What to Eat in Memphis (Besides BBQ)

No matter how smoky, tender, and mouth-watering it is - and how many ways there are to prepare it - let’s face it, man cannot live by BBQ alone. If you’ve been through the list of great BBQ joints in Memphis and find yourself looking for a little variety, here are 11 things to eat in Memphis besides BBQ.

  • 01 of 13

    Soul Food at the Four-Way Restaurant

    ••• Fried chicken at the Four Way Restaurant. Credit: Holly Whitfield

    For a dose of history with your dinner, head to South Memphis’s Soulsville neighborhood for some Southern-fried home cooking at the Four-Way Restaurant.

    This restaurant, just a few blocks away from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, was a meeting place for Civil Rights leaders in the 1960s, including Pick a classic soul food entrees like fried catfish, and a slew of sides and cornbread.

  • 02 of 13

    Family Meal at Gus's Fried Chicken

    ••• Photo by Nathan Cardozo, Creative Commons License

    They don’t call it world-famous for nothing. Gus’s Fried Chicken is made from a carefully guarded family recipe, and the results are moist, juicy meat encased in a slightly spicy perfectly crispy breading. The deep-fried goodness comes with a side of baked beans and plain white bread. Get yourself plenty of water or wash it down with an ice-cold beer. While you can find Gus’s all over the country now, one of the original locations is in downtown Memphis, just a block from the Mighty Mississippi River.

  • 03 of 13

    Maple Bacon Donut from Gibson's Donuts

    ••• Photo: Flickr I Love Memphis.

    Food Network star and ultimate foodie Alton Brown proclaimed that Gibson’s Donuts in East Memphis had the best donuts in all the land. That’s high praise, coming from someone so experienced, but you can decide for yourself any hour of the day.

    Gibson’s is open 24 hours a day, and you can choose from glazed, filled, yeast, or cake donuts. Locals love the Maple Bacon donut, covered in real bacon pieces with satisfyingly sweet icing.

  • 04 of 13

    Mr. T Rex From Aldo's Pizza Pies

    ••• Pizza at Aldo's Pizza Pies In Memphis. Credit: Holly Whitfield

    For a New York style slice of pie with a decidedly Memphis twist, stop by one of Aldo’s Pizza Pies’ two locations for a “Mr. T Rex”. This one will put your other “Meat Lovers’” pizza options to shame. The tomato-sauce based pie is topped with pepperoni, sausage, and Aldo’s famous oversized meatballs.

    Don’t overlook the simple but awesome Garlic Knots to begin, or the cheesecake for dessert. The Main Street location has a sizable bar, and the Cooper Young location boasts a rooftop bar.

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  • 05 of 13

    Pancakes at Automatic Slim's

    ••• Peanut butter and banana pancakes at Automatic Slim's. Credit: Holly Whitfield

    Brunch is as much a tradition in Memphis as, well, barbecue. One of downtown Memphis’s many options for weekend brunch is Automatic Slim’s on 2nd Street. The swanky, modern, artsy atmosphere will set the stage for your mimosa-drenched meal. You can even order a mimosa “bong” if you’ve got a crowd.

    Silm’s specializes in different flavors of pancakes and waffles, but if you want to make it extra Memphis you can go for the Peanut Butter and Banana Pancakes in honor of Elvis’s favorite sandwich. 

  • 06 of 13

    Mac 'n Cheese At Mollie Fontaine's

    ••• Snacks at Mollie Fontaine Lounge in Memphis. Credit: Holly Whitfield

    Victorian Village in Memphis is home to a handful of well-preserved Victorian homes, a.k.a. Memphis’s original Millionaire’s Row. While a few of them are museums and one is a lovely bed and breakfast, you can supposedly see the ghost of socialite Mollie Fontaine at the eponymous two-story lounge.

    Sample the cocktail menu at one of several bars in the sprawling, eclectic mansion and then go for the baked mac ’n’ cheese, topped with bacon. The crinkle-cut fries, served with a special seasoning in a Chinese takeout container, are another good bet. 

  • 07 of 13

    Lunch at Cafe Eclectic

    ••• Black Bean Wrap at Cafe Eclectic in Memphis. Credit: Holly Whitfield

    For a cozy, casual, coffee shop vibe, go for Cafe Eclectic. Their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus feature plenty of sandwiches and wraps, plus soups and salads. The black bean wrap is a good bet, as well as the bacon, egg, and cheese croissant.

    And no boring lattes at this coffee shop, either, as they have a full and creative list of espresso and coffee drinks to pair with your meal. Cafe Eclectic has three locations in the Memphis area. 

  • 08 of 13

    Veggies at Bounty on Broad

    ••• Heirloom tomato salad at Bounty on Broad. Credit: Holly Whitfield

    Stop in Bounty on Broad in the Broad Avenue Arts District for inventive farm-to-table dining at its best. With a focus on seasonal and fresh ingredients, the menu frequently rotates, but you can always count on the Chicken-Under-A-Brick as an entree, oysters on the half shell, or their infamous fries served in a heaping pile with special cream sauce, country ham, and goat cheese

    Or go the share-plates route with a variety of vegetables like an heirloom tomato salad with crispy basil.

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  • 09 of 13

    Tacos From Fuel Food Truck

    ••• Bison Tacos & Gourmet Grilled Cheese From Fuel Food Truck. Credit: Holly Whitfield

     Food trucks are there for you when you need them: always popping up at special events and festivals, parking in parks on pleasant days, or showing up on a busy street after a concert or game lets out. Memphis has dozens of excellent options, but the Fuel Food Truck has cemented its place in the Bluff City’s figurative food truck Hall of Fame.

    They have a plethora of vegan and vegetarian-friendly options, or you can go for the bison tacos or the gourmet grilled cheese (you’ll want to add the bacon, avocado, and fried egg).

  • 10 of 13

    Hen and Waffles From Flying Sobie's

    Flying Sobie’s Food Truck may be a newcomer to the mobile eatery community in Memphis, but they’ve already made waves for their deep-fried Cornish game hens served with waffles (or fries). You can usually find this truck parked on Sunday for brunch at the Ghost River Taproom in South Main in downtown Memphis.

    There’s nothing better for a hangover than a local Memphis beer and a juicy, breaded Cornish game hen and all the deliciously crispy carbs that a waffle can provide. They have multiple options for sauce on the hen, so you can make it as spicy or as sweet as you like.

  • 11 of 13

    Fudge From Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid

    It’s quirky enough that Memphis has a giant glass pyramid on its riverbanks, but things got just plain wonderfully weird when Bass Pro Shops moved in and turned the enormous building into an outdoor shopping destination and wilderness wonderland.

    The Pyramid houses a luxury hotel, bowling alley, the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator, multiple floors of shopping, and..a fudge shop. This fudge’s popularity speaks for itself. In Bass Pro’s first year of operation (2016), sweets-lovers purchased more than 56 tons of fudge. Try one of the dozens of flavors or grab a sampling of several.

  • 12 of 13

    Oysters at The Cove Cocktail & Oyster Bar

    ••• Credit: Holly Whitfield.

    You might be surprised to find it in a landlocked city like Memphis, but The Cove in the Broad Avenue Arts District is a pirate-themed bar with an extensive craft cocktail list, a tasty Mediterranean-inspired menu, including oysters flown in daily.

    The Cove offers Bleu Cheese, Rockefeller, and Casino oysters as well as oysters on the half shell. But sure to check out their signature special Sazerac cocktail and stick around for the local live music as the evening goes on. There are also happy hour specials from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every day a week. ​ 

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  • 13 of 13

    Sweet Potato Fries at the Young Avenue Deli

    ••• Credit: Holly Whitfield.

    Every bit a neighborhood bar, the Young Avenue Deli is an anchor in the Cooper Young neighborhood. Go for lunch to enjoy their extensive menu of sandwiches, wraps, salads, and make-your-own pizzas and quesadillas, plus a huge list of beers on draft.

    Memphians go for the sweet potato fries, which are tossed in cinnamon and sugar, then served in a heaping pile with honey mustard dressing on the side.