Going To Graceland

I'm just getting over a weird 24-hour bug, which began in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, when I awoke to find that someone was stabbing me repeatedly in the upper abdomen. A swift and panicked glance about my darkened bedroom revealed that nobody was, in fact, stabbing me repeatedly in the upper abdomen, and so I lay there deep-breathing for a little bit, then finally managed to fall asleep only to have the whole thing happen again an hour later, like a bad rerun of Real Housewives when you'd been hoping for a new episode. 

In the morning, I felt un-stabbed enough to make an attempt at heading into work, but it quickly became clear that this had been a terrible misjudgement on my part. I spent the day shivering, aching, fighting off waves of nausea, and dragging my three-hundred-pound lead limbs around the office in search of Advil. Calmy, I surmised that I was either coming down with something, or I had unknowingly been taking heroin for the last 32 years and was now going through an unexpected detox. My co-workers, I am sure, assumed the latter: I am ashamed to say that I attended several meetings in what can only be described as a Snuggie.

(Okay, it was this poncho, which I had stashed in a desk drawer for some reason. But you could be forgiven for thinking I had ordered it from an infomercial, I am sure.)  

When Sean finally came to pick me up at the end of the day—his arrival, I expect, was hastened by my increasingly desperate text messages saying things like "please hurry, every minute is torture," as well as my admission that I was typing one of them from a prone position in the only conference room I could find with a frosted glass door—I dozed all the way home. Then I collapsed on the couch under a blanket where, despite the hot water bottle on my feet and the heating being turned up to a sauna-like temperature, I shivered uncontrollably in a desperate bid to get warm. As my pièce de résistance I threw up thrice, before collapsing into bed around nine.

Then I proceeded to sweat. And sweat and sweat and sweat. I do apologize if you're eating while reading this, but I turned my bed into my own personal sweat lodge, and when I woke up I'm pretty sure I could have fit into my high school jeans. Actually, my high school jeans were massively baggy carpenter pants from the Gap—remember those? with that little loop for the hammer a 17-year-old girl so frequently carries when she visits the mall or the local branch of Baskin-Robbins?—so perhaps those aren't the best example, but let's just say I had lost in sweat what Pippa Middleton probably lost by doing the Dukan Diet in the runup to the Royal Wedding. In fact, Sean came to bed a few hours later, took one look at my sopping brow and slick pillow, and opted to sleep on the couch instead. 

But when I woke up, I felt so much better! Gone were the aches and shivers, gone was the upper body stabbing, and gone was the feeling that I should have made a living will and updated my life insurance policy when that HR email reminded me to. I still felt horribly weak and trembly, so I decided to work from home in case I accidentally breathed on someone, but when at 2pm I ran through a mental rolodex of foods I felt I might be able to stomach and my internal buzzer went ding ding ding! on (randomly) oatmeal, I knew I was on the mend.

And thank goodness too, because on Friday I'm heading out to Memphis with my parents and my sister. I know, is March my month of Tennessee or what? As the title of this blog post would suggest—although in light of what I've just told you, you would be forgiven for thinking I was just hallucinating a Paul Simon album—we're going on a pilgrimage to Graceland, home of the late Elvis Presley, whom my parents once saw in concert when he backed off the stage slurring "I split mah pants." 

I'm not sure why we're doing this, but it sounded like fun so I decided to come along. Hey, I like Elvis as much as the next gal, and I like my parents and my sister too. More to the point, I like barbecue and I hear Memphis has some of that. Have you been? Do you know anything about it? Do you have any recommendations? I'm going to be in Nashville for about five minutes too, so feel free to tell me what to do there. I hope it involves pulled pork. 

Nashville! My hood! If you've got time (a couple hours) and would love to wander around a sweet neighborhood, head to 5 Points (roughly S 11th Street + Woodland Avenue). A couple cute shops -

(The Green Wagon (I'm biased - I bake in their kitchen :)), Shops at 1108 Woodland, Art + Invention, Hip Zipper, Wags + Whiskers);

fun restaurants (Marche, 5 Points Pizza, Cafe Margot, I Dream of Weenie (hot dogs from a stationery VW van), Pied Piper Creamery),

and generally a neighborhood with great character.

If you've got a car, then head down to Riverside Village (still in East Nashville) and visit Old Made Good (http://www.oldmadegood.com/) and eat at Watanabe or Mitchell Deli or Eat Well Market.

Heads up, though - if you're planning on being in Nashville this Saturday, the (sold out) 2nd Annual Beer Fest is happening on the East Side, so crowds + traffic are guaranteed. In that case go to Hillsboro Village and grab a bite and some great coffee at Fido, a meal at Sunset Grill (seriously? they have a dessert mirror!), shop at Social Graces, A Thousand Faces, Pangaea and finish your adventure with an Olive + Sinclair (local chocolatier)-dipped paleta from Hot + Cold.

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions!

2
Swistle
Mar 29, 2012

My high school jeans, too, were BAG-A-RIFFIC. Very tight at the hips, then FLARE.

3
Sandra
Mar 29, 2012

That middle of the night stabbing in the abdomen thing, sounds like a gallbladder attack. I've SOOO been there. Glad that you're on the mend.

4
Ginny
Mar 29, 2012

I'm a total lurker on your blog, but I had to come out of lurkdom to say that I ate some _delicious_ barbecue at Corky's Ribs (http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/corkys-ribs-and-bbq-memphis-2) when I visited Memphis! It had been recommended to me by a friend, and I felt the recommendation was well deserved, so now I can pass along the love. I hope you have a great time!

5
Danielle
Mar 29, 2012

I was in Memphis for a conference a couple of years ago, and I could not believe how much I enjoyed it. Even the cheesy Graceland tour.
The food is AWESOME.
I am from Boston, and the East Coast in general seems to be kind of cold, but the PEOPLE! They were so WELCOMING! Like they almost wanted you to be there.

6
Jenny
Mar 29, 2012

I passed through both Nashville and Memphis on a road trip from DC to Vegas last fall. In Memphis, you must visit Neely's Barbecue! My friend and I went to the outpost fairly near Graceland, and it was all dark and hole-in-the wall-ish, even at noon on a Saturday, and we loved it. Nothing fancy, just really, really good food.

In Nashville, per the suggestion of several friends who went to Vanderbuilt, we went to Monell's. You're seated with whomever happens to come in around the same time you do, which makes for some fantastic dinner conversation/stories, and you're served family style with big platters of whatever the kitchen is cooking that night. Generally it's all unhealthy and super southern, and while it may not be the *best* food you've ever had in your life, the experience overall is fantastic.

ps-there's an XM radio station devoted solely to Elvis songs, which naturally we listened to on our way to Graceland, and we discovered that the station itself is at the visitor center. You can pop in, request a song, and talk about how much you love Elvis, and they'll put you on the radio. Cheesy, but a bit fun!

7
ladyloo
Mar 29, 2012

There is a little hole-in-the-wall beignet shop a couple of blocks off Beale Street towards the river that cannot be missed. I'd stack those beignets up against anything you can get in New Orleans. They haunt my dreams.

8
ladyloo
Mar 29, 2012
9
Juli Page Morgan
Mar 29, 2012

Corky's BBQ! It's what we locals love the best. I know everyone's heard of Rendevous, and it's okay, but Corky's rocks. And if you want a great burger, go to Huey's. There's one in midtown and one in Cordova. Both are super! Enjoy Graceland and don't neglect to buy tickets to his car museum and the tour of his plane, the Lisa Marie. Graceland is really fun, even if you're not a big Elvis fan. Welcome to Memphis!

10
Heather
Mar 29, 2012

How long are your 5 minutes in Nashville? Here are a few of my favorites from when I lived there: Centennial Park (life-sized replica of the Parthenon!), Loveless Cafe (Best southern biscuits ever!), Jack's Bar-B-Que (for your pulled pork cravings), Take a walk down second avenue for kitch and honky tonks downtown and head over the pedestrian bridge for the best views of the city. For a local's tour, visit neighborhoods Hillsboro village (Pancake Pantry, Fido), East Nashville (Margot/Marche)or 12th South (Burger Up and Las Paletas).

Of course no trip to Nashville would be complete without hearing some music. Look into these venues: Station Inn (bluegrass), Schermerhorn Symphony Center (one of the best in the world), Even if you don't like Country music, go see the Grand Ole Opry (see it at the Ryman Auditorium if you can), or the Bluebird cafe.

When you're in Memphis, don't miss Beale Street, Sun Studios and the National Civil Rights Museum (but I'm sure they were already on your list).

I'm already wishing I was back there!

11
Sara
Mar 29, 2012

Graceland is awesome, truly. So is the barbeque. Also, be sure to have a beignet. finally, if you've never been to Arkansas, just drive across the bridge over the Mississippi and knock one more state off the list =)

12
Lauren
Mar 29, 2012

Must go to Neely's BBQ in Memphis!
They have their own show on the food network and are hilarious.
Their BBQ Spaghetti dish was incredible!

13
Beverly
Mar 29, 2012

The night time abdomen stabbing coupled with aches, throwing up, and sweating. Totally sounds like the gallbladder attacks that I had. It is very common for women around 30. But, not to worry! Hope I am not alarming you. If it is that then it is manageable.

14
Ris
Mar 29, 2012

Corky's! Best barbeque ever. Have fun!

15
Charise
Mar 29, 2012

It's not BBQ, but go to Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. We made a return trip to Memphis mostly because we really wanted to eat it again. :) Also, Ernestine & Hazel's - a divey bar in an old brothel.

16
Rebecca
Mar 29, 2012

Nashville! I wish you were going to be here longer than five minutes, because there's so much fun stuff to do. A big hit, foodwise, with natives and tourists is the Loveless Cafe. The biscuits are SERIOUSLY amazing. I disagree with the other comment about Monell's....I think it's not that great. You could check out the Country Music Hall of Fame, or venture into East Nashville for Prince's Hot Chicken! There's tons more, but kind of hard to do in only five minutes. Come back sometime!

17
Elizabeth
Mar 29, 2012

I second the call to go to Gus's. 310 S Front Street - when you're wandering downtown it's just a few blocks away and is the most amazing fried chicken.

18
Ami
Mar 29, 2012

I've been to Nashville a few times. My fave place there is a tiny little bar called the Bluebird Cafe. They have live performers that are up close and personal.

19
Cheryl
Mar 29, 2012

Well, we spent a whole day - 8 hours - at Graceland at my mother's insistence for her birthday. Only leaving when we almost got arrested on the Lisa Marie. Let's just say that when they say don't sit on the furniture, that's not a suggestion. They have it ALARMED for God's sake.

As for food, I can't remember where we ate, but we ended up buying dinner for the next table because they were the only group who hadn't insisted on being moved to a new table after about 10 minutes of sitting next to us. We had a good time is what I'm saying. I hope you have just as much fun and don't get chased by Elvis' security people. It's not as much fun as you would think.

20
Leslie
Mar 29, 2012

I lived in Memphis for three years while attending grad school. Here are my two cents:

Graceland is terribly cheesy but irresistible. Enjoy!

Corky's and Huey's were both excellent recommendations from Juli Page Morgan. I also like Interstate BBQ if you're willing to go out in the middle of nowhere.

Memphis has a surprisingly good professional theatre: Playhouse on the Square. They have several shows in production right now, so you have lots of options.

Be warned: Graceland is in a terrible neighborhood, so I don't advise walking there!

Have fun! Drink lots of sweet tea for me!

21
jennifer
Mar 29, 2012

gus's if you want fried chicken, rendevouz for barbeque.

22
Amelia
Mar 29, 2012

Oh. Mah. Gawd. You MUST, MUST visit Graceland Too, as well. If you have any love of weird Americana fan-driven roadside kitsch, this is absolutely worth the trip (abuot 30 or 45 minutes outside of Memphis).

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2006404_20060...

23
Camels & Chocolate
Mar 29, 2012

Tennessee twice in one month, and I won't get to see you either time? (If you have any meals to spare while in Nashville, text me and maybe we can meet up.)

It's a three-way tie for BBQ in Memphis: Central, Rendezvous and Germantown Commissary. Personally, I'm partial to the Commissary.

Also worth eating/visiting: fried lettuce(!) at Alcenia's, breakfast at the Arcade, sweets from the Peanut Shoppe, anything at the Beauty Shop for lunch, coffee from Otherlands, brunch at Brother Juniper's. Oh! And you must get some Ugly Mug coffee--they make creme brulee hot chocolate!--which is available at most Schnucks (a local grocery chain). And South Main has really cute boutiques, and Cooper-Young is great for music collectors and/or hipsters (both of which fit your parents and Susie...I kid, I kid).

My Nashville recommendations are way too long for a blog post, so email me if you need any hints. Virago and Kayne Prime are two of my favorite restaurants, and the Patterson House is very Bourbon & Branch-y.

24
Bonnie Jean
Mar 29, 2012

I think I've eaten at nearly all the BBQ joints in Memphis and Rendezvous is still my favorite (I've yet to try Neely's, though). I like going to Rendezvous for ribs and then Kooky Canuck's for the cookie in the cast iron skillet served with ice cream. Heavenly. I also never miss getting a cupcake at Muddy's Bake Shop - it's on Sanderlin near Poplar Ave. Hands down the best cupcakes I've ever eaten.

Have Fun!

25
Ruth Roe
Mar 29, 2012

Hey, I'm also a lurker :) Your posts make me laugh a lot.

My friend and I spent a couple of days in Memphis last year as part of a road trip. Even without being massive Elvis fans, it is still fab! There is a free shuttle bus that goes from outside the FedEx centre run by Sun Studios.

The Peasbody Ducks are very funny!

Have a brill time

x

26
Ruth Roe
Mar 29, 2012

Hey, I'm also a lurker :) Your posts make me laugh a lot.

My friend and I spent a couple of days in Memphis last year as part of a road trip. Even without being massive Elvis fans, it is still fab! There is a free shuttle bus that goes from outside the FedEx centre run by Sun Studios.

The Peasbody Ducks are very funny!

Have a brill time

x

27
A
Mar 29, 2012

Not Nashville, but I wish you could pop across to Hyde Park this summer, to see Paul Simon perform all of Graceland!

28
Megan
Mar 29, 2012

If you're up for Ribs go to the rendezvous. Agreed on Neely's for pulled pork, but the rendezvous is nicer...and seriously get the ribs. The MLK museum is in memphis too at the Lorraine hotel where he was killed. It's pretty interesting.

29
Melissa
Mar 29, 2012

The Civil Rights museum is amazing. It is located in the Lorraine Hotel. Very moving. The Peobody ducks are ridulous but fun! Go to the roof to see their little palace cage. Go into Schwab's on Beale street for kitschy fun and a feeling of stuff overload. I have been to Graceland 3 times and it is interesting.

Huey's in Midtown is great. Burgers and such and very laid back. Oh how I love Memphis and its barbecue.

I lived in Memphis 15 years ago and had a blast. It is an in-your-face authentic place. Gritty, and bluesy, and friendly.

Enjoy!

30
April
Mar 29, 2012

I used to go to Memphis a lot since I had grandparents, an uncle and cousins there. I can second Corky's (although I haven't been there since probably 2000 when my cousin was getting married). You'll want to watch the ducks at the Peabody hotel and go to Beale St. I can ask my Gran tomorrow for more recent restaurant ideas. Enjoy Graceland, it's ....well, hard to describe but you'll love it!

31
Lauren
Mar 29, 2012

Oh god... please please please go to Corky's. I was in Memphis for a week for a conference and we wound up eating there three times. I went on a meat detox after the trip and waited for my pants to fit again. But seriously... the brisket and the pulled pork are the best we had. So worth it. Gus's Fried Chicken is pretty fantastic, too.

I can't recommend the importance of going to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. It was quite powerful to stand in the space where Dr. King was murdered. The museum is well done. Stop at Arcade Restaurant (Memphis's oldest cafe) across the street for breakfast - the sweet potato pancakes are pretty fantastic.

32
gina
Mar 30, 2012

This is great! Not your illness, but your trip to Memphis! I'm going in May and hope to see lots of cool pictures and recommendations for places to stay (?? I hope??) on your blog!

33
Delaney
Mar 30, 2012

Your five minutes here in Nashville should hopefully include a visit to Lower Broad(way). Don't miss Hatch Show Print, the country's oldest letterpress poster shop!

And Beauty Shop in Memphis (near the college) is so cute for lunch.

My best high school jeans were gigantic pale green Levi's Silvertabs. Those were the best days.

34
Marcheline
Mar 30, 2012

Hey girl (you have to learn to say that if you're going to TN)... I lived in "NashVegas" for five years, but that was so long ago all my favorite restaurants have probably been turned into microbreweries by now. Who says things never change for the better? Wherever you end up, you'll have a great time in Nashville, it's a fun town.

35
Erika
Mar 30, 2012

I'm from Memphis, born and raised and Corky's is ok but I suggest The Barbeque Shoppe on Madison. Huey's burgers are good but believe it or not, Tops has the best burgers and it's a Barbeque joint.

36
Sarah
Mar 30, 2012

Concur with all the recommendations for Gus's fried chicken, or anything fried really (especially pickles).... There is a place on Beale that does deep fried twinkies and fries their hamburgers in the same batch of grease... Yummmm... The Dixon gardens and museum is also a cute spot with some period paintings, cute gardens and a rotating exhibition, near the botanical gardens and in the same part of town as a good Gus's (there are muttuple). The commissary is also a great BBQ joint in agermantown, and I thought the Blues Street cafe had great ribs even for being in the tourist section on Beale. And go see the Peabody Ducks and the little boutiques in the hotel.. That's where I got my blue suede shoes. :)

37
A.
Mar 30, 2012

You should really, really do the Peabody ducks.

Can I ask an off-topic travel question, O flight-booking guru? If you were flying to Italy this June, would you book now (which makes your stomach churn due to $$$), or wait and gamble that fares will drop (which makes your stomach churn due to the uncertainty of it all)?

I'd love to hear your take. Feel better and have fun in Tennessee!

38
Nikole
Mar 31, 2012

Welcome to the Bluff City! As a transplanted Memphian, I can comfortably say that it's hard to make a poor decision in regard to barbecue in these parts. Until fairly recently, Central was our go-to spot, but now The Bar-B-Q Shop takes top billing.
There is even a Groupon for it right now. Maybe it's kismet!

39
DearWendy
Apr 02, 2012

I had one of the best weekends of my life in Memphis celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary in July, 2010. It included a black-out (during 103 degree heat), being recused by the nicest southern couple ever whom we met at Bari (which I recommend!) who took us to Ernestine and Hazels and Alex's (two awesome dive bars), and brought us to an authentic southern porch party where we were treated to local favorites like Gus' fried chicken and Rendezvous BBQ (and rum punch, oh my god). The weekend also included brunch at Arcada, a stop at the civil rights museum (worth seeing, I guess, but I wouldn't want to kill a whole afternoon there or anything), Stax, and, of course, Graceland. The locals recommended a restaurant called Iris, but we didn't make it this on this trip. Next time! Hope you have as much fun as I did.

40
Ali
Apr 03, 2012

I've been a lurker reading and laughing at (with?) your blog through nursing school- thanks for the breaks! I'm a native Memphian and am excited to hear what you have to say about this great city- one of my peeves is that so many tourists only see Graceland (I've never been in my 27 years here) or Beale (we only go with out of town friends). There's tons to do beyond that- Central BBQ is amazing and the patio and pitchers of beer are perfect this time of year. Then you're just a couple of blocks from Cooper-Young (my neighborhood, but I swear I'm not biased), which has great bars. I think you'll be blown away by our southern hospitality if you hit the right spots! Can't wait to read about your experiences!

41
pb
Apr 03, 2012

yes to the Peabody Duck for the heck of it, but go early to get decent viewing position. And Graceland is one of those things in America you just have to see at least once. And the Arcade Restaurant is featured in Mystery Train (which you should watch before you go). But really, really go to Stax Museum--off the beaten path, sharp contrast with Sun and Graceland and filled with fabulous Americana from a rebuilt backwoods southern one-room church to one of Isaac Hayes cars and a virtual Soul Train dance floor. MUST GO. (plus a great t-shirt logo that will garner compliments whereever you wear it) http://www.staxmuseum.com/video-images/museum-tour/

42
pb
Apr 03, 2012

I just got censored by your inappropriate contect filter! All I did was second the Peabody, suggest Mystery Train for pre-Memphis viewing, and strongly recommend the Stax Museum as a must-visit. Maybe it was the link to it's virtual tour that killed my comment. but regardless, please go. Virtual soul-train dance floor! Issac Hayes car! one-room southern church! hmm.

43
Leslie Anne
Apr 04, 2012

I'm afraid my comment is too late, but I had the best trip to Memphis a few years ago. Graceland is amazing, if only for the kitsch factor. Tons of great BBQ of course but also had amazing fish and hush puppies at Soul Fish, and had an amazing meal at Beauty Shop. And I second visiting the Stax Museum, can't go to Memphis and not see Stax or Sun Records. There is so much music happening in Memphis, it's worth the exploration! Hope you had a blast!

44

Almost an entire post dedicated to this horrific, unexplainable, 24-hour stomach virus, and then it ends with, "I hope it involves pulled pork."

Only you. :)

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