March 5, 2015
In the mid-South, as Memphis Tennessee is known, there is no shortage of restaurant gems or unique experiences in this land of Elvis. And no, I’m not talking about the overly touristy Beale Street downtown or the Elvis Presley sites; I’m talking about really local places you will find nowhere else. I only know about them because I actually lived there.
Starting with the staples, there are two BBQ restaurants that should not be missed if you are in the area ‐ Interstate BBQ & Germantown Commissary. Located in a fairly industrial neighborhood on the southwest side of the city, Interstate BBQ offers the best in pulled pork sandwiches that I have ever tasted. It was here I learned that putting coleslaw on your sandwich only makes it better, and washing it all down with an ice cold Dr. Pepper makes it divine. With it’s casual atmosphere and mostly blue-collar clientele this place feels like home as soon as you walk in. If you want a bit more upscale, you can head to the eastern suburb of Germantown where you will find the small, well-run Germantown Commissary. Known mostly for their BBQ ribs, they also offer BBQ shrimp, tamales, and a plethora of decadent desserts (so save some room!).
If you prefer your meat to have wings, you must try Gus’ Fried Chicken. Originally started in Mason, a tiny town east of Memphis proper, it has now grown into a franchised business opening locations in other places. So if you want the authentic experience, you need to go to this specific Gus’ location. When you walk in the décor is about as basic as you can get complete with folding tables, plastic chairs and silverware, and no air conditioning. Rumor has it that the original location burned down from a grease fire (go figure!) but was rebuilt pretty much the same way. Now, I must preface this by saying I don’t usually care for chicken, but Gus’ is amazing. I ate an entire plate myself. If you are visiting in the summer just make sure to dress in cool clothes, and possibly bring your own utensils, as the plastic ones are a bit flimsy!
Lastly, if you are into nightlife, you should definitely hit up Paula & Raiford’s Disco. In all my travels I have never found another place that has a light-up disco floor (like in Saturday Night Fever), poles to dance on, and fog machines galore. The club is in a new larger location than the original, but Raiford (now an octogenarian) is still the DJ and his daughter Paula now runs the business. They are only open Friday and Saturday nights, and this is the place to go for an after party. They even have a limo they will send to pick you up if you are nearby. When I first started going here they used to only sell 40 oz beers, but now have a full bar in the new location. The crowd is usually a good mix of all different kinds of people, and the music is awesome. It’s well worth the steep cover charge for this Memphis-only experience!