Saturday update: Conversation with visitors helped me clarify a couple of reasons why Memphis is great

There is almost nothing that energizes me like telling people who don’t live here about my city and about my neighborhood. Last night I had a fantastic conversation about Memphis with two folks from out of town who are considering a move here. The more I talked about Memphis, the more I realized how truly good we have it here. I will talk about our conversation more toward the end of this post, but I realize most of you came here for the news, so let’s get to that first.

A classic Italian deli is coming to Downtown. Tuscany Italian Eatery will open at 116 S. Front. That’s across from AutoZone and hopefully they will succeed in a space where others haven’t.

The American Cancer Society Young Professionals Group is putting together a Downtown Memphis Putt-Putt Pub Crawl that will depart from the Flying Saucer at 1 PM on Saturday, June 25. Entry is $15 individual or $50 for a team of four. Participating bars include the Saucer, Silly Goose, Local, Oshi, Agave Maria, and Kooky Canuck. There will be nine holes of putt-putt with prizes for best-dressed team, best team score, and best hole. All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society. More information and registration here.

If you’d like to learn more about this young professionals’ group, visit their website.

On Stage at the Halloran Centre, a series of musical acts performing in the Centre’s 361-seat auditorium beginning in September, has been announced. The list includes soul artist Booker T. Jones, Taylor Hicks from American Idol, Grand Ole Opry member Pam Tillis, saxophonist Mindi Abair, Nitty Gritty Dirty Band on their 50th anniversary tour, Marcella Simien (Marcella and her lovers) opening for her father Terrance Simien, and Afro-Caribbean group Tiempo Libre. You can find more information about this series here.

Crazy Good Sauce has signed on as a sponsor for Best Memphis Burger Fest. Crazy Good sells sauces, seasonings and mixers around Memphis. I have a bottle of their ghost pepper sauce in my refrigerator, and have had several of their other sauces on my food at Bardog and they are all good. If you’re going to the Memphis Farmers Market this morning, look for Crazy Good’s booth there. Their sauces are also at City Market.

The Big 12 has approved a conference championship game in 2017. That may sound like possible good news for the University of Memphis, but not so fast – the NCAA granted the Big 12 a waiver to play a championship game with only 10 teams. So the conference is no closer to expansion than they were before.

Daniel posted a photo of the club sandwich that will soon be on the menu when the Silly Goose begins opening for lunch.

Random cool site that was linked in an email I subscribe to: Digital Harlem. It is a look at everyday life in Harlem from 1915 to 1930 as recorded in photos, newspaper clippings, legal documents, maps, and other published and archival sources.

Stats site FiveThirtyEight has composed a list of the most popular songs currently played at wedding receptions, as evidenced by playlists received from 163 DJs. “Hey Ya!” is number one, played on 69 of the 163 lists.


Back to the conversation I had with my out-of-town guests… two things really stood out to me as we talked. The first was how easy it is to find places to volunteer here in Memphis compared to other major cities. Earlier this week I blogged about VolunCheers, an event that will introduce potential volunteers to nonprofits in a speed-dating type of environment. We have Volunteer Memphis which is a central source of opportunities around the city. There’s also an opportunity calendar (and a space to write about volunteer experiences) at Volunteer Odyssey. If you want to get active in the community here, it’s not hard.

Another big takeaway I got from the conversation – something I have known for years but never put into words before – is that more so than most cities, many of the best things that happen here are not born in marketing departments of big corporations. They begin with an idea from an average guy or gal like you or me, and then others climb on board and things grow organically. The Songwriter Nights on South Main come to mind here. They began with one person’s vision, then the musicians bought into it, then the public bought into it, resulting at packed houses at 550 S. Main every time they have an event. A marketing department could not have designed something like that.

Best Memphis Burger Fest would be another example. It started with a guy who believed that there are many alternatives to Huey’s if you want to eat a great burger here in Memphis, and he started a blog about it. As the blog got very popular, he started thinking about food festivals in other cities. The light bulb in his head came on again, and the burger festival was born.

(On a side note, Seth has a new review of the Bomba-B Burger from Sabor Caribe, the Venezuelan restaurant out in The Edge.)

I wrapped up the evening by saying the same thing I have said on here many times: Never in my life have I found a place where there is so much to do so close by, where it is so easy to find people, make friends, and build a fulfilling life, as it is in Downtown Memphis. Thank you Cooper and Nicole for dinner. I enjoyed the conversation thoroughly. If I can answer any other questions for you or point you to more information, you have my email.

I also want to thank Chef Patrick Reilly for coming over and introducing himself to my guests. That meant a lot. By the way, that was another point I made: Here in Downtown Memphis, the chefs are our friends, just regular people we hang out with apart from their restaurants. You don’t find that in Manhattan or L.A., at least not nearly as much.

I didn’t take a photo because I didn’t want to be pulling my phone out all the time at the dinner table, but last night I had one of the few menu items I had never tried, the seared tuna. It is served raw on a bed of jasmine rice with ginger soy sauce, with a side of green beans. Absolutely delicious.

I also had a drink I had never tried at the Majestic last night – Lisa’s Vanilla Bean Old Fashioned. It was made with Knob Creek, simple syrup, muddled vanilla bean, orange zest, and Fee Brothers orange bitters. You know, some people think of Monroe Avenue as “Restaurant Row” because McEwen’s, Flight and Felicia’s are all on the street or nearby. Perhaps the area around Main and Peabody Place could be called “Cocktail Corner” because the Silly Goose, Majestic, and Blind Bear are all places where you can get a well-made craft cocktail.

That’ll wrap up this post. I am skipping the Farmers Market this week because I am not confident the weather will hold up. There was a time in June 2015 where I walked there under sunny skies, and as soon as I bought my smoothie and got under the pavilion, the skies turned dark and opened up. I am not interested in getting trapped again! South Main will have to do without me this morning. I will be flying solo this morning at Bardog, because John D and the boys are cooking at the Tate County Fair, the final regional for the Moody Ques for the 2015-16 BBQ season. If anyone wants to keep me company at Bardog, come on up! Time to hit Publish and get outside.