Memphis Food Recommendations

I work locally in Memphis as a freelance film and photo professional. Often on this job I meet and work with a lot of people from out of town and they are always asking me recommendations of places to go. So I’ve been making a list that I update every time a new show comes into town. I just finished making a list out and thought it would be cool to share it publicly. If you are a local I know its probably missing a lot of your favorites but this is just a subjective list by me, of the places I’ve been going to for years. Enjoy!

*means its one of my favorite spots in the city

Downtown

* Catherine & Mary’s* -cocktail, upscale food bar/restaurant. Probably your best place downtown for cocktails

* Itta Bena* -hidden slightly trendy lounge, locals hangout, awesome food, great live music, this is one of the more authentic Memphis places imo

* Gray Canary -like C&M great cocktails, not quite as fancy, be sure to visit the distillery next door

* Aldo's Pizza -best pizza downtown, great selection of beer

* Rizzo's Diner -meat and three, consistently awesome food

* Bardog -traditional bar, local hangout, pretty good food, open late

* Maciel's Tortas* & Tacos -one of the few Mexican places downtown

* Gus’s Fried Chicken* - the BEST fried chicken you will get anywhere in the United States, I’ll stake my reputation on it

* Blues City Cafe -definitely the best food on Beale, easy to explore Beale Street afterwards

* Mollie Fontaine's* -after hours cocktails, some food, vibe is off the charts

* Earnestine & Hazel's* -after hours, cheap beer & best burger in the city, used to be a brothel, might be closed for renovations, check first

* South of Beale* -locals hangout, smoked gouda mac n cheese, brussels sprouts

* Trolley Stop -GREAT pizza, BYOB for wine, but decent beer selection, decent vegan/vegetarian offerings

* Old Dominick -only distillery downtown, they do tours, sell decent liquor

* Huey's -local chain, great burgers

* The Brass Door -traditional Irish pub, good food, if you like soccer this is a great place to watch

* Arcade Restaurant -tourist destination but breakfast is good, sweet potato pancakes are awesome

* Cozy Corner* -best ribs, my 2nd favorite bbq place

* Central BBQ -good all around, 3rd favorite bbq, they also have other things besides bbq

* Flying Saucer -regional chain but huge beer selection, great place to drink, watch sports, Royale w/ cheese is a good burger

* Dirty Crow Inn -authentic Memphis dive bar, great wings

* Ghost River Brewery -cool taproom, across the street from Dirty Crow

* Loflin Yard -huge outdoor drinking space

* Blue Monkey -locals bar/restaurant, also one in midtown

* Comeback Coffee -best coffee shop downtown to get an authentic coffee drink (flat white, cortado, etc)

* Sunrise - solid breakfast spot

Midtown

* Crazy Noodle* -best ramen in town

* Saigon Lee* -best Vietnamese in town, get the lemon grass tofu trust me

* Tsunami -Pacific Rim-influenced fresh and inventive food, cocktails, pricey

* India Palace -great Indian food, you will never run out of water

* Slider Inn -great food, beers, late night locals spot

* Babalu Tacos & Tapas -good food, in overton square so walk around after

* Bari* -sit at the bar, order cheese/charcuterie, pasta, craft cocktails, wonderful wine list, great place to chill by yourself or with small group

* Beauty Shop* -excellent dinner, vibes, trendy

* Bar DKDC* -cocktails, live music starts late, decent food trendy

* BBQ Shop* -best bbq in the city imo, hot sauce is my fav

* Boscos -locals brewery/bar, has some good food, especially pizza

* Second Line* -authentic new orleans style food, great patio

* Next Door -bar next to Sweetgrass, locals bar, killer food

* Sweetgrass -little more upscale than next door but also killer food

* Soul Fish Cafe

* Pho Binh -no frills Vietnamese food, lemongrass tofu is one of the best things in the city, good takeout option

* Kwik Check -great deli

* Joe’s wine & liquor -best selection of whisky and wine

* Crosstown Brewing* -blonde ale and oceansy are excellent, be sure to walk over to the amazing crosstown building next door, trust me

Broad Ave

* Wiseacre Brewery* -best brewery in the city, awesome beer selection, great outside area & usually a food truck or two. if you go here call me its one of my favorite places

* The Cove* -dive bar-ish, some food, live music here and there

* Bounty -farm to table place, awesome food

* The Liquor store - new but really good brunch or late lunch spot

* City & State* -trendy but awesome coffee, also has a retail shop for gifts for your family back home

* Five in One -locally owned gift shop, great for authentic memphis gifts and t-shirts

Summer Avenue

* Bryant’s Breakfast - awesome breakfast, don’t worry about the line it goes fast

* Arepas - best Colombian in the city

* El Palmar* - my local Mexican place, go next door after for ice cream

* Topps BBQ - good bbq and burgers

* Central BBQ - see above

* Mi Mexico, Los Comales, La Guadalupana, seriously any Mexican place on this street will be good

East Memphis

* Los Tortugas* -best Mexican in the city easy

* Hog & Hominy* -meat, southern cooking, cocktails, cool atmosphere — and the best pizza in town - also “late night” ramen and if the burger’s on the menu, order it...

* Andrew Michael -sit at the bar, craft cocktails, cheese plate, small plates, gnocchi

* Central BBQ -see above

* Erling Jensens -fancy, for a splurge, be sure to call ahead

* Sekesui -probably the best place to get decent sushi here

* Babalu

* Houstons -chain but great burger and wine/cocktails, the former memphis mayor goes here almost every night

The National

My fandom for The National came late in 2013 after I heard them live at The Ryman in Nashville. I had heard some songs and was definitely aware of them but something at that show clicked and I have been a big fan ever since. I can confidently say they are now my favorite band and there isn't a day that goes by where I don't hear at least one of their songs.

I was very fortunate to be adjacent to three of their shows in Columbus, Indianapolis and Chicago on their tour for the new album I Am Easy to Find. So I went to all 3 (4 shows if you count the secret show in Chicago at Revival) and brought my camera. What a great time and you can find some of my favorites below.

All photos taken with a Ricoh GR III point & shoot

Sacramento

Trips to California are usually welcome. But lately with my disillusionment with San Francisco and Los Angeles that has changed somewhat. Not with Sacramento however. This is my 2nd visit to the city in 4 years and now it is my favorite California city by far. Capital cities are always easy to love and this is no exception. It kind of reminds me of another favorite capital city Indianapolis.  

Sacramento even for California has a super laid back vibe. It’s got quiet streets and easy to walk around in. I was super impressed with the Electric Bike share there. Sacramento is really flat but having the E-Bike was such a easy way to get around the city. I could go on gushing about the city but will let the photos speak for themselves. 

As always check the end of the post for some of my favorite spots I visited in the city. 

California State Capital Park - beautiful green space surrounding the State Capital. Be sure to check out the steps on capital building for some good people watching. Also recommend the sunset here. Great view of the Tower Bridge as well. Bonus - you can pick oranges right off the tree! (I think this is legal, I did it anyway) 

Delta Breeze Records - cozy record shop in downtown. Bought a Willie Mitchell live album there. Memphis is everywhere!

Bike Dog Brewery - my favorite brewery and favorite t-shirt. Be sure to check out the Art Deco masterpiece Tower Theatre right down the street after. 

Drake’s the Barn - outdoor drinking area in West Sacramento. Chill spot and great views and really close to the River Walk Trail if you are riding your bike. 

Temple Coffee - I went here every day for 5 days straight. Great coffee, friendly staff. Be sure to find some freshly roasted beans to take back home with you.  

Hot Rods on Beale

Some of my favorite events to photograph are the Hot Rod and Bike Nights on Beale Street. Especially the first events once the weather gets warmer. Since this takes place on Beale Street not only are there tons of cars to look at but people watching is also at a premium. Here are a few photos from last night’s event.

New Orleans

Time once again for a trip to New Orleans in September. Soon after I book the hotel and it hits me I am going I have a hard time concentrating on anything in the months that follow because my mind is already in New Orleans. Definitely my favorite city to visit and on my short list of places to move. Although I’m not sure you should live in one of your favorite places. Might be taken for granted eventually.

Anyway on to the photos. These are going to be Second Line heavy but its my absolute favorite thing about the city. Also be sure to check in after the photos as I list and talk a little bit about some of our favorite places we went to during the trip.

BTW we saw Beyonce and Jay-Z on the OTR II tour. Was as amazing as you would think it would be. 

Here is a list of some of my favorite go-to places in New Orleans.

  • Spitfire Coffee - best coffee shop in the city IMO. One of my favorite things to do was get up and walk through the FQ early in the morning and get a Flat White here

  • Ace Hotel - everything in here is amazing. Go to the rooftop after being out all day in the hot humid New Orleans air. Go to Josephine & Estelle’s for good food and drinks. Stumptown is in here for coffee

  • Cochon Butcher - had the best BBQ Pulled-Pork Sandwich I have ever had here. Sorry Memphis!

  • Three Muses - Frenchmen street is a much better alternative to the French Quarter. Places are pretty packed but we were lucky and got a spot at the back of the bar and drank and listened to music all night. Was happy to go here after hearing about them on WWOZ all the time

  • Dat Dog - before or after Frenchmen stop in here for an awesome hot dog

  • Who Dat Coffee - in the Bywater, boozy coffee

  • LOA Bar - perfect spot for a last drink before bed. I have been here every time I’m in town and will go for as long as its open

  • Avenue Pub - favorite bar in the Garden District. We were here during a Saints game and while I don’t like football that much it was fun to watch the game and root for the Saints with the locals

  • Hot Tin Roof Bar - place was kinda fratty/amateur hour (drunks) but its got a great view of the city and good cocktails

  • District Donuts Sliders Brew - always our last stop before leaving town. Decent coffee and awesome donuts