This past weekend we put on our blue suede shoes and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to watch the Zags take on the Tigers for College Game Day. Neither Dan nor myself had ever been to Memphis before, and we were really excited to check out all this city has to offer.
Dan and I drove up on Friday. Memphis is a little under a seven hour drive from Dallas. We checked into our hotel and then had dinner at Hog and Hominy, a suggestion by Hillary over at A Gal and Her Dog. This restaurant opened in 2011, and has already received a ton of press. It fancies itself a mix of Italian and Southern food, which is an interesting pairing, but completely works.
Most of the food is meant to be shared, but the pride and glory is the pizza. We tried the Flying V Pizza, the gumbo, and the short ribs. All three dishes were super flavorful. I liked the pizza the best, Dan liked the gumbo the best. Most of all, I liked the ambiance. Its a small restaurant with a chic vibe in a great part of town.
Snow fell that night, but that didn't slow the city down much. In fact, that was one of the things I liked best about Memphis. It has a big city vibe, but a small town feel. This amount of snow would have shut down Dallas, but the traffic in Memphis is completely manageable and the roadways were fine.
(Lucky sweatshirt circa 2006. No longer lucky.)
This was a big game. Memphis and Gonzaga are both solid mid major programs, and this year it was the game day match-up on ESPN. Also, Memphis really loves its Tigers. Everybody was wearing Memphis gear, and I really appreciate a city with some collegiate pride. We walked around all day in our Zag gear and people could not have been nicer. Okay, that's not true. We got heckled a little bit, but we certainly deserved it. And overall, people were really great.
We picked up Dan's best friend from the airport and went and grabbed lunch at Central BBQ. When asking people where to eat while in Memphis, I was repeatedly told Central BBQ and Rendezvous. While we risked our lives walking into this establishment with Zag gear on, the food was incredible.
We then walked over to the Fed Ex Forum, in hopes of seeing the team or other College Game Day "celebrities". We saw neither but we did see the bus.
We wandered around Beale Street for a bit, but it was pretty dead because it was cold and only about 1:00 in the afternoon. We decided to head on over to the Civil Rights Museum (which I'll get to further down).
Before the game we went back to the hotel and changed into matching t-shirt which we can never wear again because they are unlucky. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Because I was traveling with boys, I made the rookie mistake of telling them about this second famous BBQ restaurant that was supposed to rival the first. They insisted that we go there for dinner, despite having BBQ for lunch already. Since they were pretty good sports about seeing touristy things with me, I was up for it. Plus I was excited to compare the two restaurants.
Rendezvous is located in downtown Memphis and it had a much different vibe then Central. First off, it was huge. Second, it had kind of an Italian theme going with checkered table clothes and waiters in fancy tuxes. We were told the ribs were what we had to try, and oddly they came dry with no BBQ sauce and only a rub. I am not a huge rib fan, but Dan and Chris loved them. Both proclaimed they were the best ribs they had ever had, and talked about them non stop for the next 24 hours.
We met up with the alumni association up at BB Kings Restaurant and Blues Club before the game, which was a very cool venue. You generally have to pay a cover, but because the alumni association was there we were able to skip the cover and enjoy the music for free. It was nice to talk with other Zag fans before the game, especially since we were so outnumbered and were unable to get a section to all sit next to each other.
As far as the game goes...well, what is there to say? We were leading the entire time until Memphis made a 17-2 run in the final minutes. Its been an unusually painful year to be a Zags fan, but you take the ups with the downs.
The next day we were definitely NOT hung over and definitely did NOT need a big breakfast to make us feel better. I found the Blue Plate Café on Yelp, and it worked out great because it was across the street from the hotel. I wouldn't say it was the best breakfast I had ever had, but it was what I needed in that moment, so suffice to say, I was satisfied.
Now lets talk tourism....
As I said previously, we stopped by the Civil Rights Museum prior to the game. The museum is located just outside of the Loraine Hotel, which is kept exactly how it was when Martin Luther King got shot. It was pretty incredible that they had managed to keep it up after all these years, and it was definitely very touching to stand outside it. Also, they had a pretty good exhibit inside the museum regarding the events leading up and directly following his assassination.
That being said, I was not a super big fan of the museum. Let me preface this by saying it is currently under renovation, so maybe the exhibits are better then I was able to witness. I just felt like it contained a lot of...text. Walls and walls of just writing, and not a lot of showing me things. I kind of feel like museums should have exhibits for me to see, and I don't really consider a room full of timelines an exhibit. That being said, I was the ONLY one in the group to feel this way, so maybe I just have a low attention span an need constant stimulation at all times.
As I previously said, Beale Street was very awesome, but definitely go at night. Most of the places list who is playing at their club, so you can pick out which musician you want to see. The band we saw was great, and the atmosphere was really fun. Just a little ways up Beale Street is an Elvis statute that is worth taking a picture of.
We did attempt to go to Graceland, but it was going to cost $40.00 per person, and nobody was a big enough Elvis fan to justify the cost. Instead we stood outside Graceland and took a picture. I think it seemed a little lackluster because it was such a crappy day, overcast and gloomy. I would imagine if you were a big Elvis fan you would love this place. If it was $15 or so we probably would have done it.
The only thing that we didn't do on the trip was see the march of the ducks at the Peabody Hotel. They only march at 11:00 and 5:00, which just seemed to never work with our schedule. I didn't think I was missing that much, but since coming back everybody asked me if I watched the ducks march, and now I am having regret. Oh well. Maybe next time.
We stayed at the Marriot Springhill Suites in downtown. Location wise, it was perfection. We could walk to Beal Street, tons of restaurants, and most importantly, the FedEx Forum where the game was held. That being said, the staff was really horrible. You really had no choice but to valet your car, and every time we had to wait 20-30 minutes. The staff was unfriendly, and one day we left our room for 4 hours, only to return at around 2:00 and our room still had not been cleaned. Wasn't super impressed.
Overall, I was a HUGE Memphis fan. It was a great city with a lot of culture and pride. It was also a great tourist destination, with lots of things to do. The food was definitely my favorite part, but when is it not? This trip made me want to explore more cities within driving distance from Dallas: New Orleans, Nashville, and OKC to name a few.
Hog & Hominy
Blue Plate Café
BB Kings Restaurant and Blues Club
Civil Rights Museum
March of the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel
Marriot Springhill Suites