Game On: Find the Best Eats near FedExForum in Memphis

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

FedEx is Memphis; the global logistics company founded by hometown boy Fred Smith is the city's top employer and corporate citizen. So it's no wonder that when the city built a new home for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies that FedEx claimed the naming rights to the Forum - and what a nice bear den it is.

Located in downtown Memphis with Beale Street as its backdrop, the Forum - which also hosts every major concert and entertainment or sporting in the MidSouth - is in a prime location, surrounded by the frivolity of Beale and some of the best restaurants in the Memphis. The question isn't whether to eat before heading into the Forum, but where to eat before heading into the Forum.

Our list of the 10Best restaurants near FedEx Forum includes something for every taste, as well as something for every budget and style - i.e. - date night or family outing. All of the restaurants are within walking distance of the Forum.

Try the Peabody's Capriccio Grill for a steakhouse dinner, the hidden-away Itta Bena for happy hour appetizers and drinks (or a full-blown meal), or the famous Rendezvous for Memphis barbecue. For a quick and easy meal, hit Dyer's Burgers or Huey's. Whatever option you choose, restaurants near the FedEx Forum are plentiful and plenty good.

10. Aldo's Pizza Pies
Photo courtesy of Aldo's Pizza Pie

Aldo's Pizza Pies specializes in hand-tossed pizzas, a wide variety of beer - 30 different draughts and 30 bottled options - and is quickly becoming known as the patio dining spot downtown. Situated on scenic Main Street in a cavernous space that lends to its big city atmosphere, Aldo's offers a huge patio for outside dining and people-watching. The New York-style pies served up in two sizes - small and large - as well as by the slice. A small is enough for two if ordering more than just pizza (see below). Options range from create your own to the Italian Popeye with vodka cream,chicken, spinach, and bacon or the Memphis Bird with barbecue chicken and red onions. Try the veggie dishes for something different; salads and sandwiches are also on the menu.

9. 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.

8. Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous
Photo courtesy of Lisa Buser

One local politico lovingly calls this Memphis favorite "ambrosia of pork" -but locals simply call it the 'Vous. Charlie Vergos started this Memphis landmark in 1948 - selling pork sandwiches and coleslaw on the street, eventually opening this one and only location tucked into a downtown alley. The best bets on the menu are the sausage and cheese plates, barbeque nachos and full slabs of ribs; the waitstaff can be brusque but don't take it personally - they are simply trying to get everyone served in the cavernous basement that is the main dining area. On any given night, the restaurant overflows with a combination of locals and tourists; upstairs, if there's not a private party, there's a simple bar and waiting area - and be prepared to wait. If there is a private party, don't be surprised if the waiting room is actually the alley; in either case, keep your ear out to hear your name called over the tinny microphone.

7. Dyer's Burgers
Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies

A lively Beale Street location complements the character of this '50s-style restaurant, which has additional locations throughout town but we love this one for its seemingly always-open, funky vibe. Opened in 1912, Dyer's has served its famous deep-fried burgers for many years. They claim, in fact, that they've been using the same grease since they opened! Legendary Dyer's serves burgers with one, two or three patties and up to three slices of cheese. The menu also offers hot wings, chicken fingers, hot dogs, and shakes. Open into the wee hours of the morning, Dyer's is a favorite spot of the nightlife crowd.

6. Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar - Memphis
Photo courtesy of SinglePlatform

Take off for a taste experience at this downtown Memphis restaurant - with flights of both wine and food, the options are seemingly endless. From champagne flights to salad flights to beef or seafood, cabernets or chardonnays, it can actually be a bit overwhelming to choose a combination of food or drink. Our particular favorites are the chicken and waffles - said waffles being made of potatoes, and the shrimp and grits, some of the best we've tasted in town. The good news is that every dish you can try in a flight is also available in a full size - hooray!

5. Huey's
Photo courtesy of Huey's

Memphis has more than its fair share of neighborhood bar and grills, and Huey's happens to be one of the best. The atmosphere is no frills and all bar, and the menu features what many locals regard as the area's tastiest burger. With locations from downtown to Collierville, the local chain really understands what it means to be a neighborhood favorite; each spot offers live music, some have patios, all offer the same excellent food - with burgers just being the start. Salads and seafood, soups and guilt-inducing snacks - there's something for everyone. Huey's is a great place to swing by and catch the game on TV too � especially if you're inclined to down a few brews and sample something delicious, like sublime onion rings.

4. Capriccio Grill - Peabody Hotel Memphis
Photo courtesy of Sally Walker Davies

Capriccio is a solid downtown dining choice, and a good option for a meal downtown if you want to avoid post-game crowds (and craziness) on Beale Street. It's not every day that a hotel restaurant becomes a must-eat for locals. But in the case of the venerable Peabody Hotel, attracting the local crowd has never been an issue. To appeal to the business crowd, the folks at Capriccio have changed up their lunch offerings, offering a full complement of Southern specialties with a bit of a twist in addition to their regular American and Italian fare, including sandwiches, a pasta bar and pizzas. There are plenty of lawyers, financial types and kings of cotton located in the downtown business district who want an excellent but fast lunch, and that's a tough find in the city's central business district. Capriccio's quiet yet elegant atmosphere lends itself well to a business lunch: it's the kind of place where hushed conversations are almost expected, and tables and booths are positioned in such a way that one can actually conduct business in relative privacy. The twist in Capriccio's Southern comfort food is that you can order small plates to share or full-on entrees, whichever you prefer. Starters to share include some serious Southern favorites, cooked just like your grandma (assuming she was from the South) would make them. Fried green tomatoes come with a side dish filled with toppings of bacon, cheese and more. Who knew you could make fried green tomatoes better with cheese and bacon? If you've never had traditional buttermilk fried chicken, this is the place to start. Chef Andreas Kisler says the hotel's long-time cooks – all of whom apparently have grandmothers who make killer fried chicken – are true to the process that delivers such crisp-on-the-outside and juicy-one-the-inside pieces. This is Memphis, so of course there's some kind of barbecue (pork, thank you very much) on every menu in town. Capriccio's take on barbecue is in salad form, and it comes in a jar – pulled pork with barbecue sauce that you (or the server) can pour atop lettuce.

3. eighty3
Photo courtesy of Lisa Buser

eighty3 is the Madison Hotel's chic bar and restaurant (on the ground - there's another up on top of the hotel - Twilight Sky Terrace). eighty3 added outside dining in 2014, and it's been a hit. The space feels intimate, but actually seats a lot of folks under its canopy. The patio overlooks Main Street, which is open only to pedestrian, horse-drawn carriage and trolley traffic for a number of blocks. The patio is open-air when weather permits, and it's warmed with heaters when there's a chill in the air. The full restaurant menu is available, although some of the small plates continue to be our favorites, including the grilled Gulf oysters. Not to be missed is the chicken with mac-n-cheese waffles; the crispy fried chicken sits on a waffle made of mac-n-cheese – who would have ever thought to whip up that combo? – and is drizzled with a bourbon pecan sauce. Other highlights include a crispy version of shrimp 'n' grits infused with rosemary, as well as the restaurant's signature skillet cornbread with a killer jalape�o-honey butter. Much of the menu at eighty3 is meant to be shared, and the pricing is very wallet-friendly. Small plates are priced from $6, with entrees starting at $15.

2. South of Beale
Photo courtesy of South of Beale

This South Main neighborhood gastropub is a bit of a secret spot, with its in-the-middle-of South Main location, in a block that needs some more gentrification. The good news is that this stretch of South Main is improving daily - thanks in part to S.O.B., as most folks call it. With a fantastic list of crafted beers including the locally-produced Ghost River, a robust wine list that the owner's totally willing to take suggestions for, and an excellent array of food including bar pies - think pizza with a twist, like pulled barbecue pork, cheddar cheese and carmelized onions - there's a myriad of reasons to drop in.

1. Itta Bena
Photo courtesy of Itta Bena

Tucked high above noisy Beale Street, but with a great view of the action, Itta Bena is a lush bit of quiet yet rustic elegance that sits on top of B.B. King's Beale Street club. With a practically unmarked entrance (facing Second Avenue, around the corner from the entrance to B.B. King's), the idea is to evoke the feel of a speakeasy in modern Memphis, and it works. While the name seems to indicate Italian fare, nothing could be further from the palate; Southern delicacies including fried green tomatoes, she-crab soup, duck and waffles, and Cajun-grilled shrimp and grits are all worthy of a taste.