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World-class dry rub ribs at Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous, a Memphis institution
David Meany
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  • States:
    Tennessee

Music lovers, history buffs and culture enthusiasts flock to Memphis.

There's Elvis Presley’s Graceland and blues-bar studded Beale Street, plus the National Civil Rights Museum and the historic Orpheum Theatre. But here in the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll, the culinary scene – rooted in traditional Southern flavors and the adventurous Memphis spirit – also beckons hungry visitors. Here are seven ways to dive into the foodie side of Memphis.

Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant: Southern Cooking with a Twist

Savor updated takes on comfort food including buttermilk fried chicken livers, crispy quail or caramelized onion tart with a cornmeal crust at downtown’s Felicia Suzanne’s Restaurant. The Friday lunch menu featuring 25-cent martinis is a good bet, especially if you score a seat on the lovely outdoor patio.

Patio dining in a garden-like setting at Felicia Suzanne's

Patio dining in a garden-like setting at Felicia Suzanne's
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Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous: Memphis Barbecue Institution

You’ll discover the entrance to this iconic barbecue restaurant tucked into an unassuming back alley. Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous has been a staple since its founding circa 1949. Revered for its dry-rubbed ribs cooked over charcoal, this Memphis favorite continues to entice locals and is a a must for visitors.

Getting ready to serve Charlie Vergos' world-famous pork

Getting ready to serve Charlie Vergos' world-famous pork
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Craig Thompson
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Itta Bena: Classic Flavors, Posh Ambience

Located above B.B. King’s Blues Club, Itta Bena claims one of the most enviable locations in the city, especially with window seats that overlook the action on world-famous Beale Street below. Sample specialties such as duck and waffles (a twist on the traditional chicken and waffles) and spicy jambalaya pasta.

Authentic Southern cuisine at Itta Bena above B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street

Authentic Southern cuisine at Itta Bena above B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street
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Alex Shansky
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Soul Fish Cafe: Seafood, Po’ Boys and More

Whether you order it on a po’ boy sandwich, a taco or in a basket, be sure to try the fried catfish at local favorite Soul Fish Cafe. Crisp-fried to perfection, it tastes best when paired with hush puppies (fried cornmeal fritters). Vegetable sides include pickled green tomatoes, Cajun cabbage, green beans, collard greens and more.

Soul Fish Café, home of popular fried catfish and tasty po’ boys

Soul Fish Café, home of popular fried catfish and tasty po’ boys
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Leah Gafni
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Catherine & Mary’s: Italian Classics

If you’re craving grandmother-approved Italian comfort fare, the James Beard-nominated chefs at Catherine’s & Mary’s have you covered. This neighborhood eatery focuses on Old World Italian dishes and attentive service, from the spuntini (small, pre-meal snacks) to indulgent pasta, tender meats and sweet Italian desserts.

Italian grandmother-approved cuisine at Catherine and Mary’s

Italian grandmother-approved cuisine at Catherine and Mary’s
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Cara Greenstein
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Old Dominick Distillery: Historic Brand in a Restored Location

Old Dominick brand whiskey was founded in Memphis in 1866, but the distillery’s renovated downtown building just opened in spring 2017. Book a tour of the facility, which includes a vodka and whiskey tasting. Get in on the hometown spirit and sample the Memphis Toddy, a high-rye bourbon mixed with a blend of citrus, honey and botanicals served over cracked ice. If you get hungry, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is just across the street.

The Second Line: A Taste of New Orleans

Award-winning chef Kelly English brings Louisiana favorites like slow-braised roast beef po' boys, gumbo and Gulf of Mexico oysters to The Second Line. The restaurant is conveniently located just steps away from Overton Square, a revitalized theater, live music, dining and entertainment center.

Always the best po’ boys at the Second Line in Overton Square

Always the best po’ boys at the Second Line in Overton Square
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Alex Shansky
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Getting There

Non-stop flights into Memphis International Airport (MEM) are available from major gateways cities such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Pick up a rental car, or call a taxi, Lyft or Uber at the Memphis Airport.