Updated: Nov 17, 2019
Thanks for joining us on the Memphis Travel Guide Part Four – Memphis Good Eats and Good Sleeps.
Memphis is not surprisingly a very active, entertaining city, and with that comes a very unique culinary experience – from Memphis BBQ to Creole to Elvis inspired delights – Memphis has an enormous amount of variety and spice.
And since we are in Memphis and you are probably here because of the King, let's get two places that are must visit out of the way first.
The oldest cafe still in operation in Memphis is the legendary Arcade Cafe. Located at 540 South Main St. You can't miss the neon signs inviting you into the comfy cafe and the plush booths. It is reported that Elvis visited this restaurant frequently and enjoyed their breakfasts and burger options. Today, you can sit in the same booth that Elvis sat in and order Elvis inspired treats. The restaurant's seating is limited and it can get very, very, busy, so plan on waiting for some time if there are events going on in town related to Elvis. An interesting fact is that the Arcade was the location that sparked Memphis' film industry in 1988. Night Train was filmed here as well as many other films including Great Balls of Fire!, the docu-film about another Memphis legend – Jerry Lee Lewis.
Next up on the Elvis gastronomic tour is Marlow's Ribs and Restaurant, located just minutes from Graceland and immediately recognizable by the fleet of pink Cadillac limosine shuttles that offer transport to and from the restaurant. Previously known as the Whitehaven Ranch House, it was a favourite BBQ of the King himself. This family operated BBQ offers up some excellent ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket, along with catfish, burgers and the best hunka hunka apple pie in the USA. Along with the food, you will find the service and friendly family atmosphere to be excellent. Prices are also affordable for both lunch and dinner. In the evening they offer live entertainment on some days.
The next restaurant we highly recommend if you are looking for unique and romantic atmosphere and incredible food is restaurant iris. Named best restaurant, best service and best chef by Memphis Magazine restaurant iris serves up some of the most creative and delicious creole dishes in the south.
Located near the historic Overton Square of Midtown the restaurant is located right inside a victorian mansion house. Parking is available free of charge across the street. There is also cheap parking at the overtone parking garage and valet service is only $8. The parking may be cheap, but the iris is a high end restaurant offering up an ever changing menu. If you want to treat yourself and your loved one to an exceptional and unique dinner, this is the place.
Now I know a lot of listeners are looking for not only good eats, but cheap eats. And you can have both in Memphis. If you are looking for another Memphis delicacy that does not include BBQ sauce, check out Gus' world famous friend chicken. It is located in downtown Memphis at 310 s front st. And even though the exterior has its own southern wear and tear, get inside for the best fried chicken you have ever had. Try the coconut cream pie of the pecan pie to top off the meal. Other franchise locations are available so check online to the one closest to you.
And if you are still craving southern treats, head over to Memphis' own Miss Polly's Fried Chicken and Waffles. Located right on Beale St. This simple eatery offers up some fabulous fried chicken and waffles. After a night on Beale St. This may be the best spot to cure that hang over.
The summers in Memphis can be brutal and the best spot to cool down is at an old gas station. No, we are not kidding. Back on the 1920s, a Sinclair gas station began giving away free snow cones to children as their parents filled up their automobiles. The snow cones were a bigger hit than the gas filling station so by the 1960s the snow cones became the main business, along with of course, a car wash. Today, the car wash is defunct, but the snow cones and the roadside foodstop is serving up some of the best cool treats in the south. You may recognize the location from the movie Great Balls of Fire, the story of Jerry Lee Lewis.
Of course, Memphis has some amazing BBQ joints and top end restaurants. Memphis loves its restaurants and I am sure you will find some amazing ones on your stay.
Now you are probably going to Memphis and thinking that the best bet would be to stay near Graceland, as all the attractions should be there and there should be a great number of hotels. Even though there are some hotels in the area and the newly built Guest House at Graceland, we recommend that you stay downtown close to Beale Street.
The area around Graceland has seen better times and there certainly are motels in the area that offer low rates – but there is usually a reason for this. If security is of importance to you, or you are travelling solo or with younger children, I would not recommend this area, especially if you need to come and go at night.
There is, of course the huge Guest House at Graceland, that is available right next to Graceland itself, but the rooms are very costly, the food is overpriced and from the multitude of guest reviews, the service is hit and miss. If Graceland is your only stop in Memphis, then you may want to consider this, but if you wish to enjoy everything Memphis has to offer, you may want to check in elsewhere.
Downtown and the areas around Beale Street offer up much more for your money. There are exceptional hotels in these areas including the Peabody, with the ducks. I just checked on experiencethis360 and it is 18% off for the suite. Check out the web site for the current promotions.
We recommend The Best Western, La Quinta Inn and Suites, The Holiday Inn Express and the Westin Memphis on Beale Street. All of these hotels range from $70-250 per night but also offer discounts every now and then from 10-40% off.
Check out the Experience This 360 Cheap Hotel Room Finder before making a booking.
For the budget conscious and those with a rental car or their own transportation, you can look for some out of the area hotels and motels. East and North Memphis and some hotels around the airport are as low as $44 per night. Again, you get what you pay for and it pays to look at the reviews of other guests before making a decision.
There are very limited B&Bs in Memphis so if you are looking for this type of accommodation start searching and book in advance.
If you vacation to Memphis falls into any of the festivals or especially during any celebration of Elvis' life, be prepared to find a lot of restaurants booked as well as limited options when it comes to hotels. It is best to book well ahead of time and make reservations whenever possible.
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