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Where to Eat and Drink in Memphis

PHOTO: Bar DKDC

Choosing which restaurant or bar to visit is never a quick decision, especially when it's in Memphis, Tennessee.

With barbecue joints seemingly every few feet and unique options scattered across the city like The Majestic Grille, a 1930s theatre turned restaurant that screens black-and-white films, this food scene will please gourmands and atmospheric foodies alike. We’ve selected a few options to satisfy all caliber of tastebuds for every meal of the day and a nightcap too.

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Brother Juniper's

WHERE: East Memphis

What: Breakfast

A local favorite, Brother Juniper’s is set in an old-school diner. Local art hangs on every wall, and each month the restaurant raises money for a local charity. Vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, the diner offers an extensive menu of continental breakfast items as well as Greek-influenced mains such as the spanakopita omelet or garden and the lamb omelet. Arrive early to avoid a wait, or suffer with patience as bread is pulled from the oven.

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Café Keough

WHERE: Downtown

What: Breakfast

Café Keough makes some of the best lattes and cappuccinos in Memphis. For light fare in an airy setting, this is the restaurant to choose. Blending old and new, the café repurposed the building that houses it, using the original granite but adding its own stylistic touches: white subway tiles to travel memorabilia from the owner Kevin Keough’s previous trips. If you’re feeling particularly European, try the Parisian breakfast: coffee, juice, boiled egg, croissant, and jam.

bibimbap
PHOTO: Shutterstock
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Kwik Chek

WHERE: Midtown

What: Lunch

For the best bibimbap or bibimbap burger, visit Kwik Chek, a former gas station. It has hardly changed since its days as a fueling station, but looks are often deceiving. Order at the grill, choose a drink from the fridge, a side from the countertop displays, and pay on the way out at the cash register. Seating is limited, so consider taking your order to go.

 

 

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B.B. King's Blues Club

WHERE: Downtown

What: Lunch

Beale Street may be brushed aside as a tourist trap to be avoided, but B.B. King’s Blues Club is truly Memphis. Launched in 1991, King opened the first of five locations, but none surpass the original. Though live music fills the club daily, check the calendar to plan which band to see as well as what time to make the reservation. Reservations are not required, but the restaurant fills up quickly. Go for the barbecue and stay for the house band.

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Beauty Shop

WHERE: Cooper-Young

What: Dinner

Beauty Shop, located in Cooper-Young, a quirky neighborhood filled with the hip and historic, is a tasteful, modern take on Pricilla Presley’s former hair salon turned restaurant and lounge. Walk past the bar’s two-tone stools and countertop punctuated with shampooer’s sinks to dine in an enclosed booth surrounded by hair drying chairs. It is difficult to go wrong here, but try the romanesco cauliflower to start and the warm farmer’s market salad as a main.

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Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar

WHERE: Downtown

What: Dinner

Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar serves both food and drink in flights, or a group of three or more smaller portions, in the heart of downtown. In a simple setting, diners may choose to create their flight or one of the chef-selected pairings. Each entrée is also accompanied by a suggested wine flight to tastefully compliment the meal.

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Restaurant Iris

WHERE: Midtown

What: Dinner

Restaurant Iris is set in a converted bungalow and features French-Creole dishes made from local, seasonal ingredients. A James Beard Award semifinalist, Chef Kelly English brings traditional flavors from his native southern Louisiana with precise execution. Try the shrimp with delta grits and andouille sausage, or indulge in the five-course tasting menu available on weekdays. For large groups or private room events, call roughly three weeks ahead to ensure a reservation.

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Earnestine and Hazel's

WHERE: Downtown

What: Drinks

Earnestine and Hazel’s is as gritty as dive bars come, but the stories that surround this establishment are legends. Once frequented by Sam Cook, B.B. King, and Chuck Berry, the bar was once a brothel. Go upstairs to visit what was Ray Charles’ regular room. Stay late enough on a Saturday night to see Nate, the well-dressed second-story bartender, close up to head off to church on Sunday morning. Drop in on a weeknight to hear all the best stories from the managers.

Mollies
PHOTO: Dan Ball Courtesy of Mollie Fontaine Lounge
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Mollie Fontaine Lounge

WHERE: Victorian Village

What: Drinks

The Mollie Fontaine Lounge is set in a former Victorian home that was, in 1886, a wedding present to Mollie Fontaine from her father. While the gifted home was being built, Fontaine and her husband lived in her father’s house across the street; however, after losing a child and her husband there, it is said that she now haunts the room where they died. Tinted lights and a swanky mix of Victorian and modern furniture make the lounge an comfortable perch as well as a pleasant change from clubs and dive bars.

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Bar DKDC

WHERE: Cooper-Young

What: Drinks

Back in artsy Cooper-Young and next door to Beauty Shop, Bar DKDC is an eclectic watering hole that hosts live music. Order a beer or a glass of wine at the iridescent-tiled bar and take a seat near the door to get a closer look at the painted masks of animals’ faces arranged along the wall. Whether it is jazz and groove or house and electronic, drop by after 10:30 p.m. to find a beat.

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Loflin Yard

WHERE: Downtown

What: Drinks

Step up to the front window or head to the rear bar at Loflin Yard to order the latest seasonal cocktail creation. Open a tab, and find a seat near the stream that runs through the outdoor space, or cozy up to a fire pit. Thanks to the register system, a tab can be updated from any bar on the grounds, which means the next round is never far. With an ever-changing cocktail menu and featured events like live music or s’mores kits, stop by often to keep up.

Alex's-Tavern-2
PHOTO: Facebook | Alex's Tavern
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Alex's Tavern

WHERE: Midtown

What: Drinks

Alex’s Tavern claims to be Memphis’s oldest locally owned bar, since 1953. The room is dark, the jukebox is loaded with the best of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, and photos of Clint Eastwood line the walls. For a drink with locals in the neighborhood topped with hangover-dissipating post-midnight grease, take a seat here.

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Wiseacre Brewing Company

WHERE: East Memphis

What: Drinks

Try one of Wiseacre Brewing Company‘s 10 pours on tap. Visitors can choose to stay inside at a communal table, but better yet, opt for the outdoor patio next to the silo in the back. With chairs that can be moved like wheelbarrows, groups can rearrange the space to accommodate all. The brewery opens at 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and 1:00 p.m. on weekends, but check the calendar for special events.