Friday, June 25, 2010


Memphis, Tennessee: A Tale of Two Cities
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of jaeger bombs, it was the age of sickening barbecue, it was bright lights and beautiful people, it was impoverished ghettos.

After our discouraging evening in New Orleans, we set our sights on Memphis. A friend had told us that Memphis has little to offer but does boast one of the most fun partying locales in the country, Beale Street. He could not have been more correct. Beale street was like a cheap Las Vegas condensed into a two block strip. Both sides of the street were lined with bars and clubs, drinks were cheap (relative to New Orleans), live jazz and soul music resonated through the air, there were no bad smells wafting through the streets, the people were young, and we capitalized on all of it.
When we first arrived at Beale Street we were awe struck. The police had closed down traffic on the street (as they do every weekend) so that drunk people could walk around and carry drinks from bar to bar. There were neon lights and signs everywhere and tons of young people. It looked awesome! As excited as we were, we were also starving. So, the first thing we did was walk down the street looking for a place to grab a quick dinner. We settled on a small diner at the end of the street where we scarfed down a small dinner and then headed back to the bars. We then bar hopped until closing (sometime around 3AM). Some of the bar highlights were an outdoor irish pub, an upbeat jazz club that had signed guitars from tons of celebrities and famous people, street vendors that sold huge beers, and a bumpin' nightclub in the third story of an empty building. The night finally came to a close with Pearl buying a slice of pizza from a street vendor and us then taking an epic cab ride back to our motel (email us for details about the cab ride).
That was where the fun ended.
Pearl awoke in the middle of the night with terrible gastrointestinal pain and stayed in the bathroom from 7-9AM battling some demons. This was presumably the consequence of eating street vendor pizza at 3 in the morning but we'll never know for sure what happened. Later that afternoon we mobilized and went to find some traditional Memphis BBQ before heading out for Nashville. Dorian consulted Yelp to find a good BBQ joint. Payne's BBQ was highly rated so we decided to check it out. On the drive we started to get a little worried as our GPS led us deeper and deeper into hood. Much to our dismay we pulled up at a decaying shack with a piece of cardboard on the door that had “Payne's BBQ” scrawled in Sharpie on it. We didn't really know what to do. So we went in. There were no other customers. There were no other employees. There was just one man sitting behind a counter and he did nothing, just stared at us. The walls were mildewed, it was hot and smelly, and the ceiling was falling in. We still don't know why we ordered. Maybe it was out of fear, or because we didn't want to be disrespectful by walking out, or simply because we briefly convinced ourself that this place might be really “authentic.” Regardless, we ordered. However, once the man started hacking up slabs of petrified meat in the “kitchen” (which was completely dark, like not a single light in it) we decided this was a bad idea. We still didn't want to be disrespectful so we asked the man if it would be alright to get our food to go. When he finished slapping together our sandwiches he boxed them and we hurriedly paid and returned to the safety of our car. We agreed the proper course of action would be to toss the Payne's sandwiches and find another place to eat. While searching for another barbecue joint we discovered our error. Apparently Memphis has two Payne's. Turbo hastily plugged the address of the poorly rated Payne's rather than the highly rated one into our GPS. So, we thought there might still be hope for salvaging the good name of Payne's BBQ and we headed off to try the other one.
When we pulled up to the second Payne's we were again somewhat skeptical since the building was nothing special and it was next to a lot that sold used tires...but again, we thought we'd give it a try. Once we walked in we were more reassured. There were customers inside and four or five people whipping up pulled pork sandwiches. The food was cheap and not terrible, but by no means good. Pearl was in no condition to finish his sandwich, and the pulled pork gave Julie and Dorian stomach pains. With that meal we said goodbye to southern BBQ and Memphis.
Overall, Memphis can be a ton of fun if you stick to Beale street and the more metropolitan areas, however, if you venture too far from the city center then be ready for a lot of disappointment.

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