Sure, there's a Starbucks at practically every other intersection, but wouldn't you really rather patronize a coffee shop where you can soak up some local atmosphere? If so, your first stop should be downtown, to the Center for Southern Folklore, Pembroke Square (tel. 901/525-3655). It's a one-of-a-kind cafe of culture where you can belt back a cappuccino while admiring local crafts, outsider art, and hear great music almost any time of day. Another downtown lunch spot I highly recommend is The Little Tea Shop, 69 Monroe Ave. (tel. 901/525-6000), which has been doling out excellent Southern cooking for decades. Although the menu changes daily, you can expect fried chicken, catfish, mashed potatoes and (vegetarians, rejoice) meatless turnip greens -- a real rarity in the pork-simmered South. Iced sweet tea is a must.
If you're down on Beale Street, there are tons of bars, restaurants, and places to grab a cup of coffee. One of the homiest is Miss Polly's Soul City Cafe, 154 Beale St. (tel. 901/527-9060; www.misspollysmemphis.com), where you can get a cheap morning-after breakfast of waffles, eggs, and fried potatoes.
At the edge of the gay-friendly Cooper-Young neighborhood, you can quaff a cup o' joe and listen to live music or poetry at Otherlands, 641 S. Cooper St. (tel. 901/278-4994). Farther down the street, you'll find Java Cabana, 2170 Young Ave. (tel. 901/272-7210; www.javacabanacoffeehouse.com), a grungy dive with a cement floor and flea-market furnishings. Good coffee, muffins, and brownies are just right over a game of chess or during one of the frequent open-mic nights.
The most bucolic cafe view in town can be found inside the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, where the classy Brushmark Restaurant, 1934 Poplar Ave. (tel. 901/544-6225; www.brooksmuseum.org), overlooks the lush greenery of Overton Park. Beloved local chef Wally Joe oversees the kitchen. This is an elegant lunch spot (and on Thurs nights you can have dinner here too).
Quiche Lorraine, zesty tomato bisque, and chicken salad sandwiches on chewy loaves of French bread are delectable choices at La Baguette (tel. 901/458-0900). Well-to-do "ladies who lunch" frequent this patisserie, as well as Just for Lunch (tel. 901/323-3287), a nearby cafe. Both are located inside the Chickasaw Oaks shopping center, 3088 Poplar Ave., in Midtown.
Farther east, be on the lookout for Davis-Kidd Booksellers. Part coffee shop, part wine bar and cafe with indoor/outdoor seating, brontë: A Novel Bistro, 387 Perkins Rd. Extended (tel. 901/374-0881; www.daviskidd.com), located inside the bookstore, is where the intelligentsia gather for delectable salads and sandwiches, conversation, and liquid refreshment.
A stone's throw away, in the Sanderlin Center plaza, is the city's newest bakery. Riding the nationwide cupcake-craze, locally owned Muddy's Bake Shop, 5101 Sanderlin Ave. (tel. 901/683-8844), touts its use of organic ingredients. Small, plainly decorated cupcakes come in a slew of flavors. To be honest, I'm not bowled over by this place, but the locals seem to love it. The selection of sweets varies each day, so before you get your heart set on snickerdoodles, call ahead to see what kinds of fresh-baked pies, cakes, and cookies are available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.