It would be a grave mistake to visit Memphis and not stop at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken (310 Front St., 901/527-4877, $6–12) for some of their delicious fried bird. The downtown location is a franchise of the original Gus’s, which is a half-hour drive northeast out of town along U.S. 70, in Mason. It is no exaggeration to say that Gus’s cooks up some of the best fried chicken out there: It is spicy, juicy, and hot. It’s served casually wrapped in brown paper. Sides include coleslaw, baked beans, and fried pickles. They also serve grilled-cheese sandwiches. Gus’s is open daily at 11 a.m., and closes at 9 p.m. on weeknights. Closing time is 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The service in this hole-in-the-wall establishment is slow, but friendly, so come in with a smile on.
Tucked inside an unassuming storefront across from the valet entrance to the Peabody Hotel is Flying Fish (104 S. 2nd St., 901/522-8228, daily 11 a.m.–10 p.m., $5–14), your first stop for authentic fried catfish in Memphis. If catfish isn’t your thing, try the grilled or boiled shrimp, fish tacos, frog legs, or oysters. The baskets of fried seafood come with fries and hush puppies and the grilled plates come with grilled veggies, rice, and beans. The tangy coleslaw is a must. The atmosphere here is laid-back; place your order at the window and come and get it when the coaster they give you starts to vibrate. The checkered tables are well stocked with hot sauce and saltines.
The Arcade (540 S. Main St., 901/526-5757, daily 7 a.m.–3 p.m., $5–10) is said to be Memphis’s oldest restaurant. Founded in 1919 and still operated by the same family (with lots of the same decor), this restaurant feels like a throwback to an earlier time. The menu is diverse, with pizzas, sandwiches, plate-lunch specials during the week, and breakfast served anytime. The chicken spaghetti is a stick-to-your-ribs favorite.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition