Blues, Barbecue and … a Pyramid?
I love travel, and I love discoveries.
More than that, you all know I love a good travel lesson. And I got all that and more … In Memphis.
As it happens, good fortune recently brought me to the city of Memphis, Tennessee- home of Elvis (do I have to say Elvis and Presley?), the late great B.B.King, Muddy Waters, and dozens of others loved the world over.
I knew that beyond simply asking who has “the” definitive Memphis Barbecue, I wanted to learn more about this surprisingly pretty city.
Located in the extreme southwest corner of Tennessee, beside the mighty Mississippi River, a stones throw from the states of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri, the historic city of Memphis counts its place at the top of uniquely American blues music history, just as Nashville across the state does for country and western.
In fact, the state of Tennessee could well lay claim to the being our most musical state, or at least the most diversified musically. Memphis has legendary Sun Records, where Elvis Presley recorded his first records, and which is known as the “birthplace of rock & roll”. It is also home to the famous Stax Records, which gave us rhythm and blues- the Memphis sound, a distinctive R&B/southern soul style, as well as jazz and more.
Tennessee has been at the crossroads, quite literally, of much of the history of the United States since the late 1700’s, so there is much to do in the realm of vintage architecture and history exploring.
For a travel venue, Memphis seems to have something for everyone. I’m a history fan, as you might have guessed. But my husband, Joe, loves music. And if it’s Irish music so much the better. (Where there is Irish music there must be Guinness beer so that may also have something to do with it!)
Now you wouldn’t think Memphis, as Home of the Blues, and the Birthplace of Rock and Roll would cater to his tastes, but no kidding, right down on Beale Street, amid all the sax and guitar licks, you’ll find Silky O’Sullivan’s. Home of the famous “Irish Diving Goats”- I’m not making this up! (Just Google it and you’ll see.)
It’s impossible to eat at all the great cafes, or listen long enough to catch-all the music there is on Beale Street, a big muddy flowing freely in the street, mingling sounds from one band to another. Believe me I tried!
You know I love great barbecue…
Texas barbecue is quite different from most as it relies on smoke and “dry rub” spices rather than sweet, sticky barbecue sauces for the most part. Memphis barbecue is legendary so I set out to find out who had the best barbecue and what made it great. Friends had recommended the Rendezvous- an old-time tradition in a back alley near the famed Peabody Hotel (yes, the one with the ducks!)
Since the Rendezvous was closed this night, and my next recommended joint was too far to walk, I settled in at the Blues City Cafe. Oddly enough they also had tamales on the menu- suddenly I was torn between Tex-Mex Memphis style and Barbecue. Twist my arm, I ordered some of each. Surprisingly the tamale had just the right notes of cumin and pork-to-mush ration, but it didn’t have “gravy”- the red sauce that often accompanies tamales back home. However, the ribs did have some sauciness, where our Texas one’s don’t usually. Go figure?
Of course, no visit to Memphis would be complete with a visit to the Rock & Soul Museum (really well worth the time and so close to all the Beale Street action, you can’t miss it!), as well as the newly opened Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Who knew there was so much to discover?
And you notice I haven’t even mentioned Graceland? Elvis Presley’s home needs its own post for sure. I didn’t have time to go to Graceland on this visit, but will certainly make time when I return with Joe.
So there’s the blues, and the barbecue. But… what about that pyramid?
Where does that fit in?
On our last night in town, our group of conference buddies tallied up all we had seen and done- and it’s definitely much more than you want me to post here, for sure!
Everyone agreed that Memphis had been a really cool place to come for the conference because it had all the things visitors need: a walkable downtown with lots of interesting places to eat, activities to do (music, history, tours, funky fun things like the offbeat “pedal bar” I put in my last post) and, of course, friendly people. We all felt very safe walking around day and evening… so what more could we ask?
We all agreed that a visit to “the Pyramid” was a must. We had been seeing these gorgeous sunsets and people hanging out literally 25 stories in the air at some kind of observation deck overlooking the river. What we didn’t know, but were about to find out, is that the pyramid is the home of an awesome open-air sky bar at the pinnacle of the pyramid. Seriously you have to check this thing out.
But what is only slightly odd, is that it sits at the top of a ginormous Bass Pro Shop… I can’t even begin to describe the concept of a camping/outdoor store with a home-made-fudge shop on the ground floor and a bar/restaurant on the top. At $10 a pop to take the glass elevator up there, it’s definitely a money-maker. And well worth every penny!
So whaddya think? Were you aware that Memphis was so cool? Or is this a secret only to me?
Where else do you recommend for a visit? Any good barbecue joints where you are? If not barbecue, what’s the local flavor favorite? Let me know so I can check it out!
Thanks for sharing with me today! Leave me a comment and your blog so everyone can visit you too…