This is interesting… and very late. I wrote this article in 2013… and forgot to publish it; ugh! At the time I was working out of town, in Memphis to be precise. I’ve read through the article and I still believe it works even now… though I had to update some of the wording. Here we go!

I had a relatively nice time in Memphis. There were times it was bad, like the major tornado warning, that was a bit frightening. Yet, most of the bad times have had nothing to do with the city except when it comes to the food.

I’ve definitely had a love / hate relationship with restaurants in this area and, because I’ve written lots of food reviews on this blog, it seems to be the place to start in doing some comparisons to central New York. I’ll preface this by saying that it may just be what I’m used to, but I’ve definitely noticed a regional difference when it comes to the local restaurants, and here and there some differences in chain restaurants as well. Let’s look at 5 of these differences.

1. Memphis is known for two specific types of food. One of those is barbecue; there are lots of restaurants in the area where barbecue is their specialty. I’ve been to 4 of them and I pretty much had to stop going to them; I’ll mention why in a moment.

The first barbecue place I went to is supposed to be the best in town, called Corky’s, as it’s won many awards. My first meal was… the best barbecue I ever had in my entire life! I couldn’t believe it; the meat was tender and just fell off the bones, the sauce was wonderful and they had 2 other flavors that I loved just as much. I got my full meal in less than 5 minutes; that was spectacular! To top it off, in the south you can get banana pudding at many places; oh my goodness! This was one of the best meals I’d ever had; Dinosaur was in trouble.

It was also the first meal to totally shut me down because of meat and not carbs. I went there for lunch around 2:30 in the afternoon and I not only couldn’t eat again that day but I pretty much laid in bed for most of the rest of the day. It didn’t seem so heavy when I ate the meal, but it seems that my body wasn’t happy with the amount of grease that was in the meal.

banana pudding

And yet I went back a second time because the first meal was so good. Unfortunately, after that first rib meal no other meal has lived up to the standard set by the first; Dinosaur is now back in the lead. The other three restaurants also didn’t live up to the hype, and I’ve never been back to any of them. I did go back to the first restaurant because they had a pulled pork sandwich that I can eat that’s not bad, and of course the banana pudding; we need a place that makes this in Syracuse!

2. The second thing Memphis is known for is fried chicken. Pretty much like barbecue, I’ve never been a big fried chicken eater, but there were several places recommended down here. Truthfully, the only fried chicken I’ve eaten in central New York is KFC, which doesn’t really count, and I don’t think chicken tenders counts much either.

Two of the places I went to pretty much killed my mouth. They love hot stuff in the south, even though they don’t think it’s hot. At one of the places I bit into a drumstick and my gums were immediately on fire, and when I looked at the chicken I thought there was blood on it but it turned out the chicken was oozing hot sauce; what the heck? When I asked them about it they said that’s always how they make it; so much for that place and the other one.

The last place had some very tasty fried chicken I must admit, and my first real experience with french fries and gravy. I thought that maybe I’d found something I could buy and take time to eat and enjoy. Alas, like the barbecue, I learned that my body wasn’t going to tolerate the grease from that either. That’s actually a lesson I should have learned from KFC because if I eat almost anything other than just the drumsticks I almost always feel bad later on (pot pies don’t count lol). That and it’s being a 25-minute drive from the hotel meant I wasn’t going to make that kind of trip just for french fries and gravy; sigh…

3. Italian, Chinese… forget about it!

I tried 5 different Chinese restaurants in this city and all of them were horrible, including the one buffet I went to. I didn’t understand any of it because I feel we have a lot of at least average Chinese restaurants in central New York where you can at least eat the food.

Then I had someone who hails from Hong Kong but now lives in NYC tell me that because China is so large you’re never sure where the people who are making your Chinese food actually came from, so it can be a crap shoot sometimes. That might explain why, when I was in North Dakota, a meal I always order in CNY came out with this thick brown gravy that made the meal inedible. Anyway, not only is the Chinese food bad here but it’s surprisingly hot, and that’s the stuff they don’t mark as spicy; oy!

The Italian food… well, I’ve given 3 restaurants a shot and I’m done with that as well. At 2 of the restaurants the food looked horrible and was mushy; come on now, overcooking pasta? Rubbery meat? That’s just a shame. I did go to one Italian restaurant here where the food was surprisingly good. I was astounded and thought I’d found my place. That is, until I was sick all the next day, not throwing up but, well, you know… And that was on a day I was flying home; just miserable. I don’t trust that place, didn’t like the others… done.

I might as well throw pizza into this category. The pizza in Memphis stinks. The people around here are used to it but they just don’t know good pizza. Twin Trees, Avicolli’s… you name a place in CNY and it’s miles better than Memphis pizza.

I think anyone from New Jersey who came down here and ate a piece of pizza would want to slap someone. The closest to a pizza I can tolerate is Whole Foods, which isn’t a Southern place and, truthfully, is just edible but not great. And some folks have wondered why I always gravitate to pizza when I come home. lol

4. Big chain restaurants… not necessarily so great. Olive Garden here; nope. Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday’s; ugh. Applebee’s… well, the shrimp and spinach salad is still as good as at home (unfortunately it’s not on their menu anymore) but everything else… just can’t eat it. If I hadn’t been to the P.F. Chang’s at Destiny the last time I was home I’d have never tried the one down here; not close to tasting the same.

The winners? McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s. It seems that no matter where you go you can count on those places for the food tasting the same and if you like it, you at least have food to eat. I like something from all those places so I’ve been eating more of that over the last couple of months.

Of course even there there’s a downside; some of these fast food restaurants aren’t fast at all. I actually was in a drive thru line for 30 minutes once and wanted to slap myself for not pulling out and leaving, which I did the next time I was in a line 20 minutes. That part I don’t get, but what can you do?

salmon teriyaki

5. The saving grace; Japanese restaurants! Thank goodness for Japanese food, which also seems to taste the same almost no matter where you go, and it’s always good. There’s one Japanese restaurants I eat dinner at twice a week; they love me and I love their food. There’s a couple others I go to when I want to change up a bit.

Japan is a small island; the food is always great. That is, as long as it’s a true Japanese restaurants. Benihana’s; nasty! Asian bistro’s, which mainly serve Japanese food but it’s not Japanese people cooking it… run away fast! Actually, it turns out that there are Mexican and Indonesian cooks who are great at preparing Japanese food, but some places just can’t get it done correctly. Fair warning; Mexican food in Memphis also stinks… and it’s not really Mexican (which I’m still looking for at home).

Of course it hasn’t all been bad. Take a look at this sample of what is a glazed donut with cake icing filling; oh my goodness! I discovered Waffle House that’s pretty remarkable on a weekend, but don’t dare eat there when it’s slow.

There are some other places that are pretty good, and I’m 3 blocks away from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which may be expensive but I’ve never had a bad meal. However, if you’re looking for soft serve ice cream, the closest thing they have is a sno cone establishment with over 50 flavors (only 3 flavors of ice cream, all of them bad)… someone could make a killing down here. 🙂 I eventually found a Dairy Queen, but it was 25 minutes from the hotel; it’s not worth that kind of drive.

Every time I came home, I looked forward to going to all my favorite places to eat. I agree with Dorothy; there’s no place like home! 😉

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