Smoked Memphis

The smell of “smoked” fills my nostrils. My fingers are dirty with it. In every neighborhood we’ve visited today, the smell of smokiness wafts through the air. People at home. Restaurants. Everyone. We stood outside the Pink Palace, the home of Mr. Piggly Wiggly himself, in a rather high end neighborhood and smelled the sweet thick smell of smoke. Mmmm deep inhalations.

I haven’t had pork ribs in over a year. This weekend I OD’d. Just before we ate Jeni’s, I had a half of a half slab as I already mentioned. Pat had had a half chicken and selected a vinegar sauce and the sweet mild. I’m sorry to say that his chicken looked “regular.” He wouldn’t eat the sides since many had pork and didn’t look all too appetizing. Sorry, babes, BBQ is for those who eat pork. From Jeni’s we drove directly to Memphis whereby the first question to our hotel front desk was, “Where should we eat BBQ tomorrow?” She said Rendezvous and Germantown Commissary. This spun off a small survey which we conducted with care. The best of Memphis 2012 site said Central BBQ, Germantown Commissary and Corky’s. The lady at Whole Foods said Rendezvous. The two staff at Graceland said BB King’s and denounced any suggestion that we eat elsewhere. The woman had not heard of the other places others had mentioned while the man had. Either way, they said to go to BB King’s. I wasn’t interested because I can get BB King’s up in NY any ole time. I wanted something local. The survey highlighted an interesting point – folks like what they like and they don’t venture.

We started the day with fresh veggie juices at Whole Foods and yoghurts because we knew the kind of damage we were planning. Up next was Graceland. I have to admit I was intrigued, and the king did not disappoint.

There are many pics to share but my faves include the “Taking Care of Business in a Flash” mirrored ceiling basement and the green carpeted walls and ceilings leading to the “Jungle Room.” I don’t know what else I should have expected from a man who wore skin tight jumpsuits with sparkles.

Then we visited his gravesite which took a very long time to walk past. Folks were not trying to move on.

Ahhhhh lunchtime. We had to make a game time decision. Pat looked up Rendezvous and learned it was closed. Central was up to bat. And when we walked around the corner to the entrance, we saw that the Lorraine Motel was across the street. What perfect luck.

Central was a nice choice first because we could listen to some live music and sit outside. How relaxing. Then it was a good choice because my ribs were yum. I ate my entire half slab this time and was surprised I could walk out without a tummy ache. I stole Pat’s Texas toast which amounted to toasted white bread with a lot of butter (or dare I say margarine!?! It was suspiciously margarine-like and I am not embarrassed to say that I devoured my slice). That was the only thing I stole from Pat. His pulled chicken looked like shredded plain chicken to which he added sauces of vinegar, mustard and sweet BBQ. It looked sad. I’m sorry to say that we were not having the same BBQ experience.

We moved on to the Lorraine Motel where we saw the 25-yr protestor, room 306, the famed bathroom, and any number of whodunit scenarios to hopefully help us decide who killed Dr. King. Hmmm … We pointed, we stared, we stood in the place he was shot. I’m glad I visited, but I’m not sure what I gained from the experience. The protestor might be right. Why is his assassination memorialized? He does belong on the Mall standing in honor. If their intent is to develop a National Civil Rights Museum, then I definitely want to learn more about his life and the lives of others who are surely rolling in their graves while we drop it like it’s hot. But I was there like everyone else to stand and point.

Just as we were leaving the Lorraine, we started calling up bake shops. Seems as though Memphis is not known for homemade ice cream, and since the Whole Foods did not sell Jeni’s, baked goods were our target. Muddy’s was closed. Gigi’s was closed. Eclectic closed at 2. I started kicking the ground. Keep holy the Sabbath, but respect out of town guests. Didn’t they think at the least that people visiting to watch Memphis vs the Spurs or the Beatles lovers deserved treats? Well they did not.

We ended up at the Cheesecake Corner at #2 for best desserts. Now aside from my very own cheesecake or my mothers, I really don’t eat it outside. I prefer a light ultra smooth and creamy variety. I don’t like toothpaste, almond paste or downright dense brownie consistency. I like my cheesecake to melt on my tongue. And I like it only so sweet with crunchy soft graham cracker crusts. With that said, the white chocolate slice we chose to share earned a solid B- in my eyes. No, this is a decent grade. Really. Pat said it was the best cheesecake he’d ever had … next to mine (after I raised one brow). While the crust was perfect, and the consistency was smooth, the cream was just a tad too sweet and dense. A tad. I could taste the white chocolate which is great considering it can be a hard flavor to locate. Hmmmm … Not a home run in my book. Here’s a point that really threw me off. The place was a bird sty – literally. There were birds sitting at the entrance in a cage. Birds are not clean. I’ve had two in my life. Bird feed gets everywhere, and it was everywhere. Poop gets everywhere. I didn’t look or else I may have left. They just don’t belong in an establishment with no separation from the patrons. A makeshift office table was erected near the register overflowing with receipts, journal entrying, and junk mail. I liked the homey feel, but the place was too homey. We’d visited the spot where the biz was simply an extension of someone’s home. Now while I dream of having people eat out of my home, I’m just not ok with the lack of appropriate boundaries.

After a little roaming down Beale Street which is a cross between New Orleans and South Street Philly, we walked over to Gus’ where Pat looked at the food and requested that we leave. He wanted fried chicken AND biscuits. He would not have it any other way. Unfortunately in Memphis it is quite the norm to serve sliced white bread plain. He clearly did not read this in his online research. I quite frankly was still digesting my ribs and cheesecake, so I was happy to joyride until bedtime. Or DQ time … In locales where we can’t get a good homemade ice cream, DQ does the job! Don’t judge.

This morning, Memorial Day, we woke up at 4:30am and hit the road back to Nashville. A short pit stop at Loveless Cafe just outside of Nashville, was a perfect last meal to our two-day trip. Light fluffy biscuits, cheesy grits and hot sauce, yum. The scrambled eggs were not good. Why do so many people refuse to whisk their eggs while cooking? What we received were omelette eggs. But alas the eggs tasted fine and didn’t get in the way of the full experience. Thank you for those biscuits.

















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