As Memphis in May festivities continue along Front Street, we’re offering an updated guide to this booming corridor’s history and a roundup of highlights not to miss!

After more than a decade of growth and reinvestment along downtown Memphis’s Front Street, the empty lots and abandoned structures of the area once known as Warehouse Row have been rejuvenated by new residential buildings, reimagined public spaces, and thriving businesses. Take a walk down Front Street today, and you’ll find something fascinating around every corner.

A crowd of people shopping at the Memphis Farmers' Market
The Memphis Farmers’ Market uses the historic Central Station’s promenade as its home base. Image: Memphis Farmers’ Market

On the south end, you’ll find the colossal $55 million renovation of the historic Central Station train depot, leading to a mixed-use development that houses updated Amtrak facilities as well as The Central Station hotel, a movie theater, and the Memphis Farmers’ Market. The market has been using the station’s promenade as its home base since 2016 and is still open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October for all your local food and floral needs.

lobby at central station hotel
The Central Station hotel houses an impressive vinyl record collection, along with two restaurant concepts not to miss if you’re in the area — the hotel’s lobby bar, Eight & Sand, and a modern French brasserie, Bishop. Image: The Central Station
blue dining area in restaurant
Since its opening in 2020, Bishop has become a local favorite for special occasion dining. Image: The Central Station

As you head north out of the station past the topography of new residences that have filled in the nearby acreage, stop in at The Blue Monkey. This local mainstay rose from the ashes after a 2005 fire and remains a favorite for its laid-back vibe — from lunch to late night. If you’d rather grab a bottle of wine for your market-fresh meal, The Corkscrew next door has you covered.

Front exterior of Brickwood Hall on Front Street in Memphis, TN.
Brickwood Hall lends itself to various events with the motto “Our space. Your vision.”

The street becomes more residential as you pass under the train tracks at Nettleton Avenue, but city-dwellers aren’t the only ones repurposing the once-utilitarian spaces. Brickwood Hall opened its doors in 2017 to host events in what was formerly a cotton-sorting warehouse. The new venue faces South Front Antiques, a long-standing haven for designers and DIYers looking to score vintage architectural elements and other local curiosities.

Music lovers shouldn’t miss a chance to stop into Saint Blues Guitar Workshop. All of their guitars are painstakingly crafted by hand!

Continuing south, you’ll run into another Front Street landmark — the Old Dominick Distillery. With daily tours, bar hours, and frequent rooftop events, the reactivated distillery offers plenty of opportunities to get a taste of “pure Memphis.”

Exterior of Old Dominick Distillery with neon sign lit up at night.
The Old Dominick Distillery’s striking neon sign features the showy Dominicker chicken as the brand’s icon. Image: Old Dominick Distillery
Group of people touring Old Dominick Distillery.
Old Dominick leads tours of the distillery process, ending with a tasting of their spirits made on-site.

After your tour, head to nearby Gus’s Fried Chicken. The oldest remaining location of the spicy local favorite (and now national chain) stays busy throughout the day. Famed chef and regional food expert Alton Brown called Gus’s the best fried chicken in the country, and with all due respect to our friends throughout the South, we think he was onto something.

Front exterior of Gus's Fried Chicken.
Gus’s downtown location’s homey exterior is reminiscent of the original restaurant in Mason, TN.
People eating inside Gus's Fried Chicken on Front Street in Memphis, TN.
Tables at Gus’s Fried Chicken are always in demand but worth the wait.

Another culinary “must” on Front Street is BarWare, a woman-owned bar and restaurant just a few paces from Old Dominick and Gus’s Fried Chicken. BarWare specializes in elevated cuisine and cocktails, perfect for a date night or dinner with friends.

cocktail lounge area with brick wall backdrop
BarWare offers a selection of shareable plates like rotating cheese and charcuterie offerings, plus a carefully curated list of entrées ranging from steamed sandwiches to petite filets. Image: BarWare

Continuing up Front Street across from Beale, you’ll find the local AutoZone hub. The Memphis company houses its headquarters on Front and is expanding in the area, continuing a trend of major local corporations building their presence downtown (and bringing a boom of welcome foot traffic to the area’s eateries).

Traveling further north takes you into the center of Memphis’s agricultural history, marked by the Cotton Exchange building, which now houses the Cotton Museum. The Mississippi River peeks through each side street as the bluffs undulate beside Riverside Drive, just one block away. If it’s a pleasant day, the garage doors will be open at the headquarters of the Memphis Fire Department, and you can see the vintage fire engine parked beside their modern equipment.

Exterior of Cotton Exchange building on Front Street in Memphis, TN.
Opened in 1922, the Cotton Exchange’s trading floor is now the home of the Cotton Museum.
Memphis Fire Department Headquarters sign and exterior.
A vintage fire engine welcomes passers-by to greet the firefighters at the department’s headquarters.

Passing the grand former post office and customs house now serving as the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, you’ll see that downtown’s branch of the Memphis Public Libraries has geography as disparate as its architecture. The mid-century building housing the Cossitt Branch’s collection is accessed by taking a stairway down from street level. As the bluff rises behind it, however, you see a portion of the 1920s addition to the 19th Century Romanesque original. The library hosts frequent activities, from concerts to cookouts on both sides of the building, drawing from each one’s unique character.

Activating the library’s community engagement and gorgeous riverfront is part of Reimagining the Civic Commons, a public-private collaboration to improve connectivity within the city. The Cossitt Library’s neighbor, the Fourth Bluff, is also part of this effort. The historic park offers views of the river shared by Memphis citizens as they watched the naval Battle of Memphis unfold in 1862 and is central to the riverfront’s future.

Tiger statue outside of the University of Memphis School of Law.
The University of Memphis School of Law is defended by a tiger representing justice, complete with scales and a blindfold.
Cossitt Library and "TCB in a flash" statue.
A 1920s addition to the Cossitt Library is accented with a sculpture evoking Elvis Presley’s trademark “TCB in a flash.”
Fence outside of Cossitt Library decorated with gratitude notes.
Instead of love locks, the Cossitt Library’s fence is decorated with gratitude notes.
View of Hernando DeSoto Bridge from Fourth Bluff.
In 1862, Memphis residents watched the city succumb to Union naval forces from this spot along what is now known as the Fourth Bluff, a pivotal point in the Reimagining the Civic Commons project to connect the city’s public assets.

The remaining portion of Front Street in downtown’s core is anchored by the entry points to Mud Island River Park and the Bass Pro Shop established in the Pyramid’s former arena space. These two attractions — featuring a scale model of the southern Mississippi River and aquariums highlighting its residents, respectively — are a great introduction to the area’s natural features and provide plenty of hands-on learning for guests of all ages. A visit to the Pyramid’s observation deck at sunset is a perfect way to end a day exploring this historic and revitalized corridor of Memphis.

Happy exploring, Memphis!


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About the Author
Andria K. Brown

Andria is an advertising professional, freelance writer, concert presenter and mother who has happily called Memphis home for two decades.