Pros: Great Place
Cons: Not very big, only a few blocks of fun
Last summer I had the chance to spend a few days in Memphis.
We had chosen to visit to see Graceland (see review here) http://www.epinions.com/content_122122440324
Which was certainly worth the trip.
However while in Memphis you would have to be crazy to miss Beale Street.
Beale St promotes itself as the home of the blues, I don't know enough about blues history to verify that, but the street certainly has enough blues music, it floats from the doors of nearly every doorway on the street.
I had heard that Beale Street was very similar to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and I can see where the comparison comes from.
Like Bourbon Street, Beale is closed to traffic every evening, and becomes a huge pedestrian mall (and drinking on the street is also permitted)
Like Bourbon, Beale Street has many many bars and clubs, all featuring live music (although Bourbon is more about jazz, and Beale Street is totally about the blues )
There the similarities ended for me.
There is none of the craziness of New Orleans in Memphis, in fact it seems like a much more laid back crowd in Memphis.
We arrived on Beale Street at around 7:00 p.m. on our first night in town.
We were very disapointed that the first place I was looking for (Elvis Presley's Restaurant) had in fact closed down for good the week before we arrived!!
I really don't think it was that big a loss, as from all I've read on it, seemed most like a tourist trap and hey we were going to Graceland the next day anyway!
It seemed like every second doorway on Beale was a restaurant or bar (not my imagination, there are lots!)
So finding dinner was certainly not going to be a problem!
The toughest part was choosing only one place for dinner.
Eventually we chose the King's Palace Cafe. (162 Beale)
A nice little place that had a man playing the blues just outside the front door, plus a live band playing on stage.
The dinner was great, we ordered a kind of a best of platter.
It included fried green tomatoes, gumbo for two, jambalaya, shrimps, and a few other tasty morsels I can't remember.
It was good food, and priced reasonably as well.
After dinner, and a few drinks we were off to the streets.
The great thing was, the bands playing on street corners, and at W.C. Handy Park were even better than the band at the restaurant.
Everyone plays for tips, and none of them are very high pressure as far as the tips, they just seem to play for the love of playing.
Speaking of high pressure to tip, there is a great group of young people who perform along the centre of Beale Street.
They start by clearing about 100 or so feet along the streets, then take a running start, jump up, land on their hands, flip to their feet, then back to their hands, and keep going for the whole length of the street.
These antics are fun to watch, but at the end of the show they are not shy about shoving their tip bucket into everyones faces.
Mind you, I'm sure this is how they make their living, but still I'm not a fan of high pressured tipping.
The next night we stopped in at the Blues City Cafe for dinner. (138 Beale)
Now from the outside this place doesn't look like much, but inside you are treated to some of the best cooking anywhere.
The man at the door promised us that they had the best ribs in the south.
Well the order my girlfriend had was pretty damn good, but we couldn't aggree if these were the best or if the Rendezvous BBQ just down the street was better (you wont be disapointed if you try both just to compare as they are both incredible!)
I ordered a bowl of gumbo, and it was the best I've had outside of New Orleans.
Also had an oven broiled steak with new potatoes, the meal was incredible, and very easy on the wallet!
(plus the movie 'The Firm' with Tom Cruise filmed a scene inside the restaurant)
(and Bill Clinton is a regular when in town)
I was surprised that the restaurants were all quite reasonably priced seeing as how they are in a tourist district.
Another plus was that the locals are all quite friendly, and glad to give advise on good restaurants or anything else you might ask.
I had a wonderful time touring Beale Street, and so should you.
Just like any big city, there are some areas that look a little creepy, but if you stay with the crowds you'll never have a problem.
For further reading on Beale St I highly recommend http://www.bealestreet.com/index.shtml
Thank You for reading.