by guest author Benjamin Fulfer
Memphis’ mystic allure leaves people with mixed emotions about this city. For some it is, “Where are the crowds.. where are the people? Do people even live here?” While others have the emotion of “this place is magical and I just can't put my finger on it….”
My name is Benji K, and I am a creative who loves to tell stories of other people’s passions.
I am an avid sports fan. I love unlocking people’s confidence through fashion. I’ll always drink a cashew milk cortado. Oh, and I also help brands find their voice and identity.
But more than all that I am a Memphian (one who is from Memphis.. yes that is what we call ourselves and we love it.)
I love my city more than almost anything in the entire world (it’s okay Mom, I love you more).
My hope is this… you find the mystery of my city as fantastic as I do in these snapshots of some of the places that make Memphis uniquely…
Located in the urban community of Crosstown Concourse, Art Bar is the imagination of the creative geniuses in Crosstown Arts. A funky, refreshing setting with sneak away corners, you find yourself losing your self in the retro decor and great cocktails.
CATHERINE AND MARY'S
Chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman have created a culinary scene in Memphis that generates not only nostalgia for our city but a fresh view into what’s possible in the future. With the exposed concrete, low lighting and outrageously good food, this Italian fusion restaurant will not disappoint. Doll up in your best dressed self, or just grab a seat at the bar, either way your experience will be one of elegance and ease.
The Pinch District of downtown Memphis has been long neglected as it is located in the shadows of both the Bass Pro Shop’s monster of a store in the old sports venue, the Pyramid, and the medical giant St. Jude. However Comeback Coffee is a newly minted coffee shop welcoming all comers to get a good brew and “stay a while.”
Tapping in at one of the 20th largest city parks in America, Shelby Farms offers Memphians over 4,500 acres of outdoor activities. Kayaking, food, kite flying, bike rentals, freebee golf courses and the greatest leash-free dog park in the world are just a few examples of what this park offers to keep us Southerners soaking up the sun.
Like most cities, the history of Memphis has it's darker moments. My city is stained by corruption, hate, and a lot of pain towards people of color. From MLK being assassinated here to the grossly under-served neighborhoods of color, we still have a long way to go. However, some of the greatest heroes of our town can be found in a small band of powerful artists in the prominently black neighborhood of Orange Mound. The CLTV is a collective of black artists taking their power back through music, art, clothing and experience. Offering free studio space for other artists of color, this group is moving Memphis in a new exciting direction.
If you are from Memphis you may hear the term “grit and grind” a lot. The term comes from one of the most revered sports stars in our city’s recent past, Tony Allen. Well the new Society Skatepark and coffee shop on Broad Ave in Midtown is taking that to another level. Offering people of all ages the opportunity to have a year round skatepark, along with specialty coffee, this it taking the grit and grind to another level.
BIG RIVER CROSSING
Memphis is snuggled up to the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. The mysterious and ghostly energy of her waves breathes life into the city. So when the Big River Crossing opened last year, giving walkers, bikers, runners and anyone else the opportunity to walk the southern bridge across the Mississippi river to neighboring Arkansas, Memphians flocked to it. With its ever changing lights and awe inspiring views of our city on the bluff, the BRC is becoming a must see sight in Memphis.
GUS'S FRIED CHICKEN
I may be biased but I am pretty sure Gus's Fried Chicken created fried chicken. The perfect crispy breaded outside with the super secret recipe of spice to the perfectly soft meat… there is no other chicken that can compare. There are franchises of this great chicken popping up all over the nation, but nothing compares to one of the OG spots in the heart of downtown Memphis. (pro tip: always order the mac and cheese… ALWAYS).
ERNESTINE AND HAZEL'S
One thing about Memphis is that you feel the history in the air. You walk down the street and you feel the ghosts and the spirits of times past. You smell the recipes that have been passed from generation to generation in small hole-in-the-wall restaurants. These spirits cannot be felt more than in the wonderful dive bar Ernestine and Hazel's, in the history arts district of South Main in downtown. The character, stories and energy of this special place is second to none. Known previously as a brothel, this bar offers only beer, good tunes on the jukebox and the famous Sol Burger. Upstairs, you'll find hidden room after hidden room, allowing you to get lost in Memphis past.
The Cooper Young neighborhood has been stated to be one of the best neighborhoods in America. One of the biggest reasons is right at the intersection of Cooper Ave and Young Ave. There you'll find a collection of Memphis’ favorite spots. Bar DKDC is my favorite spot in the neighborhood. One any give night you can pop in and see some of the best Memphis music acts, traveling bands from all over the world, or your best friend from high school. With its art gallery vibe, you will be flush with inspiration and love.
Nothing cures the soul like the long time Memphis shop, Gibson's Donuts. I am pretty sure it is the only donut shop in the world, no offense to all your other submissions. From the owner Don DeWeese, who may or may not throw a donut hole at you as you walk in, or the late night deals that you can scoop up, as it is 24/7, there is nothing like it. I have never seen two people fight over a donut, but I would not be surprised if it happened over a Gibson’s. The plain glazed from Gibson's will always be my favorite late night snack.
Being fairly well travelled, I have seen some cool places. Austin has taco trucks. Nashville has honky tonks. Vegas has night clubs. When I moved back to this city in 2015, I longed for a vibe that was completely Memphis. Loflin Yard is that place for me. Located off the train tracks on the south side of downtown, Loflin Yard (better known as just Loflin by the locals), created an indoor/outdoor adult playground for a year round experience that is truly Memphis. With tin roofing, rustic bars, huge fire pits and plenty of drinks, Loflin is a place you can get lost in leisure as the slow southern summers move along.
If you enjoyed this Memphis city and food guide, check out our other guest-written blogs.