For me, it is always a treat to stay at the world-famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis. Over the years, I have had to privilege of staying there many times. My wife, Kathy, and I were there again a few weeks back.
I was making a speaking presentation for the Master Pools Guild, an international association of swimming pool builders. I found that most of the members build between 15 and 20 pools each year for “high-end” clients.
I mentioned to the executive director that Waylon Jennings once had a swimming built in the shape of a guitar. To which he replied, “Yes, I know. We built that pool.”
The members of the Guild were great folks who were fortunate to have created and maintained a family environment for their meetings over the years. It was fun being with them. Staying at the Peabody was icing on the cake.
Kathy and I arrived in Memphis the afternoon before I was to speak the next morning. Since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, we decided to stay an extra night and enjoy the sights and sounds (and food) of downtown Memphis. We were not disappointed.
Each day, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., the Peabody Ducks (which are also world famous) arrive via elevator at the first floor of the hotel where they make their march to the water fountain located in the center of the lobby to have a swim. It is quite the spectacle as hotel guests line the parade route from the elevator to the fountain. After the ducks have gleefully frolicked in the fountain’s water for a few minutes, they return to the elevator and disappear. It is hard to explain, but there is something joyful about this simple routine that has been practiced thousands of times over the years.
When in downtown Memphis you simply must experience Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous Restaurant. Since 1948, The Rendezvous has served the best “dry” ribs to be found anywhere. If you prefer pork ribs of the “wet” variety you might be disappointed, but you won’t be disappointed in the experience. The Rendezvous is a “happening.” It is a marvel to watch a team of five or six chefs, enveloped in a cloud of smoke, cooking ribs over direct heat. These folks have cooking and serving down to a science. The Rendezvous is just up the alley from the Peabody. If you are in the area, I suggest you check out the Rendezvous. Best you arrive early (it opens at 4:30 p.m.). They are busiest between 7 and 11.
Speaking of food, I asked the hotel staff at the front desk on the second day, “Where’s the best place to eat nearby?” All four staff members answered in unison, “The Blues City Café!”
We found the Blues City Café on Beal Street just across the street from B.B. King’s Blues Club. Described as a “juke/joint eatery,” the Blues City Café specializes in “soul food of the Delta region.” It, too, is a “happening.” Blues music moans and the conversation is loud and welcoming. And the food? Well, we returned for lunch on the following day.
All the food is prepared right in front of you behind glass in the open restaurant by two chefs who are nothing short of wizards in the kitchen. I noticed one sign in particular above their work area that read, “Steaks so good it’ll make a train take a dirt road!” Another sign warned, “***Caution**** Men Grilling.” And grilling they were!
The menu featured such entrees as Seafood Au Gratin served with garlic croutons, Golden Fried Catfish, BBQ Ribs, 3-Way Skillet Shrimp, Memphis Strip Steak, and “Chef Larry’s” Down South Turnip Greens.
Over the years, I have been in a lot of eating places, and this one rates right at the very top. I’ll be going back for the turnip greens.
The Blues City Café made our latest Peabody experience one to remember.