We continued winding our way through rural Mississippi finally crossing over to Tennessee and on to our goal of spending a few days wandering and eating our way through Memphis.
Originally settled by the Spanish in the late 1700’s, Memphis survived the Civil War to become one of the country’s cultural beacons. Blues artists launched their careers here, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis and the nearly century-old Orpheum Theater still features shows, concerts and films. But truthfully, it’s the promise of B.B. King and BBQ that gets Rorie “Lead Foot” Russell going 20 miles an hour over the speed limit on the 2-lane country roads!
Before checking in to our amazing B&B, we headed to the noise and funk of Beale Street in downtown Memphis. The blues were introduced to the world by bandleader W. C. Handy and the sounds of this delta music reverberate up and down this historic, musical mecca. The pedestrian-friendly street is jam-packed with people, music clubs, BBQ joints and touristy shops selling Elvis t-shirts and B.B. King key chains. It reminded us of a smaller version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
We couldn’t resist stopping in at B.B. King’s Blues Club named for the legendary Blues Boy (which is where the B.B. came from) to pay homage to the musician. You can just feel the history here. On the outside of the building is a poignant banner on which thousands of people have signed their names in a display of public sympathy after his recent death.
Just down the street is the historic A. Schwab’s General Store. It’s been operating for more than a century and sells everything including voodoo paraphernalia and 44 different kinds of suspenders. Rorie zeroed right in on the old fashioned jars of candy and of course the amazing counter where they serve up ice cream, milkshakes and pie.
After boogying to the music on Beale Street (thanks Judi for teaching me the smooth moves!), drooling over the menus at all the BBQ joints, and stopping to read every plaque commemorating famous Memphis legends, we needed to whet our whistle so we ducked into the old Blues City Cafe for a quick cocktail. Can you say “Hurricanes”?
After the “pause that refreshes”, we headed out to midtown Memphis where our B&B was located. This area of Memphis is just minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, but is like being in a different world. Here you’ll find the grand stone buildings and lovely grounds of Rhodes College, gracious homes, rolling lawns, wide streets, artsy bungalows, and the amazing Memphis Zoo – a welcome respite from the chaos of Beale Street.
The minute we walked into our wonderful “home” for the next two nights, we were immediately engulfed by the aroma of baked chocolate chip cookies. OMG…
To say Rorie was a happy camper would be an understatement. She wouldn’t even go to her room until she inhaled the biggest most decadent chocolate chip cookie ever! This was our room:
Fortunately, Taryn, our multi-talented, energizer-bunny hostess happens to be an amazing baker on top of being an inn-keeper, tour-guide, blues singer extraordinaire and songwriter. We hit it off with her immediately and expect to be life-long, long distance friends. If you’re anywhere near Memphis, you’ve got to stay at her place.She provides an experience not to be missed. Her cookies and biscuits alone are worth the trip! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/194998?s=22
Here’s a clip of Taryn singing her smooth, bluesy version of the Allman Brothers Band’s Statesboro Blues.
After resting up for a few hours, we were of course starving. Rather than going back into the city for BBQ, Taryn directed us to one of the best places ever for Memphis-style ribs and pulled pork, The Commissary in the Germantown area of Memphis.
The minute you enter this place you’re hit with the powerful smell of “Q” smoke and spices, and you just know it’s going to be an awesome Memphis BBQ experience. And, in case you have any doubts about how good this place really is, all you have to do is look at the walls lined with pictures of the famous people who have eaten here over the last 25 years including Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Jimmy Buffet, Robert Duvall, Kathy Bates, The Eagles, Aerosmith, and Jack Nicklaus. If you can’t trust their taste in good BBQ, then who can you trust? After a 30 minute wait, which is about how long it took for the longest train we have ever seen rumble through the center of town, we were finally ushered to our table. Let the pig fest begin!
After inhaling a half rack of fall-off-the-bone ribs, pulled pork, beans, slaw, deviled eggs and homemade BBQ seasoned potato chips, we were ready to waddle back to our car – but not before gawking at the two weight lifters behind us plowing through a total of 5 huge desserts after eating their massive meals. Oh to have their metabolism!
Memphis Day 2: Rorie and Bart (AKA Porky Pig and Miss Piggy) are off to Sun Studios, the Blues Hall of Fame, the National Civil Rights Museum and – of course – looking for more amazing BBQ.