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Finding sustenance for body and soul in Memphis

By Sean Daly, Times Pop Music Critic
Published August 5, 2007


Memphis cuisine is not for the squeamish. Or the dieting. Or vegetarians. But if you're in the mood for life-affirming (if possibly life-shortening) food, this is the place for you. Here are a few culinary musts (much to our dismay, we couldn't find any fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches):

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken
310 S Front St., (901) 527-4877
B.B. King, Norah Jones and Samuel L. Jackson swear by this local staple, where the piles of golden-fried chicken are epic and the beer comes in $4.50 40-ouncers. The concrete walls are prisonly in tone, but the jukebox is a gem and the prices are cheap.

Rendezvous Ribs
52 S Second St., (901) 523-2746
You could do a weeklong tour of brilliant Memphis BBQ joints if you dared. But you can't go wrong with this downtown fave, which is situated in a back alley and in a cellar. Rendezvous does things differently, serving spicy dry-rub ribs instead of the more common "wet" variety, but two squeeze-bottles of sauce (sweet and vinegar) are on your table. A full rack runs $16.95.

Flying Fish
105 S Second St., (901) 522-8228
This casual carryout, across from the historic Peabody Hotel, serves raw bar, grilled fish, snow crab legs. But do yourself a favor and test out that fryer. The "Hog Wallow Fry" gives you catfish, shrimp, oysters and slaw for $13.99. Go for a walk along the Mississippi after you eat. You'll feel less guilty.

The Arcade Restaurant
540 S Main St., (901) 526-5757
From the sweet potato pancakes to the country ham platter, the Arcade has been slinging comfort food for nearly a century. Get there early in the morning, and you just might have a shot at sitting in Elvis' regular booth - it's at the very end of the long front window.

Earnestine & Hazel's
531 S Main St., (901) 523-9754
You'll want to end your night here, preferably past midnight, when the beloved dive starts jumping. This former brothel, now a supposedly haunted juke joint, serves up what many locals consider the best late-night sandwich in town: the thick, tasty Soulburger, which only costs a few bucks - but will stay with you for hours.