We drove down Friday and ate out at Central BBQ which is apparently one of the more famous Memphis BBQ joints. We had fun but the food wasn’t life-changing. We went to bed at a reasonable hour to prepare for a full Saturday.
Saturday we visited three places: the Civil Rights Museum, the Metal Museum, and the Memphis Zoo. The Civil Rights Museum, which is based in the building that used to be the motel where MLK was killed, didn’t have too many surprises for us in terms of overall history but did offer a variety of personal perspectives and artifacts that were new. We also appreciated the emphasis on the economic drivers for slavery. I felt overall that the museum did a good job in contextualizing the different pieces and placing them into the larger narrative, and I was glad to have gone.
After the museum we tried to get lunch at two separate BBQ places specializing in pulled pork sandwiches. Unfortunately, nobody visits Memphis in the middle of July and both places were closed/on vacation. We ended up going to a Venezuelan restaurant called Arepa and Salsa that served pulled pork (and chicken and beef) on fried plaintains in substitution for buns, with tomato and avocado and various sauces. These proved to be admirable and interesting substitute lunch sandwiches.
The Metal Museum is tiny place with a limited collection of things to look at, but what they did have was fun. The exhibits are more about art made with metal and less about metallurgy and materials science (which I was kind of hoping for) but for $4 admission I wasn’t exactly crushed. The special exhibit had a theme of basically ‘jewelry for doing violence to others or convincing them not to attempt to do violence to you’ and had things like ring sets that were secretly brass knuckles, porcupine-quill necklaces, and hair pins rather sharper than they needed to be. The Metal Museum also featured demonstrations of blacksmithing and casting, both of which I had never seen before in person. Ana was less impressed since apparently she talked a high school teacher into letting her sand-cast some parts in the school machine shop at one point, which to my understanding is not a common practice.
The Metal Museum is also right next to the Mississippi, which I took a picture of. This trip was the first time crossing it not in an airplane for Ana and I. The website shows some of the exhibits if you actually wanted to peek at the contents of the museum.
The zoo was a zoo, but a pretty nice one. The only pictures I took were of the frightening and unpredictable creature below. Going to the zoo late in the day was a good idea as it wasn’t too hot and sunny, the crowds were more limited, the animals seemed more animated than zoo creatures often do, and we still had time to see nearly everything.
After the zoo we went to dinner which would be largely not notable except that the chicken and waffles that Ana ordered were totally amazing. The restaurant (Local) made the maple syrup spicy and intriguing and the chicken was crunchy and anyway it was the best dish I think I've had in months if not years. Anyone else visiting Memphis should insist on having this dish. I had crab and goat cheese empanadas and they were tasty and featured a substantial quantity of real crab, but that chicken and waffles dish was just something else...
I didn't know it was worth taking a picture of until I tried it.
The next day we did brunch at a place called the Beauty Shop which was possibly the most fun I've had at breakfast ever. Fun faux-retro atmosphere, super fresh ingredients, creative but not too-creative dishes, and expert preparation - I enjoyed every bite. Ana ordered chicken and waffles again (they were super enormous this time) but lacking the spices of the night before they weren't quite as exciting. My fried eggs with toast and mangoes and veggies was better. Not cheap, but highly recommended.
Lee*, Ana, Lee's sister, Lee's sisters boyfriend (left to right)
*It should be noted that my facial hair was only cultivated for the qualifying exam (this trip took place between the written and oral portions) and does not represent my current 'standard' appearance.