Monday, June 18, 2007

Soul Week, Soul Food

Just one visit to Memphis and it’s apparent that food plays a major role in Memphis culture, especially soul food. Peppered with both well-known establishments and hole-in-the-wall joints, Memphis serves up some of the best down-home Southern soul food in the country. Here are a few you can’t miss during Soul Week:

Alcenia’s owner B.J. is famous for two things: the hugs she gives every customer who walks in her door and her smothered cabbage, arguably the world’s tastiest version of the typically ho-hum vegetable. The rest of her menu is delightful as well—just be sure to save room for the bread pudding or egg custard pie.
317 N. Main St
(901) 523-0200

With just a dozen tables, Gus’s may not look like a legend, but this unassuming eatery serves up what many folks claim is the best chicken since the invention of the modern frying pan. Gus’s one-of-a-kind spicy seasoned bird has been featured in GQ Magazine, Vogue and USA Today, as well as on The Food Network’s $40 a Day with Rachael Ray and The Travel Channel.
310 S. Front St.
(901) 527-4877

For its atmosphere alone, this brothel-turned-juke joint is not to be missed. And thanks to the world famous Soul Burgers (the flat-top grill is almost constantly filled with the sizzling, spicy patties) you won’t stay hungry while you’re there. The best part? The grill stays open as late as the dance floor does, which is always well into the wee hours.
531 S. Main St.

From North Carolina to Kansas City — and all points in between — towns, cities, states and regions all claim the best barbeque in the world. We in Memphis appreciate their enthusiasm, but ask any of us to concede the title and we’ll say, “When pigs fly.” Be sure to hit these smoke houses during Soul Week:

The Neely Brothers (Patrick, Tony, Gaelin and Mark) may have learned the basics from Uncle Jim, but their recipes are uniquely their own. Neely’s is arguably the perfect representation of Memphis BBQ. Perhaps that’s why it’s served at Memphis Grizzlies and Memphis Tigers home games at FedEx Forum arena. It’s also why their ribs were recently featured on Paula Dean’s Food TV show, Paula’s Party.
670 Jefferson Ave.
(901) 521-9798

This Downtown, back-alley dining room that started in 1948 with a slab of ribs and an old coal chute has blossomed into a barbecue icon over the years. More than the city’s most famous BBQ restaurant, Rendezvous now ships its famous dry-rub ribs all over the world.
52 S. 2nd St.
(901) 523-2746

The most popular sandwich here features traditionally non-Memphis-style sliced beef and a thin, vinegary sauce, and the slow-cooked ribs are on any Q-connoisseur’s short list. But the real innovation at this Downtown staple is the barbecued Cornish hen—served with a few slices of the freshest Wonder Bread anywhere. (The bakery is just blocks away.)
745 N. Parkway
(901) 527-9158

In a city that lives and breathes soul food and bbq, Memphis’ medley of culinary offerings might come as somewhat of a surprise. When you need a little something different during soul week, visit some of our best Downtown Memphis eateries:

It’s not easy to capture the essence of southern cooking while still maintaining a global-contemporary flair, but Stella chef John Kirk does exactly that at this historic Downtown location. With an excellent wine list and an array of eclectic, Delta-inspired seafood and steak entrees, Stella is at once innovative and traditional.
39 S. Main St.
(901) 526-4950

With a menu as artful and creative as its décor (everything from fixtures to barstools has been designed by local artists), Slim’s is one of Memphis’ most original spots. Dishes here can challenge your pronunciation as well as your palate (see the red snapper huachinango in sun-dried blueberry and mint jalapeno sauce), but for the adventurous, the menu supplies a healthy dose of exciting, if occasionally wacky, choices.
83 S. Second St.
(901) 525-7948

Downtown meets the great north woods at this rustic-themed restaurant just across the street from the historic Peabody Hotel. While Big Foot serves everything from fresh Maine lobster to s’mores, the real legend here is the four-pound (yes, four-pound) Sasquatch Burger. Like it’s legendary namesake, this is one monster that has to be seen to be believed. But finish it off in one hour and it’s on the house, plus you’ll get your picture on the Big Foot wall of fame.
97 S. 2nd St
(901) 578-9800

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this comfort food sounds amazing. I'm a sucker for anything fried, it's so bad, but so good. I've never been down to Memphis before, but I think it would be so awesome to check out the local scene there. Speaking of all this great food, ya'll need to watch Miss Paula Deen on Food Network Star on The Food Network this Sunday. Their challenge this week is to make comfort food, and we all know Paula is the expert in that. Can't wait! Also, I work with Bon Appetit and we were recently featured on FNS and we have a contest where you can enter to win a trip to NYC to tour the studios or $1000 in All-Clad cookware. Check it out here

7:40 PM  

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