I already had the pleasure of spending time in Memphis about a decade ago and knew it was the kind of city I wanted to return to. However I was itching to get to Nashville. As a huge fan of country music I was excited to see all the places I had heard about.
Nashville is a well manicured city. Very clean and very modern. Slick looking buildings until you get to Broadway that is. Then they are old honky tonks with live music by the foot.
If you are a country music fan then it is a must. The country music hall of fame, Elvis tours, The Grand Ole Opry, The Bluebird Cafe, Nashville the show!!! If you are not then you should go for the food.
Particularly Princes Hot Chicken. It doesn’t look like much with its picnic tables and its old red and white plastic table covers but the food is some of the best you will ever have. Featured on Diners, Drive ins and dives we chose it because of this.
The menu is simple with only 3 choices and the hotter the better. Huge pieces of fried chicken atop sliced bread to absorb the oil.
Then since we were living thru our Road trip Food book we stopped at Loveless for its famous pie and banana pudding. Both worth the drives. Loveless is a cafe a few miles outside of the city.
The drive from Nashville to Memphis is only 2 hours. The cities are polar opposites. Nashville is bright lights and clean streets. It is the Orlando Disney World of country music. Memphis is gritty. It’s history is gritty and its present times can often be. There are bars on the windows and a lot of police activity. It can be a bit unsafe.
I love Memphis. I prefer it to Nashville. It feels alive with history. From Sun Studios to The Civil Rights Museum it has a palpable energy. I love cities rich in history. Many important moments in modern history happened right there.
The first time Elvis Presley ever recorded was inside Sun Studio. They still have the mic he sang into. Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis so many greats got there start right there.
On the flip side Martin Luther King Jr would be assassinated at the Loraine Hotel and they would turn it into one of the best museums I have ever been to. The outside still looks like the original building the inside is a walk thru Black history. How many people lost their lives and all the road blocks along the way to freedom. A battle that is still being fought.
As far as we have come the road is so much longer. I wonder how MLK would feel if he were alive today and saw what was going on? The museum really resonates with the tides that are coming to shore right now in America. A fierce wave of frightening white nationalism.
You also eat in Memphis. You get BBQ and in my case you eat fried okra. Because I love fried okra but I am from New York and we don’t really do that here. If you eat anywhere in Memphis eat at Alcenias. Another hole in the wall establishment, Alcenias is famous for her hugs. She works the place every day and hugs everyone who comes thru the door. The menu is daily so get it while its there. Come for the hugs but stay for the food.
I should also give regards to the hostel I stayed in when in Memphis. Its called the Pilgrim House and it is inside a church. It has a huge kitchen area with free breakfast and a large, cozy common room with lots of books. It has a very at home feeling and it is super inexpensive, a bed is less then 20 bucks a night.
Have you been to either Memphis or Nashville? Which city do you prefer?