48(ish) Hours in Memphis

Photography by Chip Chockley

Most Memphians have a short list of “things to do with visitors”—and we absolutely want you to trust your friends when visiting the Bluff City. However, for those of you who have trust issues or don’t have friends in town, see below for our suggestions for an action-packed weekend trip with lots and lots of food stops.

Our guide focuses on activities in the heart of the city. All of our suggestions, save a few late-night ones, are kid-friendly but not exactly kid-centric. We also make sure to note the barbecue hot spots, best coffee shops and local breweries for those of you who appreciate the finer things in life.

Memphis Farmers Market

Booking a room

We suggest getting a hotel room downtown or an Airbnb in Midtown. (The Cooper-Young neighborhood is centrally located and especially walkable.) Foodies will like downtown’s Arrive Hotel and Central Station Hotel for their excellent in-house dining options.

Getting around

In Memphis, we like to drive, though anyone from a big city will find us quite walkable. In addition to Lyft and Uber, we have a city-wide bike share program, Explore Bike Share, that includes electric bikes; scooters from several different companies scattered around town; and a trolley on Main Street.

Catherine & Mary’s

Central BBQ

Friday: Downtown

Head straight to the Rendezvous and get your barbecue fix. You’ll find mostly locals, not tourists, before the weekend kicks into high gear. On Fridays and Saturdays, they offer a free starter of rice and beans from the time they open until they run out . (Keep in mind that you have a lot of eating to do on this trip!) We recommend the ribs, the Greek salad, and the sausage and cheese plate. If you’ve never had barbecue nachos, go ahead and try those too. (Vegetarians can enjoy the bean and rice nachos.) Dining alone? Head to the bar and join the regulars.

OK, time to do some walking! (Or you can take a nap—we won’t judge.) Things to check out between meals: the famous Peabody hotel ducks, the Ernest Withers photography collection on Beale Street, and the National Civil Rights Museum. On Mud Island you can follow the “mini Mississippi,” a scale replica of the lower Mississippi River, and take a selfie with the “Memphis” sign.Follow it up with Main Street shopping, or walk to Arkansas along the Harahan Bridge—known officially as Big River Crossing. Music lovers should find time to tour the legendary Sun Studio.

Itta Bena

Ready for a drink? Wiseacre’s downtown taproom features tons of indoor and outdoor space to relax and sip, as well as a killer in-house pizza option thanks to Little Bettie. Ghost River Brewing Company was the first locally owned craft brewery in Memphis. Stop by their taproom on South Main for their signature Ghost River Gold golden ale or something a little more bold, like the Midnight Magic. They now have a second taproom at the end of Beale Street with a full bar, plus in-house food from New Wing Order. Beale isn’t for everyone, but if you time it just right, a cocktail at the bar inside Itta Bena above BB King’s Blues Club around sunset is pretty magical, thanks to the blue windows. If whiskey is your thing, head over to Old Dominick Distillery on Front Street for a tasting of locally distilled spirits.

Old Dominick Distillery

The Gray Canary

The Gray Canary

The Gray Canary

Foodies in search of fine dining should make dinner reservations at Bishop, Catherine & Mary’s, or The Gray Canary, all of which are owned and operated by James Beard nominees Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman. For more casual fare, try another locally owned restaurant like Pontotoc Lounge, South of Beale (SOB), Good Fortune, Longshot, or Bardog.

If it’s the last Friday of the month, check out Trolley Night on South Main. Many businesses stay open late and have specials. Depending on the time of year, you may also catch outdoor music or a Redbirds baseball game.

Find a spot along the river and catch the Mighty Lights on the I-240 bridge—a 10-minute light show on the hour and half hour (unless a barge turns the lights off). Late-night party people can dance the night away at Paula & Raiford’s Disco, Ernestine & Hazel’s, or anywhere on Beale Street.

Saturday: Midtown

Early birds should absolutely hit one of the Saturday farmers markets—we suggest the year-round Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market or the downtown Memphis Farmers Market, open April to October. Each has so much more than produce. You can meet the locals, chat with a farmer, pick up a loaf of bread or a bouquet of flowers, and enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee from Vice & Virtue.

Payne’s Bar-B-Q

Memphis Farmers Market

If you are in Cooper-Young, you can easily walk to the Johnny Cash statue, local record label Goner Records, Cooper-Young Gallery + Gift Shop, and Memphis Made Brewing. You are also awfully close to Payne’s Bar-B-Q (best known for their mustard slaw and fried bologna) and the TacoNganas truck (best known for their birria tacos and consom

Memphis Made Brewing

Memphis Made Brewing

Head on over to Crosstown Concourse so you can tell your friends all about our “vertical urban village.” In addition to just nosing around and exploring—don’t miss the Memphis Listening Lab—you’ll find lots of places to eat and drink at Crosstown. Global Café, Pizza Trasimeno, Mempops, Sweet Magnolia Gelato, the Art Bar, and Crosstown Brewing are a few of our favorites.

It’s a short walk or bike ride to Overton Park, where you can explore the Old Forest, see art on display in the Brooks museum, visit the Overton Park Shell where Elvis once played, or just sip a $2.50 can of local beer on the patio of the Abe Goodman Golf Clubhouse, reopening later this year after renovations.

Abe Goodman Golf Clubhouse

OvertonPark

Overton Park

Continue walking (or biking) through the park to the Broad Avenue Arts District. Here you’ll find lots of locally owned shops for Memphis-made-and-approved souvenirs. (City & State has a great selection of local and regional goods and an excellent coffee program to boot.) Along the road you’ll also find Society Memphis, an indoor skate park with a coffee shop; Civil Axe Throwing lounge; artist studios; and several watering holes and eateries, including the original Wiseacre Brewing, the Hampline brewery, The Liquor Store, The Cove, Sugar Ghost, Muddy’s Bake Shop, and Salt | Soy (all solid choices).

City & State

City & State

CityState04

The Liquor Store

Late-night Midtown hot spots include Kelly English’s latest concept, Panta, featuring a vibrant space, small plates, craft cocktails, and a late-night kitchen. There’s also Tonica in the Evergreen neighborhood, Cameo at Union and McLean, Bar Keough on Cooper and Peabody, Bar DKDC in Cooper-Young, B-Side just past Overton Square, and the Hi Tone in the Crosstown area. Live music can be found at the latter three on any given night. Find dive-bar heaven, replete with late night snacks, at Slider Inn in Cooper-Young or Alex’s Tavern in Vollintine Evergreen. Slider has lots of little burgers, perfect French fries, a year-round patio, and a full bar. Alex’s has two juke boxes, beer, shuffleboard, and Greek-flavored “Rocky burgers.”

Gay Hawk Restaurant

Sunday: South Memphis/Whitehaven

If you’ve followed our advice at all, you should wake up totally exhausted. Sip a perfect pour-over at Dr. Bean’s; then stuff your face with sweet potato pancakes in Elvis’s booth at the Arcade Restaurant or hit Cooper-Young’s stylish Beauty Shop for their A+ brunch, including giant mimosas and bloodys.

Once you are fueled up, hit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music at 10 a.m. for a self-guided tour and load up on records, tees, and books in the gift shop. Then do a drive-by of Graceland (maybe stop for a selfie outside the gates) and check out the service at Al Green’s Full Gospel Tabernacle church. (He takes the pulpit around noon.) End your trip with a bellyful of soul food at the iconic Four Way, Chef Tam’s Underground Cafe, or SugaShack on Beale.

Have a great time and tag us in your photos! @ediblememphis

Stacey Greenberg is the editor in chief of Edible Memphis. You can follow her at @nancy_jew.

Chip Chockley, an attorney by day, has been a professional photographer since 2008. Things that make him happy include tacos, mai tais and his wife and kids. @chipchockley