After a Game at Liberty Bowl, Hit Up Memphis' Best Nightlife

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Young Avenue Deli
By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

The Liberty Bowl is both an actual stadium - home field for the University of Memphis Tigers - as well as one of the post-season NCAA Football bowl games, pitting teams from the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences against one another in late December.

Both the University and the Liberty Bowl are located in hip Midtown Memphis, but the stadium does not sit on the campus proper – it’s about a mile away, abutting the swanky east side of town. (That means there is no walk from the bookstore to the stadium –but worry not, you can pick up game gear throughout the stadium). Because the Liberty Bowl is centrally located, your choice of nightlife options for post-game frolicking are boundless, from downtown to Midtown and beyond.

Cooper Young is one of the city's best little nightlife neighborhoods, with a variety of bars and restaurants that cater to almost every whim - from the sports bar-ish Next Door to the swank Alchemy. Overton Square - easily reachable from the stadium as well, or park in CY and take to 'Roo' shuttle - is chock-full of dining and bar options that stay open late.

Whether you're in the mood for a quiet drink following the game, or a spot that puts you right in the center of the post-game action on Beale, there's a bar with your name on it within a quick drive from the Liberty Bowl.

10. Peabody Lobby Bar
Photo courtesy of Memphis CVB

The historic Peabody Hotel is widely regarded as the place to stay when you're visiting Memphis; the grand hotel is elegant and sophisticated, with a huge two-story lobby featuring marble columns and rich decor. Indeed, the hotel's lobby fountain, where its famous resident ducks spend a good portion of their day, is one of the area's "must sees." But for an adults-only experience, wait until the ducks parade out to their rooftop quarters for the evening, which happens every night at 5 p.m. Once the crowds (and kids) clear out, the Lobby Bar becomes a swank, upscale spot to grab a drink. The bar is one of the best places in town to rub shoulders with the Memphis elite, and celebrities and sports figures when they are in town - and to enjoy a good martini while piano music drifts in the background.

9. Next Door
Photo courtesy of Next Door

The next door and more casual neighbor of Chef Ryan Trimm's Sweetgrass is a bar/casual eatery that rocks during the NFL and NBA seasons - but we hesitate to call it a sports bar; let's just say this is a more upscale yet casual bar that just happens to host great sporting event parties. Next Door feels pub-y, with a long bar, almost the length of the entire space - and a mix of high top and conventional tables which can be thrown together to accommodate larger groups. The wine and beer offerings are fantastic (we love any bar that offers an Albarino as a matter of course), with a great selection of imported bottled beer and regional brews on tap.

8. Babalu Tacos & Tapas
Photo courtesy of Memphis CVB/I Love Memphis

Babalus Tacos & Tapas is a Southern mini-chain, if you will; the original is in Jackson, MS, the Memphis location in Overton Square was restaurant dos, and Birmingham gets numero tres. The food is super-fresh, the ambiance rocking, and the crafty cocktails sure to please. Located in a cavernous space in the Overton Square district of Midtown, Babalu is basically one giant room with a long, long bar � and the bar opens to the back, right to the outdoor patio where there are lounging couches and cocktail tables. The menu offers a variety of food made to share � from a killer bacon cheeseburger with white cheddar, roasted tomatoes and chipotle aioli on a sweet sourdough bun (our new favorite burger in town, bar none) to gourmet tacos and Spanish-style tapas (potatas bravas!). There's also the occasional dash of Southern cooking � garlic shrimp and grits, or tamales from the Mississippi Delta to name a couple. The drink list is extensive and fabulous, with a huge list of tequilas and a bunch of fun cocktails � there are seasonal options, as well.

7. Hi-Tone Cafe
Photo courtesy of Hi-Tone Cafe

If music is akin to religion in Memphis, then it's not ironic that this rowdy Midtown nightspot is now located next to the Jehovah's Witnesses in its new strip center digs. The new space, like the old, is a few rooms - a lounge area, and two spaces, one large and one small for shows. Featured musical acts at the Hi-Tone could be anybody from the North Mississippi Allstars and Cat Power to reggae and country-western acts – all of them party bands, to be sure. There's the most seriously fantastic bar food of any Memphis live music venue, too – with burgers and gourmet hot dogs and made-to-order pizzas, plus the best selection of loaded French fries (think fries topped with cheddar and gravy, or mozzarella and marinara), plus a Sunday brunch that rocks.

6. Mollie Fontaine Lounge
Photo courtesy of Mollie Fontaine Lounge

When they say food / spirits on the Mollie Fontaine Web site, spirits has a double meaning - as in, the kind your drink and the kind who haunt old, Victorian homes. Mollie Fontaine is housed in a gorgeous Victorian mansion, stuffed with a combination of retro and vintage-y chic decor - overstuffed loungers, funky little chairs, and super-cool lighting, from chandeliers to multi-hued, single Edison bulbs. Sometimes, a pro sits at the old piano in the first floor front parlor - sometimes a customer jumps on - not always a good thing - and sometimes there's a DJ mixing it up. There's a full bar, and very often anything wet and cold comes straight out of a cooler tucked behind the bar. Since the lounge is owned by Karen Carrier of The Beauty Shop fame, the small plates served up are always something scrumptious - Fontaine sliders with arugula and gruyere, crispy duck rice rolls, and avocado tempura are all part of the inventive fare, and there's always a creme brulee of the day to tempt the sweet tooth.

5. Bar DKDC
Photo courtesy of Justin Fox Burkes

This funky little spot in Cooper Young opened in 2013 with little fanfare but loads of fans; chef Karen Carrier's latest nightspot is fresh and hip and a great addition to the neighborhood nightlife scene. Decorated with treasures from around the world - and plenty of tag sale chic - DKDC offers small plates with an international flair and yummy libations with a guaranteed kick. The crowd is slightly hipster but that shouldn't scare off you traditional types, as the setting is comfortably eclectic. Cocktails are served up in an array of containers, from Mason jars to juice glasses, and include twists on tradition - like a blackberry julep.

4. Young Avenue Deli
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Young Avenue Deli

Don't be thrown by the name; this cavernous space is indeed a deli (and a tasty one, at that) but it also doubles as a live music must-hit for Memphians. While the atmosphere of Young Avenue screams ROCK!, there's a surprisingly eclectic lineup of local and regional bands booked here, making Young Avenue one of the city's best live music venues. The beer list is expansive, with what just might be the longest beer menu in town, a mix of the most exotic beers on tap and in a bottle or can - and you can indeed order a Bud Light or something of that ilk, but why would you, when you can have a Ghost River Wee Heavy or a Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout? When the band's on break, throw a few darts or shoot some pool - or simply take in the crowd - an always interesting collection of locals.

3. Alchemy
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Young Avenue Deli

Alchemy is one of those rare combinations of excellent restaurant with a hopping bar - a late-night spot in the Cooper-Young neighborhood with a scene that includes everything - young singles, older couples, all races, all economic backgrounds. The bartenders are really on it - rarely do you go for more than a few minutes without a check-in from one, if you are lucky enough to grab a seat at the huge U-shaped bar. And if you're not, never fear - there are small tables and a few comfy couches to lounge on, although check with the hostess to be sure those seats are available, they are sometimes reserved. The drink menu is inventive and Memphis-themed, and the restaurant's signature small plates can be ordered at any seat. There's loads of movement from patrons going to tables, people bar hopping in Cooper-Young, and people simply walking around, checking out the scene – so Alchemy feels like it's constantly in motion.

2. Beale Street Historic District
Photo courtesy of Lisa Buser Photography

Once the center of black-owned businesses and nightclubs, Beale became the home of the blues at the turn of the 20th century - a waypoint along the trail from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. W.C. Handy lived - and performed - here, and anyone who was anyone on the blues scene has performed in the clubs here, from Blind Mississippi Morris to B.B. King to Robert Johnson. Today, the clubs and restaurants on Beale proper still move to the beat of the blues. The FedEx Forum - home to the NBA's Grizzlies - sits just off Beale, and a variety of hotels, museums and eateries are within a short walk from the famous street. Blues fans can pay homage to W.C. Handy at the home and museum at the east end of the street, or visit the Center for Southern Folklore to explore storytelling and folk art in the South. Also nearby is the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and Gibson Guitar Factory. In Handy Park, a small stage is home to lunchtime and weekend concerts including some unscheduled jam sessions. For the best blues music, try B.B. King's, Rum Boogie or Alfred's.

1. Overton Square
Photo courtesy of Jessica Grammer for Overton Square / Loeb Properties

In the 1970's, Overton Square was THE nightlife spot in Memphis; Beale Street was a ghost town, and there were only random bars scattered throughout town. These days, the Square is bar-hopping paradise. Craft beers at Bosco's, tacos and tapas at Babalu, killer martinis at Bari, live music and cocktails at Layfayette's Music Room- the list goes on and on - as does the party. These days, the social gauntlet in Memphis seems to be how quickly you experience one of Overton Square's restaurants: the faster you can claim to have grabbed a meal, the more social cred you have.