There is something about Beale Street in Memphis that draws me back in time. There is so much history embedded in the streets of this small little corner of Tennessee. Nestled into a fold of the Big Muddy just south of the confluence of the Wolf river, Memphis serves as an important way point on America’s first superhighway. Even today it is still Tennessee’s largest city even though it’s musical importance has been eclipsed by another town several hundred miles to the east. Of course, today it is a somewhat contrived experience. Beale street teems with many more chain restaurants and tourist trap stores than authentic blues juke joints. But even in the commodified atmosphere I could still sense the importance of what happened here starting in the early 20th century that catapulted Memphis from sleepy port town on the Mississippi River to the city renowned around the world for its food and music.
Soul Food at Blues City Cafe
I’ve always made it a point to ask a local for dinner recommendations. The heart of Memphis is soul food and I wanted to have the most authentic experience possible. Based upon local recommendations, I learned that the Blues City Cafe is the place to go. I was not disappointed. The ribs were moist and tender. The fried catfish likewise breaded to perfection and served hot. I opted for the new potatoes which were extremely flavorful. Beans, cole slaw and Texas toast rounded out a very filling and delicious meal. Of course I had to save room for desert which was Pecan Pie a la mode
…all I can say is that after that meal I needed to take walk….
So it was off to Riverside Drive to see the Mississippi river and view the Mud Island River Park. As I walked down Beale Street I stopped and payed homage to the most famous resident of Memphis, Elvis Presley. The bronze statue of the King of Rock and Roll stands across the street from the famous Orpheum Theatre where many legends of music have performed over the years. The walk along the river was very relaxing and I was able to get some great pictures of some barge traffic
as well as the I-40 bridge span that is jokingly referred to as “Dolly Parton Bridge”…for some odd reason that I can’t seem to figure out.
Overall, I think my first visit to Memphis was a success. I had an opportunity to get a small taste of the town and appreciate the rich heritage of food and music of this American treasure. I did finally understand the Milk Carton Kid’s lyric about the feeling that you get from the streets that the city’s glory days have come and gone. But at the same time I felt that even in this town that has lost some of it’s edge that hope still exists. Isn’t that what the Blues is all about? Aren’t we supposed to be searching for that sense of hope amid the troubles and despair that characterize our lives? I can’t speak for everyone, but for me I found a reason to hope that better days are coming…and there is no shame in singing about your troubles.
My visit to Memphis will conclude with a visit to Graceland…so stay tuned for the next update. As always, tell me what you think in the comments or shoot me an email. Don’t forget to like and share these posts!