the wonderful world of veena.

27 June 2013

30 thursdays: 30 favourite places in Memphis.

Memphis has been my "home" in the US for pretty much the last 13 years. I moved here in 2000 as a fresh-faced first-year at Rhodes College and enjoyed a fabulous 4 years there. My parents shifted here 2 weeks after my college graduation in 2004, and I lived with them for a year before I took off for my first sojourn to India. During the years I was gone, Memphis was always the home base I returned to whenever I came back for a visit: my parents are here, a lot of my friends from undergrad are still here, and the best food in the country is here [hey, it matters]. While I am still torn over whether or not I want to settle here [too indecisive to pick one place], I always smile whenever I return to Memphis. It's a city of wonderful people, great places, fantastic music, and fabulous food [trust me], and today I share my favourite places in and around this great city [warning: it's mostly places to eat].

[photos by me except where otherwise noted]

30 favourite places in Memphis:

Rhodes College. oh, Rhodes. the site of my undergraduate adventures. the place where I made some of my best friends. the land of a ton of my favourite memories.

Graceland. I have been visiting Elvis' home since I was a child. Whenever family or friends would visit from out of town, we would take them to Graceland, which meant that by the time I was 12, I had been there approximately 15 times. I could take you through that house blindfolded. I was almost kicked out when I was 4 for running up the stairs. I climbed onto the pink Cadillac back when the cars were still kept at the house. I step on the grass - a major no-no - every time I'm there. It's one of my favourite places in the city, a place of lifetime memories, and you'll never hear me turn down an opportunity to go back.

Beale Street. the place that is synonymous with Memphis. on Monday afternoon, when I ventured down there to take pictures, I had a blast just strolling up and down the street, listening to the music pulsing out of the bars and chatting with the owners and managers of the restaurants. mid-afternoon might actually be my favourite time to wander down there, before it gets crowded and overrun with drunk teenagers and tourists.

FedEx Forum. I've spent many hours over the last 9 years cheering on the Grizzlies at the Forum. I love how the city has embraced this team, and I love how the team has embraced the city. it's been great to see over the years, and I look forward to many more games - regular season and playoffs - in the future.

Gus's Fried Chicken. nobody does fried chicken in Memphis like Gus's. and I'm talking about THE Gus's, the one on Front St. for me, it's the only one that exists.

Huey's. like Gus's and fried chicken, no one does a burger like Huey's. my personal favourite is the Senor Huey, especially on a Sunday to soak up any leftover alcohol in your system. one of my top 5 memories of Huey's is trying to teach my brother and my cousin how to shoot their toothpicks into the ceiling; they took a while but eventually picked up the knack for it. and oh, those cheese fries.

Central BBQ. home of the famous bbq nachos. I discovered Central BBQ a little late into my Rhodes tenure, but once we were introduced, there was no going back.

the Pyramid. I grew up attending Arkansas / UofM basketball games at the Pyramid, and when the Grizzlies moved to Memphis in 2001, I attended as many home games as I could on a student's budget and schedule. I knew they needed a new arena, but that didn't stop me from being disappointed and just a little heartbroken when they announced that a Bass Pro Shop would be moving in and setting up shop. even now, when I drive back into Memphis across that bridge, seeing the Pyramid brings a smile to my face.

the Orpheum. I remember seeing Edgar Allan Poe's The Telltale Heart performed at the Orpheum when I was in high school, and when I enrolled at Rhodes, I promised myself I would try to make it to some of their productions. over the years, I have seen Mamma Mia! [twice], Rent, and Oliver!, and all have been fantastic. if I were to live in Memphis again, I would definitely become a season ticket holder. and one of my goals for the summer is to attend one of their movie screenings; I think Breakfast at Tiffany's is sometime in late-July.

AutoZone Park. the home of the Memphis Redbirds. the first game I attended was my first weekend at Rhodes, when Lisa Jain and I bought tickets off the street for $5, wandered in, and ended up sitting with an entire group of Kappa Sigs. over the years we attended a number of games, sitting on the bluff and stuffing our faces with bbq nachos. when I got back to the States in April, my mother informed me that she wants to attend a Redbirds game, so it appears as though I will be making a few appearances at the park again this summer.

Lenny's. Lenny's Sandwich Shop became a staple of my diet my sophomore year at Rhodes. at some point at the beginning of spring semester, we went there a few times, always on a Wednesday, and lo and behold, a tradition was born. from there on out, for the remainder of sophomore and all of junior years, we had a reserved booth at the Lenny's on Poplar every Wednesday at 5pm. sometimes there were only 3 of us - Ashley Kutz, Jenny Dill, and myself - and other weeks there would be 10 or 12 of us, to the point where we would add a table to our booth and still spill over into the next one. the guys who worked Wednesday nights would routinely give us free drinks, and once they learned how Ashley and I liked our chocolate chip cookies, they would often make a fresh batch just before we arrived so that we would have them fresh from the oven. one time, when my mother picked me up from the airport as I returned from India, we stopped by Lenny's on our way back to Helena, and Steve, the Manager, took one look at the exhaustion on my face and comped both of our dinners, just because he was a nice guy. they opened Lenny's locations closer to campus in my junior and senior years, but we were always loyal to our Lenny's. it was the one and only as far as I was concerned.

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BBQ Shop. another of Memphis' famous bbq joints, BBQ Shop is where I like to go when I'm craving a pulled pork sandwich on Texas Toast. and with its convenient location right around the corner from Rhodes, it was the perfect place when we just wanted to get off campus for a quick bite of some bbq.

Fino's from the Hill. Fino's is one of the reasons I love Midtown Memphis. it's a mom-and-pop place [owned by Arkansans!], it's small and cramped inside [maybe about 12 tables?], it's only open until 6pm, and the food is incredible. I love the sandwiches, I love the salads, I love the spaghetti. I've waited in line for upwards of 30-45 minutes to get food there and not thought twice about it. it's such a friendly little place, and I love it when friends suggest we go there for lunch.

Tom Lee Park. most people know Tom Lee Park as the site of the annual MemphisInMay MusicFest, when it's always rainy and muddy and overrun with people. what a lot of people don't know is that Tom Lee Park is also a great place to have a picnic and toss around the football on a random afternoon, be it a weekend or just an afternoon when no one has class. with the open space and a view of the River [because the Mississippi is the only "River"], it's a great Memphis spot.

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India Palace. India Palace has been one of my happy places since I was in grade school, and it only became more so when I went to college right around the corner. at one point, I was there once a week for dinner with a rotating group of friends. since I started going back and forth between the States and India, the Palace is always one of my first stops when I return and one of my last meals before I leave. I love everything about the place, especially the fact that for the last 10 years, I hardly even get handed a menu, because they already know what I'm going to order. and the free kulfi definitely doesn't hurt, either.

Memphis Zoo. I went to the Memphis Zoo a few times as a kid, but I became a frequent visitor during my Rhodes days. every Tuesday afternoon, all TN residents and students of TN colleges and universities receive free admission, and since the Zoo is across the street from Rhodes, we spent many a nice fall and spring afternoon wandering through Cat Country and hanging out with the howler monkeys. and one of my favourite memories from sophomore year was when we had our Fall Date Party at the Zoo.

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St Jude Children's Research Hospital. everyone knows about the great work that St Jude does for children with cancer and other diseases. I have had a number of friends who have volunteered, interned, and worked there, I have a few special friends who have been treated there, and I served on the board for Up 'til Dawn my senior year to raise money for St Jude's daily operating costs, so the hospital holds a very special place in my heart.

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Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. I was born cross-eyed and had a number of operations to straighten out my eyes and strengthen my eye muscles, and all of them were at Le Bonheur. my doctor, Dr Hyatt, and all the staff at Le Bonheur were fantastic, and every time I went there, my mother and I had wonderful experiences. Le Bonheur is also where Jacqueline and Curtis Schaffhauser and my brother and I got our tonsils out together circa 1985. needless to say, the Le B played a major role in my childhood.

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Barnes & Noble. I used to study at Barnes & Noble a lot during my Rhodes days, but I developed a deep affinity for it when I worked at the Germantown Parkway location from May 2006 to July 2007. it was pretty much my universe for those 14 months, and every time I'm back in town, I pay them a visit. just last month, Robert, the Store Manager, told me I can always come back if I need a job.

Kwik Check. as shady as it looks from the outside, that's how amazing the food is once you venture inside. when we were at Rhodes, we were always worried that Kwik Chek was one day going to go out of service, and we wouldn't have access to our Fireball of Freedoms and Dragons and Zeuses and whatnot. luckily [?] for us, during the crazy wind storm of 2003, Kwik Chek was only of only 4 or so restaurants in midtown that had power, so there were lines out the door. the boom in business has brought a number of renovations over the year, and now every time I go back, I'm always a little bit in awe of how far it's come from those early days.

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Silky's. I know it's a cliche to go to Silky's, but it's cliche because it really is a great place. the guys on the pianos are ridiculously snarky, the outdoor live music is always entertaining, the goats are always good for a laugh, and the divers are a rite of passage for all Memphians.

BB King's. I feel like the name says it all.

King's Palace Cafe. back in the days before I was old enough to get into places like Silky's and BB King's [which was all of my undergraduate days, by the way], I used to be a frequent visitor to King's Palace Cafe. the food is awesome, and the live music is always entertaining. on my photography jaunt on Monday, I ran into the owner / manager as I passed by, and I remembered why I love the place so much. and trust me when I say, the gumbo really is awesome.

Studio on the Square. Studio is the closest cinema to Rhodes, but it got overlooked a lot back in the day because of Peabody Place [see below]. but it was a great place for a Friday afternoon movie jaunt, and it's where I saw the second and third installments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy [complete with Kwik Chek in our bags]. and it's still the best place in Memphis to catch indie films when they release.

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A-Tan. I don't even know how many countless hours I have spent at A-Tan over the past 13 years. we were there nearly every other week during undergrad, and Cait and I continued to be frequent customers through the year after we graduated as well. in fact, she and I ordered the "salad with ginger dressing" so often that they eventually just gave in and added it to the menu, first as a hand-written add-on and later as an actual item when they printed new menus. and then they added the hibachi side circa 2006! I remember Pete and I were going there for dinner, and on a whim we decided to try out the hibachi side, and we had the whole place to ourselves. it was pretty fantastic, especially for two people such as us who are very easily entertained. I've not been back in a while, but it's on my list of places to get back to in the next few months.

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Blue Plate Cafe. this was another Memphis staple that I discovered a little late in life, but I guess it's always better late than never, right? Blue Plate is probably my favourite place in town for breakfast, not least because their biscuits are awesome. if anyone's up for a visit, let me know, and I'll be there with bells on.

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Alfred's. I actually only went to Alfred's for the Pike Halloween parties each year, but there was definitely never a dull moment. I think senior year was my particular favourite, when Ben Carroll, Craig, Sara, and I went as characters from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I was there again recently before a Grizzlies playoff game, and it was a whole different experience. I rather think I would enjoy Alfred's on a non-Halloween party night.

Rendezvous. probably the most famous bbq joint in all of Memphis. the place the tourists flock to for the ribs and their famous dry rib. I'm not going to lie, those ribs and the meat plates are pretty spectacular.

Peabody Place. I know it's closed these days, but it was a mainstay of my Rhodes days, so it has to be mentioned here. I spent so many hours there, using my student discount for movies, playing glow-in-the-dark putt-putt, getting ice cream from Maggie Moo's [and sneaking it into the movies], and running through all the floors of Jillian's. I know why they closed it down, but that doesn't stop the depression that hits whenever I drive or walk past that empty building. rest in peace, dear Peabody Place.

Libertyland. another one that is closed and sadly not even in existence anymore, but one of my favourites from when I was a kid. I think the best was when we took our 6th grade field trip, and I rode the Zippin' Pippin at least 4 times. man, I loved that place.

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And there you have my favourite places around this great city. It really is a pretty spectacular place.

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