Raise a Glass and Salute the Best Pubs in Memphis

Photo courtesy of Commercial Appeal
By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

What's not to love about a pub? The very name brings to mind images of a cozy village hangout, where everyone knows who's who – and you can always find a sympathetic ear.  Full of tradition, dark paneling, interesting characters and a variety of beers, Memphis offers up pubs in both the grand Irish and British tradition – as well as in with a funky, soulful twist. You can lift an elbow at any of the pubs on our list among a crowd of true locals – and plenty of colorful ones at that.

Pub grub seems to have given way to a more upscale menu selection, but if you're searching for true Irish fare, then both Celtic Crossing and Brass Door will fit the bill. More Americanized options include TJ Mulligans, while you'll find the perfect mix of relaxed atmosphere and upscale nosh at Local and Next Door, two Midtown faves. The common denominator in all of our selections are their friendly atmospheres and true neighborhood bar vibe.

Many of the pubs on our list offer live music, outdoor seating when the weather's fine, and they are all dedicated to our hometown teams – the Grizzlies, Tigers, and Redbirds, making for raucous viewing parties throughout the year.

10. Wiseacre Brewing
Photo courtesy of Wiseacre Tap Room

The brewery is what we'd call an early-night nightlife kind of place, as it's only open until 10:00 p.m. But this spot in the Broad Avenue Arts District is worthy of a stop, thanks to its two brewing brothers and their dedication to their craft. Davin & Kellan Bartosch (love those names) are the kind of guys who love the art of making beer, and have traveled throughout the United States and Europe to research and hone their craft, finally launching into the brewery world with a brewery and taproom. As brewers, these boys have won plenty of awards; they offer pints and growlers in the tap room ($5 for a pint and $13 for a growler and a fill). Wiseacre was the first of a handful of new taprooms that opened in Memphis in the last few years, and is the unofficial ground zero for the craft brew crowd as well as just a fun spot to hit on any given weekend. Ten taps flow with Wiseacre's Tiny Bomb, (a pilsner), Ananda IPA and a variety of seasonal favorites. There's a different food truck on site during the opening hours, and you can take some brew home with you in your growler or by grabbing a six-pack. The tap rom also offers brewery tours and beer education, so there's rarely a dull moment at Wiseacre.

9. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
Photo courtesy of inkedmn

If it's beer and sporting events you seek, this popular bar just off Beale Street is a good choice. WHile primarily a beer bar, there is always a sporting event on the dock, especially in the hours before the Grizzlies take the court at nearby FedEx Forum. Inside, you'll find an atmosphere conducive to downing a few brews and having a good time: wooden furniture, pool tables, and plenty of Elvis memorabilia. During warmer months, the patio is one of the best places to hang out in Memphis. In case you need to put something substantial in your belly, Flying Saucer offers decent pub grub, and the aptly named Big Pretzel goes great with most beers.

8. Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille
Photo courtesy of Fox & Hound

The Fox & Hound is a chain, but gives off a local vibe thanks to its Memphis-centric decor. This is another spot that college alumni groups gather on football Saturdays for viewing parties and at any other time, every TV seems tuned to a different sports channel. When the sports world is quieter, the Fox & Hound offers paint nights to pull in the ladies.Food is typical pub grub and consistently good. We've brought the kids here before and it's not something we'd do again, however - while it appears family-friendly, younger kids tend to be annoying to the young singletons who heavily populate this space on college game days.

7. Local on the Square
Photo courtesy of Local Gastropub

With exposed brick walls, two levels of lounging and dinging, and a corner spot in Overton Square, Local on the Square should easily become as popular as its older sibling - downtown's Local Gastropub. Upstairs, the feel is more lounge than restaurant, with plenty of cushy chairs and couches on which to perch while solving the problems of the world, and a cool half-u bar makes the space feel open and the people-watching easy. Crafty cocktails include a Velvet Elvis, with locally-branded 901 vodka (Justin Timberlake's vodka label),lavendar syrup, champagne and orange; the local punch bowl is a seasonally-inspired concoction which serves 4-6.

6. The Green Beetle
Photo courtesy of The Green Beetle

You've got to love a place that was open in the 1930's - and was rumored to be a speakeasy during Prohibition - that's found its way back to being a hip joint in 2012. The Green Beetle (it can't be called anything else, as outlined in the building contract, apparently) was originally opened in 1939, kinda putting paid to the speakeasy idea. But whether it was a secret place to drink or simply a good cafe then, today it is a small, cleaned-up, old-fashioned spot to listen to a local band while chowing down on some large - and we mean large - portions of home cooking. Lasagna that regularly weights in over two pounds per serving, creamy, skin-on mashed potatoes with a twist of horseradish, and perfectly cooked collard greens share are what many come for, staying for the local musicians who take to the 'stage' until midnight or later on weekend nights.

5. TJ Mulligan's - Pinch District
Photo courtesy of Commercial Appeal

TJ Mulligan's is a local change with three locations, and our favorite is the on in the Pinch, an historic district in downtown Memphis that's near the pyramid-shaped (soon to be) Bass Pro Center. Mulligan;s offers a patio, a great inside space with plenty of TVs, and a focus on all things football, with MNF and TNF (plus specials and giveaways) and more pro football on Sundays, and college games run all day Saturday. The Grizz and basketball Tigers get their due as well. When Monday isn't a football night, it is a poker night, with friendly Texas Hold 'em competition.

4. 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.

3. The Brass Door
Photo courtesy of The Brass Door

A real Irishman is one of the partners of The Brass Door (he's even named Seamus - love it!) - and his love of soccer and home prompted him to open the doors of the downtown pub, housed in what was originally a bank. With the tellys dedicated to English league soccer and Grizzlies games, live music and a super-friendly staff, anyone who's been to a real 'local' will feel instantly transported - this is the real deal. The pub plays home pub to the Memphis Goners, Arsenal's Memphis Fan Club, which means every Arsenal match comes with a nice crowd of people who are very, very into their team. As far as the pub grub, the menu is decidedly authentic and the beer list is top-notch. ploughman-style lunches to Irish stew, lamb and shepherd's pies and traditional fish 'n' chips,

2. Celtic Crossing
Photo courtesy of Celtic Crossing

Everything about Celtic Crossing feels authentically Irish pub, and walking into the bar is like going through a wormhole into another dimension. Like any respectable pub, the decor offers a mix of tables and chairs, there's always a football match being beamed in from somewhere around the world (if you don't know what EPL stands for, this may not be your bar), and you can order just about any Irish whiskey every made. You can order corned beef, shepherd's pie bangers and mash and even Scotch eggs, or go for the more traditional American pub fare of a burger or salad.

1. High Cotton Taproom
Photo courtesy of Levitt Shell

High Cotton Brewing has been crafting beer in Memphis for a while, and its small-batch craft beers have been a staple in restaurants around in the summer of 2014 to town for almost as long. High Cotton's Taproom opened in the summer of 2014 in a great warehouse-style space that features a long bar, reclaimed wood from historic Memphis settings, and a gigantic, lighted sign that proclaims BEER hanging over the bar, just in case there was any doubt about what they do here. Food trucks can be found on the street outside the taproom, where you can stay for a pint or two of its five or so beers - or fill up a growler and take your brew to go.