Here’s a list of 15 things that Memphians know about Memphis, but others may not. In addition to a few of our own reflections, we have asked a forum of devoted Memphians to finish the sentence, “Only in Memphis ….” Enjoy!

1) Only in Memphis can you say the “Old Bridge,” and people know what you mean. —Emily Thomas, founder of the Cancer Card Exchange and former SB Face of the South

The Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, operating since December 17, 1949, takes Interstate 55 travelers across the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. It has been referred to as the “Old Bridge” since the opening of the “New Bridge,” or Hernando de Soto Bridge, in August 1973. The “New Bridge” is our Interstate 40 connector, just upstream and a lot shinier!

The Old Bridge
The Old Bridge, photo via Pinterest

2) In Memphis, you can drive east and west on a street named North Parkway or north and south on East Parkway! Angela English, wife of chef/restaurant owner Kelly English (Restaurant Iris and The Second Line)

Memphis’ Parkway system was designed more than a century ago to connect the city’s two great parks, Overton and Riverside. In 1901, landscape architect George Kessler designed this rectangular border surrounding what was then the city of Memphis. Did you know that North Parkway was also known as the Speedway? Kessler originally designed parts of the Parkway System to be straight portions of tree-lined avenues where car and carriage owners could race against each other. The city ended this practice in 1910 and imposed a speed limit on the entire Parkway System. Memphis’ Parkway System is listed on the National Historic Register.

Memphis M
The Memphis “M” is located on the median of East Parkway at Madison Avenue. Photo via Memphis Parkway System

3) Memphis is turnip greens and cornbread at The Little Tea Shop downtown. –Peter Poole, owner of Peter D. Poole Fine Jewelers, Inc.

A vintage lunch room on old Cotton Row, the Little Tea Shop’s everyday specialty is a bowl of turnip greens served with corn sticks on the side. The oldest restaurant in Memphis must be doing something right to be operating in their 96th year!

The Little Tea Shop Memphis
The Little Tea Shop, photo via Facebook

4) And Memphis is, as everyone knows, music: Blues, Gospel, Country, Rock ‘n’ Roll … In Memphis, some of the greatest legends have been born and given due credit! —Cynthia Allen, Community Involvement Manager for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation (BMHCC) and former SB Face of Memphis

Want to brush up on your local music history? The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum’s exhibition about the birth of rock and soul music, created by the Smithsonian Institution, tells the story of musical pioneers. Located at 191 Beale, the museum offers a comprehensive Memphis music experience.

Memphis Rock n Soul Museum
60 Years of Rock’n’Roll exhibit at Rock ‘n’ Soul through January of 2015. Photo via the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum on Facebook

5) We have our own food groups, and one of them is BBQ! Only in Memphis can you find the best BBQ! “I’ve tried a few other cities, but there’s nothing like Interstate, Central and Rendezvous.”  — Cynthia Allen

And … Only in Memphis is mac ‘n’ cheese considered a vegetable! — Holly WhitfieldI Love Memphis blogger and social media strategist for the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and former SB Face of Memphis

BBQ plate, Central BBQ
BBQ plate, Central BBQ. Photo via Facebook
alchemy four cheese mac
One of the best servingss of Mac ‘n’ Cheese in Memphis is at Alchemy. Photo via Facebook, taken by Michelle Manker

6) And did you know that one of the best burgers in town is at a BBQ joint? (Tops Bar-B-Q). — Angela English

Tops Bar-B-Q has been serving wonderful Bar-B-Q, ribs, brisket, and fresh ground, cooked-to-order hamburgers and cheeseburgers for 6 decades! And they are known for an award-winning burger!

Tops Bar-B-Q
Tops Bar-B-Q. Photo credit:

7) Only in Memphis does “What school did you go to?” more than likely mean what HIGH school. — Emily Thomas

Can’t explain why, but it is so true! We are lifelong, diehard fans of our high schools!

School books
Photo via Bing

8) Memphis is the perfect combination of great food, generous people, music, art and parks. –Emily Thomas

But, you can you go to three totally different parties in a weekend and see the same people … Memphis is the biggest small town ever! –– Holly Whitfield

Apparently several entrepreneurs have figured out that Memphis is the place to be! According to a Fox 13 News report in July 2014our city was recently named one of the top ten places for startups … Read more, here:

Memphis_Smart City
Photo via Smart City Memphis

9) Memphians know that some of the best food in town is at a trailer in a Lowe’s parking lot: Elwood’s Shack! — Emily Thomas

Open Monday to Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee or take-out. Everything from Cinnamon Rolls to BBQ Pork Breakfast Burritos to Elwood’s Country Taters to Fish Tacos to Jerked Chicken Wings, to Citrus Salmon on a Bagel and more … rave reviews!

Elwood's Shack_Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon Rolls at Elwood’s Shack

10) Only in Memphis can you have a vibrant and active running and biking community while being one of the most obese cities in the U.S. — Cory Prewitt, Chief Operating Officer and Marketing Director of Laurelwood Shopping Center

Well, we are the BBQ capital of the world, which may have something to do with Memphis’ recent rating as the most obese “large” community area (with a populations above 1 million people) in the U.S. It was reported that Memphis has 31.9 percent obesity among adults. Read more in the Memphis Business Journal, here:

Tight jeans
Photo via Bing

On a positive note, we may need to change the words to a familiar song: instead of Walkin’, we’re Bikin’ in Memphis! Recently, Memphis has made a new name for itself by adding advanced bike lanes to new repaving projects and with creation of the Greater Memphis Greenline, a paved trail about 7 miles long that connects Midtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park, a multi-use trail network “to enhance the quality of life for all.”

Memphis Cyclist
Photo via the Memphis Cyclist website, a great source for Memphis-area cyclists. Want to know more about cycling in Memphis? Follow the Memphis Cyclist blog by Michael Lander, here:

11) Ironically, Memphis has the world’s largest BBQ competition during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. — Cory Prewitt

What can we say, we love our BBQ! Perhaps we can reschedule National Physical Fitness and Sports Month?

Memphis BBQ contest winners_2014
Memphis World Championship Memphis in May Barbecue Cooking Contest grand champions in 2014, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, Alabama! Photo via Facebook.

12) Only in Memphis do we drive 50+ in high traffic on a road with lanes that are as narrow as 6 feet curbside! If you are unfamiliar with driving on Poplar Avenue, don’t. If you must, then drive a skinny car!

The acceptable width recommendation for low-volume roads is 9 to 12 feet. Poplar Avenue is 8 feet wide in places, but with storm grates to consider, it’s more like 6, and, as one of our major east-west thoroughfares, it is certainly not a low-volume road! The only solution would be to take Poplar down to two lanes, which would only increase congestion.

poplar ave.

13) We welcome guests who travel many miles to watch ducks march on a red carpet and swim in a fountain!

In the 1930s, two guys who had a little too much Jack Daniel’s thought it would be funny to place live ducks in the beautiful Peabody Hotel fountain. It was a hit, and ducks became a permanent addition. In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, taught the ducks how to march. Mr. Pembroke became the Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991. The famous Peabody Duck March still takes place at 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. daily.

The Peabody Duck March
The Peaody Duck March, photo via The Peabody Memphis

14) Memphis has a mysterious massive Pyramid-shaped building front and center, a distinctive part of the downtown skyline, but what is it?

The Pyramid is a Memphis landmark that was built in 1991. Originally an arena that sat more than 20,000 and the site for Memphis Grizzlies and University of Memphis basketball games, concerts and more, it is now on its way to becoming a mega destination Bass Pro Shop (right?) According the CA, we will be Christmas shopping in the Pyramid this year:

Pyramid in Memphis TN
Morning in downtown Memphis

15) And, Memphis is the only place where Elvis is considered a fashion choice.

Memphis welcomes over 600,000 people annually to Graceland, and thousands will attend the 2014 Candlelight Vigil next month. Many of them will be dressed like Elvis from swooping hair to blue suede shoes. And for some, this is a year-round look.

Photo via Elvis Week Daily Recaps 2013 by Jon Waterhouse
Photo via Elvis Week Daily Recaps 2013 by Jon Waterhouse
Visting Graceland from Idaho.
Visting Graceland from Idaho, photo via Graceland on Facebook.

This is just a sampling of Memphis’ well-kept secrets and fun facts. Memphians as a whole are a tad quirky but innately cool. In the words of Elvis Presley, “I’ll stay in Memphis.”

Thank you again to our distinguished forum of Memphians who contributed to this list of Memphis-isms:



Connect with SB Memphis.
Daily emails arrive at 5 a.m.

Join today! (Yes, it’s free!)

About the Author
Christian Owen