewis’s Café for a night cap. There was an amazing rockabilly band playing when we arrived, called Smooth and the Bully Boys.
We sat by the window and waited for a waitress that never came. When we went to the bar to get a drink, we were told we would just have to keep waiting at the table. We didn’t mind waiting because the music was so good, but it did take an awfully long time for two measly drinks. After the band finished, we ended our night back at the hotel with a game of rummy and a bottle of wine.
To Be Continued…