Ten Feet Off of Beale

It’s impossible to visit Memphis without getting a repetitive earworm of Marc Cohn’s 1991 hit “Walkin’ in Memphis”.  (If you don’t know it, get thee to YouTube and check it out.) Cohn’s autobiographical, Grammy-winning song brought Beale Street – and most of Memphis – to the masses. Walkin’ in Memphis mentions many of the city’s highlights, from catfish on the table to gospel in the air.  Beale Street is routinely blocked to traffic for festivals and other events that pack it with visitors in the summer. It’s home to restaurants and clubs like BB King’s, Jerry Lawler’s Café, and Pigs – Pork With Attitude. Beale has loads of neon but it respects history, too.

Derek under the Beale St sign in front of BB King's Blue Club

It also features one of the most fascinating stores we’ve ever entered: Schwabs. This creaky, old general store (circa 1876) houses everything to do with Memphis music that a visitor could want plus loads of truly unusual stuff. There’s a section for crystals, incantations and spells, some clothing, hand-made jewelry and candles and loads of other unexpected doodads and whatnots.

We were eyeing BB King’s for lunch so I asked the cashier in a souvenir store if it was a good idea. “Uh-uh”, she said. “It’s dry. It has the best music, but not the best food.” She pointed us to the Blues City Café for the best BBQ on Beale. It was full of locals – always a good sign. And Derek’s huge lunch got the better of him.

huge plate of fries smothered in BBQ rib meat with shredded cheese, chopped onions and lots of BBQ sauceHe ate half in the restaurant, took the rest back with us for supper (we had a fridge and microwave in our room) and still couldn’t finish the whole thing although he said it was delicious. My BBQ rib-topped salad was equally huge and scrumptious but mostly veggies so I conquered it without a problem.

Fascinating history. Friendly service. Good food. And lots of places to walk it off. You’ve got to love Beale.

Getting around Memphis is easy, too. And the highway sign system is helpful when needed, amusing when not. One morning it read: Ain’t nobody got time for a crash!

We came up with a more PC version of this sign:

Overhead highway sign reads Buckle Up Sweetheart

“Buckle up self-identifying gender person, if you’re okay with that.”

Speaking of PC, tomorrow’s post will feature a T-shirt that would almost certainly cause outrage in Ontario. We traveled to a pretty little town that time (deliberately) forgot, and to a repurposed pyramid. Memphis is more than just Elvis and the blues.


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