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There has been a lot to fret over lately. The headline in today’s Daily News mentioned something about 401(k)s taking a hit after the Dow plunged 512 points. What’s happening with the debt crisis? What the hell is going on in Syria? But most importantly….what happened to Meg D?
Rest assured, friends. It has been a long (…okay VERY long…) hiatus, but I can say with confidence that I am back baby. Inspired by my good friend Lauren E., who has her own successful food blog (seriously, check it out www.laurenfoode.com, it’s pretty great), I thought I’d take some time to revisit with you fine people.
Next week I embark on a clash-of-cultures, all-you-can-eat-and-drink, groove-to-the-music road trip from Memphis through Delta Blues country and down into New Orleans. Can you smell the BBQ sauce and beer oozing out of my pores, yet? I sure as hell can. Anyway you may be interested to know that both the party-heavy Beale Street in Memphis and the streets of New Orleans are pretty lax on their open container laws. For the rest of you lushes out there, I’ve rounded up some other places in our great nation where you can do what our fore fathers set out to establish: drink freely, which, in effect lends itself to a good life and the pursuit of happiness. Forget the New York Stock Exchange and Representative John Boehner. America must be doing something right.
Where to Drink Freely
Power & Light District of Kansas City, Missouri
The Las Vegas Strip
Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee
New Orleans, Louisiana
Savannah Historic District, Savannah, Georgia
Where to Drink Less Freely That Other Places, but More Freely Than Most Places (aka, where open container laws are tolerated)
Duval Street, Key West, Florida
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
Smoky barbecue goodness wafting out of a small alley off Union Ave. between Second and Third streets can only mean one thing. It’s time for a Rendezvous, arguably the most famous (and best) barbecue joint in Memphis. Our night started with a full order of pork ribs, cole slaw, chicken nachos and Heinekens and it only got better from there. By the way, the wait at Rendezvous is very, very long. We waited about an hour, but it was very much worth it.
Feeling sleepy from full bellies we were about to call it a night. Yes, we were sleepy and were considering passing out in our very comfortable beds at The Westin Memphis Beale Street. (Guests should ask for Joan, the concierge, who is a fountain of Memphis knowledge.) But first we wanted to see what all the fuss was on Beale Street. Oh my. The cop-guarded street is closed to cars and revelers are stopped on their way in for a quick ID check. That’s right. We got carded to walk on a street. Why? No open container laws on Beale Street. I knew we were in for an adventure.
We donned the Beale Street badge – a giant cup of Bud Lite (there are beer carts all along the street and most giant beers cost $5). From there we walked up the block as the soulful sound of Blues poured out from every venue. If you’re thinking Beale Street is just for tourists, think again. Packed with locals. And everyone wants to hear who is performing. To play on Beale Street is really to have made it.
We were lured to a small stage in a small pavilion. After watching the guitarists and sax player jam for a while one of the two guitarists motioned to me…to come up on stage. Now, I am not into being in front of people, but I thought ‘what the hell’ and headed up the steps. The guitarist handed me his instrument and I held it flat out in front me as he proceeded to pick and play it while it was in my hands. Probably one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Saskia and I waited around after the show to say hello to him. Turns out his name is Johnny Holiday (not his real name, but I promised I would keep his real identity a secret). Why Holiday? “Because I’m always on vacation,” he told us. He is the unofficial mayor of Beale Street. Everywhere we went with him folks were calling out ‘Hey Johnny! How you doing?’ We felt like Memphis royalty to be in his company.
Slipping past cover charges (I was introduced as his wife) we made our way into Ground Zero, a club on Beale Street owned by Morgan Freeman. This was to be our hangout for most of the night, as Johnny was to play there at midnight. A voluptuous woman belted out the Blues on stage as we knocked back beer after beer (and maybe a shot or two of Jim Beam, after Saskia opted for that over tequila).
As the night got fuzzier and we all got friendlier it was revealed that Johnny actually held a role in the 2005 movie, Walk the Line. He plays Carl Perkins, if anyone is interested.
The night ended in haze of dancing, singing and some killer solos by Johnny. Memphis, you may have climbed your way into my Top 5 Places in the U.S.
Check out the videos of Johnny at Ground Zero
After almost 900 miles on the road we were ready to blow off some steam. Newbies to Nashville on a short stay can’t go wrong with Broadway between First and Fourth avenues. We had a few must-sees on our list recommended to us by a friend who grew up in Nashville, but first we decided to do a little exploring on our own.
These three blocks are a smörgåsbord for the senses – bright, flashing lights; the succulent smell of grease and fat dripping off of roasting meat; and that familiar twang of country music. We spotted a sign that said “70 Beers on Tap” and there was no question where the night was going to begin.
Broadway Brewhouse Downtown (317 Broadway, there’s another one at 1900 Broadway, as well) is a comfortable sports bar-meets-saloon with wide, open windows and very friendly hosts. Saskia and I tried the local Nashville brew, Yazoo. I had the Pale Ale and Saskia opted for the Amber. In all honesty, while good, they weren’t very memorable so after one each we switched to old favorites – Red Hook and good ol’ fashioned Bud Lite. Hey, at least we tried.
After knocking back a few of those it was time to eat and we heard there was no better place than Jack’s BBQ, also on Broadway (so good, in fact, that when we told the bell hop we were going there he felt inclined to remove his hat and exclaim ‘amaaaaazing!’). And he was right on the money. We had barbecue brisket sandwiches, mac and cheese, potato salad, cinnamon apples and two Yuenglings. That food didn’t stand a chance lasting on our plates.
Next stop? Robert’s Western World, next door to Jack’s. This is the one-stop-shop for country music. Even Saskia, a claimed non-fan of country (cut to her eye rolls as Garth Brooks played in the car) seemed to enjoy herself. We befriended a 78-year-old oil tycoon and his family. Their names escape me but I think that has more to do with Bud Lite than them not being memorable. He offered to teach me how to dance but I respectfully declined. I don’t need to embarrass myself in front of an entire bar of two-steppers.
Lastly head over to The Stage if the sound of country gets to be too much. This bar is great for rock and roll and yes, more dancing. Saskia and I enjoyed some Fat Tire beers before we called it a night.
And that, my friends, is how it is done in Nashville.
Live music at Robert’s Western World
It was the 11th hour and I was en route to the airport when I realized that I had come to Texas and missed out on one of the grandest traditions, good ol’ Texas Bbq. I had to make a pit stop in San Antonio before I got to Austin, my departure city, and luckily for me there was no shortage of barbecue joints along the highway.
We pulled into Rudy’s off of route 35 North (Rudy’s happens to be a chain so if you aren’t traveling on this particular route, just check their other locations).
This was exactly what I was looking for. No frills barbecue. Just a piece of wax paper, a pile of meat, some extra fattening sides and an icy cold beer.
I recommend getting the baby back ribs, which run for about $13 per pound. I added to it some of the sloppiest potato salad I have ever seen and pickles. The whole mess comes with a stack of white Wonder Bread. Take your tray outside to sit at wooden picnic tables with picturesque views of the gas station and highway. Napkins are rendered essentially useless because every bite leaves a giant smear of smokey sauce across your cheek. And don’t forget the beer. My beverage of choice? Shiner Bock, a local brew made in Shiner, Texas.
Alright, so now I did the Texas thing. Time to head home, y’all.