If you aren't from the North Mississippi-West Tennessee area, let me share something with you. Memphis doesn't top "Best/Favorite" lists for much of anything.
It's sad, but true. But despite its bad wrap of being "the dirty sister" to Nashville and its high crime rate, there are a few reasons I think you should make the trip to the Bluff City...
The obvious one, of course, is the Elvis connection. Millions of people flock to Graceland every year to pay homage to the King of Rock and Roll. Even if you aren't a fan of his music, Graceland's kitschy 1970s furniture and shag carpet make it worth the trip. Plus he had like a zillion gold records and some pretty cool cars. I love the pink Cadillac.
Number two? Memphis has a great zoo, which has actually topped the "Best Zoos" list! Yay to us for making a non-food-related "Best" list! As someone who's been to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, I'm not sure it totally deserves to be number one, but it definitely deserves to be in the top five. Psst....we have two pandas. Maybe that's why we're the best.
The third one is Memphis' history. Walk down South Main, and you'll see the Lorraine Motel on one side, and Ernestine and Hazel's on the other. Just off Beale, you'll find the beautiful Peabody Hotel and W.C. Handy Park. Drive up Union, and you'll pass Sun Studio, where Johnny Cash and many others (including the King himself) got their big breaks. Yes, the city has history - some good and some bad - but it's got soul.
Finally, here's the big one - possibly the main reason why we live in Memphis. It's all about the barbecue, people....Memphis' has the best barbecue in the entire world. Other cities try to say theirs is the best, but Memphis tops this "Best" list every time. Because of Memphis' love for barbecue, we have the world-famous BBQ Fest every spring during Memphis in May. I promise you haven't smelled anything as divine as Memphis barbecue. Even the vegans like it (although they prefer barbecued veggies and tofu). It's just that good. As you can probably imagine, everyone in this city thinks their "BBQ" is the best. I haven't sampled them all, but I have a few favorites:
5. Blues City Cafe - We had our wedding rehearsal dinner here, so it has special meaning for us. Plus, it's the only downtown BBQ joint to make my list. Blues City has good ribs, and its on Beale Street, so it's worth a visit.
4. Germantown Commissary - It's basically a shack in old Germantown, which happens to be one of the wealthiest parts of our county. It's so quaint, and the ribs are delish.
3. Corky's BBQ - Corky's will ship their barbecue anywhere, which is cool. Their ribs are cool too.
2.Bar-B-Q Shoppe - Located in Midtown in a historic building, the Bar-B-Q Shoppe is your typical Midtown restaurant - one-of-a-kind and done right (FYI - #1 is also a Midtowner). I really like their spicy fries with my BBQ plate....
1. Central BBQ - Their BBQ nachos are out of this world (see photo above for proof). When I say out of this world, I mean it. Seriously, folks, this is why we live here. They are that good. After a long day at the build site (I work for Habitat for Humanity and during build season, we work 11-hour days), I always ask Jonathan to order nachos from Central. They have two locations - one in Midtown and another on Summer Avenue, not far from our house. Another cool fact? Central has gone green, and they use eco-friendly packaging, they compost and they recycle. Yay!
If you're a Memphian and you're reading this, you may be wondering why the world-famous Rendezvous isn't on this list. In my experience (note that I said "my"), they have terrible service - We've been there three times (!), and we've never been served. If you can't eat your BBQ, then life is not too good, right?
So, anyway, it was Saturday night, we had barbecue (Central), and we settled in to watch My Blueberry Nights. Good little indie flick, and guess what? Memphis (Read: Ernestine and Hazel's and The Arcade) is in it! Hollywood loves Memphis! Hurray for the "dirty sister!"
If you're wondering about the movie's title, they eat a lot of blueberry pie in this flick. The pie eating (of course) made us want something with blueberries in it, so we made these:
Adapted from Bottletree Bakery's Whole Wheat Muffins With Fruit from The Square Table Cookbook.
For the Muffins:
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour - 3/4 cup sugar - 1 tsp. baking powder - 3/4 tsp. baking soda -1/2 tsp. salt -3/4 cup vegetable oil - 1 1/2 cups milk 1 tsp. lemon juice A pinch of lemon zest 2 cup diced fresh fruit or berries (we used frozen blueberries)
For the Streusel Topping
1 cup sugar 1 cup flour 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine oil, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Gently stir fruit into the flour mixture. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Stir until just blended. Spoon into muffin cups, and set aside. Mix together streusel topping - combine sugar, flour and butter. Spoon over muffins, and then bake for 20 minutes.
Makes approximate 18-20 muffins.
The best part about them? The streusel (and yes, it's spelled correctly. I had to double-check it :). It's pretty darn delicious, and it would be good on top of other baked goods as well. I'm thinking baked apples. Mmmm.
I'm sorry if your mouth is watering after reading this....now you know why I go to the gym and eat healthy during the week. :)