Graceland and other music history destinations may be what initially draws visitors to Memphis, but its booming food scene makes them want to stay a bit longer. Barbecue is prominent but is served in innovative ways these days, and it isn’t hard to find great sandwiches and other meats. From upscale to gritty, these restaurants should make up your foodie bucket list.
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Hog and Hominy
Hog and Hominy has gotten some well-deserved attention in magazines like Bon Appetit and Southern Living, for their wood-fired Italian fare. Try the extra cheesy pizza with Quattro Formaggi, taleggio, fontina, mozzarella, parmesan and roasted garlic—it’s the ultimate artisan cheese bread! Don’t overlook the small plates and other fares, like the Wood Fired Oysters, Poutine, polenta or collards, which are all created with unusual, creative ingredients.
The Majestic Grille
Fall in love with the restored atmosphere of this eatery, which is set within a historic movie theater. Movies, from back in the day, of course, are displayed continually inside the architectural beauty. Now to the food—breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner are served, but brunch is the best. Artichoke Benedict and the Smoked Salmon Hash are both served with killer breakfast potatoes and a creamy hollandaise sauce.
Every town has barbecue places, but this is a favorite of the locals that has been passed on to tourists whom totally agree. Hole in the walls are always the best, and this literally “Cozy Corner” has fall off the bone ribs. However, we have to say the Barbecue Spaghetti is their most eye-catching and taste bud satisfying menu item. Who knew a combo of fresh noodles, sauce and smoked meat could be so harmonious. Last but not least, the sweet potato pie and banana pudding are a must, even if you are full.
The Flying Fish
A restaurant that doesn’t do tips? Interesting. They also fill the position for great fried seafood in Memphis. Catfish, shrimp and oyster breading is light and crisp, and non-fried items like crab legs, burgers, chicken and mudbugs—aka crawfish—grace the menu. All time best meal would have to be an oyster po’boy and lobster stew. Participate in the hilarious fishing “Liars Wall” by bringing in a photo of yourself with your catch, and fib about the actual size.
The Terrace at Mud Island
The Terrace at Mud Island’s river setting and open window design means panoramic views and beautiful sunsets with well-blended cocktails. With a short and sweet menu, it still can be difficult to choose between the salmon board, charcuterie plate, duck quesadilla, lamb sliders, honey pork belly and pimento cheese balls. Main entrees include only two things—tender steak and a glazed salmon.
Maciel's Tortas & Tacos
Authentic, made to order Mexican food is hard to find, but Memphis has it. The food is simple, straight forward and real—there’s so much flavor. The Mexican Sandwich comes with your choice of shrimp, steak, chicken or egg, paired with mayonnaise, onion, jalapeños, onions, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, and beans. Tacos don’t get more authentic, and the chorizo topped tortillas are spot on. Other important factors—the salsa is homemade, and there are tons of people filing in and out, so you know it’s good.
Absolutely adorable—Lunchbox Eats features a school themed atmosphere complete with menus that look like ruled notebooks, along with pencils and quiz sheets for ordering. That’s actually a great ordering system. While childlike in appearance, gourmet sandwiches and sides like kale chips and avocado fries are presented on cafeteria trays. If we had to pick a sandwich favorite, it would have to be the Homeroom Chicken & Waffle.
Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
From collards, mac n‘ cheese, baked beans, fried okra, slaw to fries, all of the southern sides are pretty good. The chicken, however, is downright fantastic—Gus’s has definitely earned that “world famous” title. Fried until super crispy, the outer crust is perfectly battered—not too heavy. A spicy rub is used to give the chicken a ton of extra flavor and bite, which goes great with the juicy, tender meat on the inside. It’s a pleasant twist on classic fried chicken.
Marlowe's Ribs & Restaurant
Crazy good ribs with house-made chips and Elvis décor equals a win! Marlowe’s is a truly special place to dine in Memphis. Holding tightly to their “King” theme, seven pink Cadillacs set ready to pick up hungry customers from their hotel and bring them to the Elvis Presley Boulevard barbecue joint. You can’t leave without trying the Crispy Crème Banana’s Foster Sunday which consists of ice cream, peanut butter sauce and sauteed bananas piled over a donut.
If you’re going to drop a chunk of change at a high-end restaurant, it should be phenomenal. Folk’s Folly beyond exceeds expectations in meat mastery while executing other dishes flawlessly as well. But this is the place to get steak—artfully prepared and cut with precision, the New York Strip, ribeyes, Porterhouse and filets cut like butter and melt in your mouth. We can’t think of a meal more fit for a “King” in Memphis.