For a city most often associated with pork barbecue and Elvis's famous fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, Memphis has a surprisingly diverse restaurant scene. From escargot to étouffée and fajitas to focaccia, there's all manner of ethnic and gourmet fare around town. You'll also find plenty of barbecued ribs, fried pickles, purple-hull peas, butter beans, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes. And you might be surprised by the wealth of trendy restaurants you'd expect to encounter in any major metropolitan area. Drawing on influences from around the country and around the world, these New American and New Southern restaurants serve dishes so complex and creative that they often take a paragraph to describe on a menu.
Gourmet and ethnic foods aside, what Memphis can claim as its very own is slow-smoked, hand-pulled pork shoulder barbecue, to which you can add the spicy sauces of your choosing -- chili vinegar, hot sauce, whatever. If this doesn't appeal to you, then maybe Memphis's famous ribs will. These are cooked much the same way as the pork shoulder and come dry or wet -- that is, with the sauce added by you (dry) or cooked in (wet).
Among the better chain restaurants to be found in Memphis are Bonefish Grill, 1250 N. Germantown Pkwy. (tel. 901/753-2220; www.bonefishgrill.com); Carrabba's, 5110 Poplar Ave. (tel. 901/685-9900; www.carrabbas.com); P.F. Chang's, 1181 Ridgeway Rd. (tel. 901/818-3889; www.pfchangs.com); Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 6120 Poplar at Shady Grove (tel. 901/761-0055; www.ruthschris.com); and Texas de Brazil Churrascaria, 150 Peabody Place (tel. 901/526-7600; www.texasdebrazil.com), featuring tableside, hand-carved meats.
For these listings, I have classified restaurants in the following categories (estimates do not include beer, wine, or tip): very expensive for meals costing more than $50; expensive if a complete dinner would cost $30 or more; moderate, where you can expect to pay between $15 and $30 for a complete dinner; and inexpensive, where a complete dinner can be had for less than $15.
Corky's Ribs & BBQ -- Kids and grandparents alike love Corky's boisterous atmosphere, rollicking rock oldies music, and big pork platters paired with sky-high stacks of onion rings.
Four Way Restaurant -- Good, old-fashioned home cooking means kids might be asked to eat their vegetables along with fried chicken and pork chops. But when the green beans are seasoned with pork and the mashed potatoes are drenched in butter, who but the fussiest little eaters would object?
The Majestic Grille -- Vintage Popeye cartoons and silent movies play on a large video screen at one end of this upscale-ish but affordable family restaurant with enough menu choices for all tastes.
Spaghetti Warehouse -- Antique trolley cars and hearty Italian comfort food, including thick slabs of lasagna and kid-friendly spaghetti-and-meatballs, make this inexpensive restaurant a family favorite.
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.