It used to be that to find late-night food in Memphis you'd have to make it yourself. But when Beale Street made a comeback in the 1990's, there was suddenly a lot of late-night grub to soak up that all-evening imbibing Beale Street patrons were doing.
Now, however, there are late-night options scattered around the city, with most centered in downtown and Midtown. Our list of the best late-night restaurants include some of Beale Street's best stops, where you'll still enjoy the blues while chowing down on a late night meal. Blues City Cafe is an institution, both for its catfish and ribs (you can order them separately or together) and its music, while the Rum Boogie Cafe offers a wider choice of music with its standard fare.
Not too far afield from Beale is Earnestine and Hazel's, the former bordello-turned-hotspot. The Soul Burger is what we always crave after a night out on the town; it is juicy, slightly spicy, and packed with just the right amount of fat and carbs. In East Memphis, the options are fewer but no less colorful, with the Cheers-like neighborhood feel of the Belmont Grill and the cool hipster vibe of Muddy's Bake Shop our fave for a sweet end to the evening.
Blues City Cafe
Blues City Cafe, in the heart of Memphis's nightlife scene, offers the right ingredients for a perfect evening – terrific food and great blues (played right next door at the Band Box).
While some folks may dispute the place's claim to the title of "Best Meal on Beale," Blues City does in fact serve a wide range of tasty, down-home delicacies, like barbecued ribs, chicken, steaks and fried catfish. The cafe is at the corner of Beale and Second - and there's always someone at the door to lure you in. Once inside, you'll note it's a bit dingy (at least the floors) but don't let that put you off - the food is excellent.
If the rustic interior looks familiar, that's because you saw it in the film adaptation of John Grisham's The Firm. (901-526-3637)
This funky little spot in Cooper Young opened in 2013 with little fanfare but loads of fans; chef Karen Carrier's latest nightspot / restaurant 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. There are only a handful of items on the menu, with a few special offered most nights; these are all small plates, mind you, and the offerings completely change every five weeks or so. There's no one country or cuisine that's prominent - but the offerings seem to come in themes - like Creole, when as I write this there are crawfish empanadas, boudin balls and New Orleans-style shrimp on the short menu. (901-272-0830)
It's a bit ironic that such a huge space is dedicated to small plates - but after a signature cocktail or two from the mixologists at the wrap-around bar in this Cooper-Young eatery, who pays attention to irony, anyway?
Alchemy works so well in this huge space because it buzzes with a hip, every-everything kind of crowd, from BoHo Midtowners to groups of suburban moms to urban hipsters. Our favorite tiny plates - and they are small, so take our advice and over-order, especially if you plan to imbibe - are shrimp and grits, the duck spring rolls and the Spanish Manchego cheese with roasted red peppers.
. Monday � Saturday 4 pm � 1 am, Sunday 4 pm � 11 pm. Phone 901- 726-4444. 940 South Cooper Street, Memphis (Cooper Young area of midtown). http://www.alchemymemphis.com (901-726-4444)
Muddy's Bake Shop
Muddy's is a Memphis institution - and that's saying something, given the fact it became one practically on the day it opened in 2008. The reason is the amazing, made-from-scratch, perfectly frosted, aptly named cupcakes it offers, including Prozac (chocolate), Plain Jane (vanilla with hued vanilla buttercream frosting), and Frankly, Scarlett (red velvet with cream cheese frosting). They come in mini and regular sizes, and every bite is delish.
But Muddy's is about more than just the cupcake craze - the bakery case is full of pies, cakes, cookies, muffins and puddings; they also make a killer pimento cheese sandwich. And for holidays, they make some of the cutest cookies we've eaten.
The bakery is owned by Kat Gordon, a baking genius who is usually seen in brightly-hued hair – like neon pink or bright blue. The bake shop is named after her grandmother, who was affectionately known as Muddy. ((901) 683-8844)
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. (901-526-0383)
Known to many as the "only real saloon" in the Memphis's Germantown area, the Belmont Grill is a great gathering spot for comfort food among family and friends. This pub-style venue serves daily lunch specials from their award winning burgers and steaks to fried chicken and turkey pot roast. If you can handle it, try the Belmont Burger, which was named the city's "Best Burger" by Memphis Magazine.
Just like its sister restaurant in East Memphis, the Germantown version of the Belmont is filled with character - and characters; on any given night, it seems the bartenders have antennae, as they're pouring favorites as regulars shuffle in. (901 624-6001)
Young Avenue Deli
Don't be thrown by the name; this cavernous space is indeed a deli - and a tasty one, at that.
Young Avenue has one of the broadest menus we've ever laid eyes on; there's everything from killer fish and chips to a cowboy pita to a pimento cheese sandwich, salads, and smaller plates for kids. Yes, kids are welcome – and we'd advise to bring them during daylight hours, as when the deli starts rocking, it's a grown-up scene.
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? (901-278-0034)
Rum Boogie Cafe
On any given night, you can walk into the Rum Boogie Cafe and hear great blues, rock or country bands. While the beer selection has its fair share of admirers, the bar's décor alone is enough to get most avid music fans in the door as the walls are adorned by guitars autographed by the likes of George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Joe Perry. This ain't the Hard Rock - the feel is local and authentic.
If you get the munchies, you'll want to give their menu a shot – it includes everything from barbecued ribs to red beans and rice - and although not the best food ever, it certainly serves its purpose to soak up the alcohol. (901-528-0150)
Earnestine & Hazel's
This gritty club – a former bordello and hotel, is the local go-to for late night drinks and an alcohol-absorbing Soul Burger – a tasty concoction of greasy burger with onions that helps one regain one's sobriety at the end of the evening.
Whenever there is a celeb in town - quite often, actually- E&H is always on the list, which makes for fun people watching. And people watching is fun regardless, with an always-evolving mix of young hispters, East Memphis socialites, and young med students.
The two-story club offers a small dance floor / space for the bad, counter seating and a scattering of tables on the first floor, with the second floor rooms being a darker, funkier place to hang – but conversation can flow easier upstairs. (901-523-9754)
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. (901-524-1886)
About Sally Walker Davies
Sally Walker Davies is enchanted by Memphis' music, history, and characters. From the artsy South Main Historic District to the grittiness of her favorite live music clubs to the sophisticated style of the eastern edge of the city, there’s a Memphis for every mood, and she loves every part of it.
Walker Davies is an experienced broadcast, print, and online journalist focusing on travel, and is the Memphis City Editor for StyleBlueprint, the South's fastest-growing digital lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared the Commercial Appeal, AOL Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and The Tennessean. She is the author of Tennessee: An Explorer’s Guide.
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