I consider myself a blue-blooded Memphian, and I wear that badge with pride. I was born here, went to college here, met my husband here and got my first job here as well. I’m a University of Memphis alumnus, and I’ve been to more Memphis sporting events than I can count. This city offers more than just fantastic blues music and mouth-watering barbeque. As a local, I want to offer my essential list if you only have one day to spend here in Bluff City.
This is an insider’s guide to Memphis and one that steers clear of what you can simply Google!
And, I wanted to steer clear of most of the commonly known places. You can Google those for yourself. Instead, some of these places won’t be at the top of your internet search, but they should be at the top of your to-do list when in Memphis. Here’s what I recommend if you only have one day in Memphis.
It’s important to start off your day with a good meal, of course. For a hearty breakfast, Staks Pancake Kitchen is my go-to spot. While there are three locations, I enjoy the East Memphis location because it’s at the heart of Memphis. The inside of Staks reminds me of Breakfast at Tiffany’s with the signature minty blue on the retro booths and wallpaper. I’m easy to please with my order, as I enjoy the classic chocolate chip pancakes. But any kind of pancake you can imagine, this place probably has it. Yes, even cinnamon roll pancakes.
Now that your hunger has been quelled (for now), it’s time to go shopping at some nearby shops. If you’re looking for any kind of gift, you have to stop by Mrs. Post. It’s a unique shop full of novelty items. They have the most adorable baby clothes and stationery, and the best part is that there are tons of local options. If you’re looking for a small piece of Memphis to take with you, you absolutely have to grab the watercolor postcards in the shop. Just down the road is also novel., a great bookstore with local charm. It’s a great place to get lost for a few hours, as they offer an endless array of books, puzzles and other gifts.
After you purchase a few gifts for your loved ones (and probably yourself, too), it’s time to grab a bite at Brookhaven Pub & Grill — I suggest you order some Tiger Bleu Chips, one of Brookhaven’s signature dishes. It’s a pile of crinkle-cut chips topped with smoked chicken, honey barbeque sauce, buffalo sauce and blue cheese. It pairs perfectly with any sporting event, and Brookhaven has a plethora of television screens to choose from. If you want some fresh air, grab a seat on the raised deck outside. You might even spot some pooches there. If you’re not already full from the Tiger Bleu Chips, be sure to order the Bavarian Melt. It’s a pretzel bun sandwich with turkey, bacon, honey mustard and smoked cheddar. I mean, who can ever get enough of carbs, meat and cheese?
To walk off some of those calories, head to the dog park at Shelby Farms. This dog park, fittingly called The Outback, features more than 100 acres of land for canines to roam off-leash. The rolling hills and various terrains keep both pup and owner interested and active. No dog? Walk the loop around the park and enjoy watching all the dogs. If you’re lucky, some will even come up and say hello. Not into dogs? There is wide array of other activities to choose from at Shelby Farms, including a ropes course, biking trails, horseback riding and a massive playground for the kids. During the summer, rent a paddleboard and cruise the manmade lake.
All that outdoor exploring probably has you craving something to drink. Luckily, Memphis has tons of coffee spots to choose from. One that you might spot while driving around town is JoJo’s Espresso, a local traveling coffee truck. Just look for the iconic black and white trailer, and you’re sure to smell the baked goods a mile away. I’m a fan of the Vanilla Bourbon Cold Brew drink, but they have a variety of rotating specials to fit whatever mood you’re in, including Orange Cream Coffee Soda!
When it’s time to think about dinner, there are plenty of great local options, but I recommend Las Delicias. Located off of Park Avenue just by the University of Memphis, this spot is a true “hole-in-the-wall” offering affordable, consistent and delicious food. The chips served are local, and the salsa is addicting. My husband and I can eat comfortably there for less than $15, but if you want to splurge, their margaritas are quite refreshing and come in several sizes — choose accordingly depending on if you need to drive home or not! In terms of what to eat, I always order the chorizo quesadilla, while my husband’s favorite is the steak quesadilla with guacamole on top. Really, though, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.
If you’re not in the mood for Mexican food, Ching’s Hot Wings on Getwell Road is another fantastic and affordable spot. Inside, you’ll find walls full of photos featuring celebrities visiting the famous hot wings stop, including local icon Penny Hardaway and many Memphis Grizzlies players. You can’t go wrong with anything at Ching’s, but my personal favorite is the medium sauce with their seasoned fries. PRO TIP: Add the honey glaze drizzle to your fries.
While donuts are typically a breakfast option, an epic day in the Bluff City can only come to a close with a late-night treat from Gibson’s Donuts. Find the iconic neon sign off of Mendenhall in East Memphis, and trust me — it won’t be hard to find with the packed parking lot and bright signage. The not-so-well-kept secret is to go after 11 p.m. when the donuts are discounted. These locally made treats are just as good at midnight as they are at 6 a.m. Although it’s hard to choose, my favorites are the blueberry donut, old-fashioned donut and of course the famous maple bacon donut. Gibson’s is always experimenting with new donuts, though, so you can expect a different selection monthly.
It’s hard to pare down the best of Memphis into one day’s agenda, but this list is a great start. Enjoy your time in Bluff City!
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