Charleston: The Ultimate Local's Guide
All night party spot with great burgers and two jukeboxes
If you truly want to experience the magic of Alex’s, you’re gonna have to stay up late. The preferred arrival time is between 1am and 3am, but it really doesn't start to get wild until 4am. It’s beer only, which you won't mind after devouring Alex's famous Greek burger (a perfectly greasy fourth meal that has been elevated to legendary status, thanks to the secret Greek seasonings). Established in 1953, it’s our oldest -- and absolutely finest -- tavern. Be sure to bring some quarters for the jukebox as well. And definitely check out the men’s room, even if you are a lady.
Upscale digs and marvelous handcrafted cocktails
The flagship restaurant of renowned chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman has a fantastic bar and beautiful patio (with a fireplace). No reservation? No date? Not a problem. Saunter past the fine diners and sidle up to the 16-seat bar. There you can enjoy any number of handcrafted cocktails, but our favorite is the Hot to Trot (Ston vodka, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, Meyer lemon, Cocchi Americano, bitters, and grapefruit). The A/M Breakfast (pork belly, polenta, poached egg, and pork rinds) is hands down one of the best in town. And if you get overwhelmed by the oh so many good choices, let the expert bartenders choose for you.
Live music, funky decor, and endless southern charm
Here’s a definite case of size not mattering. This cozy -- and carefully curated -- spot packs in the people thanks to its global street food, specialty libations, funky decor, vintage photo booth, and selection of soul music. And don’t worry if it gets too crowded -- you can just spill out onto the sidewalk with everyone else. Chances are the bartender will call you darlin’, remember your exact drink order, and make it so good you'll be back within the week.
Downtown’s neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name
Bardog is Downtown’s requisite neighborhood bar, and at 6pm you'll find it packed with friendly locals and amazing bartenders (who'll always shake your hand upon meeting you). The drinks are great, and the kitchen cranks out everyone’s favorite sliders until 2am. It’s also one of the last places where you can still smoke inside.
Top notch service, amazing food, and serious cocktails
The Bari bar is still a bit of a secret, at least to the horde of East Memphians who have taken over Overton Square proper (shh!). It’s a wonderful little spot to start or end the evening -- and it isn’t unheard of to see a few folks hovering outside the door at 4:55pm so they can be sure and get a highly sought after seat at the bar. The bartenders are experienced, helpful, and creative. They love making recommendations, and we love letting them. The wine list is expansive and they pour Peroni on draft. The full menu is available at the bar, and you’d be crazy not to at least snack on a cheese plate or the frutti di mare.
A friendly juke joint on the other side of the tracks
This little juke joint is down the tracks from Stax. It’s small, dark, and sparkly thanks to the red twinkle lights. Sam Price, now 92, purchased it in the '60s when he retired from MLGW. You can find him dressed to the nines most nights at the end of the bar. His daughter, Aniece, can be found behind it (if you’re sweet, you’ll probably get a hug from her on your way out). Forties are served with chilled glasses, and set-ups come with your very own ice bucket and tongs. Open Thursday through Sunday, there’s a DJ most nights. If not, however, the jukebox will never let you down.
Old school East Memphis sports bar
Be careful entering, lest you take a dart to the head. And be sure to behave. The young bartender isn’t afraid to call you out for getting out of hand. There’s pizza, pool, shuffleboard, video poker, and smoking is allowed. They also have several beers to choose from, including Bud Light Raz-ber-itas. Want to bring your own booze? There’s a $5 corkage fee for all brown bagged bottles. It’s clean, pretty cheap, and has a diverse selection rotating on the jukebox.
A place for Guinness drinkers and Arsenal fans to unite
The Brass Door nails everything you love about a great Irish pub (fantastic selection of authentic ales, solid crew of friendly servers, the kind of soothing ambience that makes you want to spend an entire afternoon indoors talking about European football) and adds a few local twists (don't sleep on the BELT sandwich). They are plating time-honored pub fare classics, like fish & chips, shepherd’s pie, and a traditional Irish breakfast. Check out the basement for a cozy live music room. And hey, we know you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good, but Irish pubs live or die based on just one thing.” No worries, fellow lovers of the black nectar -- The Brass Door pours the freshest pint of Guinness in Memphis.
Requisite spot for corner cocktails and pre-gaming
The newest Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman restaurant in the historic Chisca has found its groove. The stunning bar is a prime spot for corner cocktails and people watching. Happy hour is everyday from 4pm-6pm, and there are $4 drafts on game days (Griz & Tigers). Colby Jones has created a stellar cocktail menu that should be tried from top to bottom. That, coupled with tasty $5 bar snacks (chicken skins drizzled in maple syrup and hearty olives with thinly sliced pig ears) make C&Ms a Bluff City institution.
Pirate-themed oyster and cocktail bar of your dreams
We dare say that there's no other bar in the world that comes anywhere close to embracing a nautical theme like The Cove has done. You damn near need a life jacket. There’s usually a kitschy movie on the TV and the kitchen works wonders with a toaster oven and blender (the menu includes fresh oysters, a number of pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. And after a few cocktails, the Stoner Pie is a must). Get there early to grab a seat next to the regulars at the bar. Or, if you want some room, snag a booth or hide out on the festive patio. And ladies, don’t forget to wink at the pirate in the restroom.
A cozy, swanky twelve-seat bar where the cocktail is king
If the bar at Bari isn’t intimate enough for you, head towards the secret door and up the stairs to Dodici. This translates to "twelve” in Italian and is the number of seats is this lush, cozy space. Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5pm to midnight (or 1am), it’s the perfect place to start or end the evening. Morgan McKinney (Thursday) & Vincent Hale (Friday & Saturday) are by far the two most knowledgeable and enthusiastic bartenders in town. They make all of their own syrups and bitters, grow their own herbs, and take great pleasure in mixing great cocktails.
The one bar in Memphis you absolutely have to go to at least once
If you haven’t been to Ernestine & Hazel’s for a beer and a soul burger then you simply cannot call yourself a Memphian. It’s much more than simply a dive bar -- it represents the soul, jazz, and blues that once echoed into streets, and legends like B.B. King, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin went there seeking solace. Some say it’s haunted and that the ghosts run the jukebox. Go and see for yourself. On weekends, the piano bar upstairs serves basic cocktails in a cozy corner.
Best patio on Main Street and incredible drink specials
Prepare to end the “where to drink?” debates that you've been having downtown on Fridays. That’s the one day Felicia Suzanne’s serves lunch with 25 cent martinis -- and you can have as many as you want. Busy Friday? Thursday nights are also a great time to drink on the festive patio at Felicia Suzanne’s thanks to the Tacos and Tunes series.
Romantic happy hour spot on world famous Beale Street
Whether out-of-towners drag you to Beale Street or not, Itta Bena (above BB King’s Blues Club) is always a good happy hour option. Open nightly from 5pm-10pm, it’s a very come-as-you-are joint, despite the swanky vibe. Take the fire escape up and arrive before the sun sets so you can bask in the blue glow of the majestic room. The center bar offers plenty of seating and friendly service. Live music starts around 6pm-7pm and enhances conversation rather than drowning it out. Chances are you’ll want to stay for dinner, or at the very least for a bowl of the famous She-Crab soup.
Broad Avenue Arts District
Latin-inspired diner that offers specialty cocktails
Broad Avenue’s latest addition is a Latin-inspired diner with a full bar. It’s housed in what was once a liquor store -- hence the name. The decor is very modern with a tropical flare. Definitely one of those “you don’t feel like you’re in Memphis” places. The bar stools are by far the cushiest in town, so plan to stay awhile. Come spring, the patio, which is enclosed by shipping containers and features another full bar, will be the place to be. For now, enjoy a selection of handcrafted cocktails (Pisco 75!), beer, and wine.
Real deal juke joint in the heart of South Memphis
Formerly known as the J & J Lounge, it was once home to the legendary Fieldstones. Renamed for the current owner, Jessie Mae Anderson, the back room is mostly used for playing dominoes and private parties ($150 for the night). Located a block or so from the Four Way, it’s a cool and unassuming place to get a 40 (and maybe a Jell-O shot or two) and fill the jukebox with dollars. The bar area is the size of a small entryway, so be prepared to get to know the regulars. Chicken wings are available on weekends.
The best place to drink in the Crosstown Concourse
As of now, there’s only one place to get a mixed drink in the Crosstown Concourse and that’s at Next Door. Featuring a lovely bar, an even lovelier patio, and two happy hours each day (3pm-6pm and 9pm-close), it is an awesome spot. Next Door is one of those restaurants where everyone who works there is always in a cheerful mood, so the vibe feels somewhat festive all the time. They have a stack of board games for those who wanna hang, and the menu is full of delicious and nutritious snacks for those who work up an appetite.
Artists’ home away from home with a pool table
Originally a home for the poor & hungry (where the name comes from), P&H has maintained its flair and artsy clientele even after the passing of Wanda Wilson, the beloved owner. You can have a beer any day but Sunday, make friends at the bar, play a game of pool, write on the bathroom wall, or enjoy one of the regular comedy shows or open mic nights.
Four bars to choose from and frozen drinks galore
Railgarten is made up of four areas: a ping pong bar, a diner, an ice cream shop, and a big backyard of your dreams. Weather permitting, head to the yard, grab a lawn chair, and order up some cocktails or frozen drinks from the tiki bar. The yard features live entertainment most nights, and the entertainment dictates the crowd, so keep that in mind (note: the ping pong bar and yard are 21 and up after 8pm). You can’t go wrong on Wednesdays, ever, when there’s live band karaoke. Have a drink or three and enjoy the show.
A taste of New Orleans in the heart of Midtown
There are two bars at the Second Line -- one inside and one outside -- so you can get a taste of everyday New Orleans year round (and thanks to Memphis weather, the spectacular patio bar can be enjoyed 10 months out of the year). Award-winning chef Kelly English describes it as “casual, honest, delicious, and true.” With delicious cocktails, a nice selection of local brews on tap, great happy hour specials, and a menu that doesn’t disappoint, Second Line is our pick for day drinking… that will extend well into the evening.
Biggest patio in Midtown with boozy slushies, fries, and lobster rolls
When it opened, Slider Inn’s main draw was the Lobster Roll (the only one in the Mid-South, made with lobster flown in from Maine three times a week). However, its ever-expanding, year round climate-controlled patio and Jameson slushies are surely what its best known for now. Expect a large motorcycle crowd and delicious sliders.
Pacific rim-inspired experimental happy hour menus
Tsunami has recently upped their bar game with the addition of several new beers and the incredible Pau Hana menu (Pau Hana is Hawaiian for “stop working”). Served from 5pm-7pm, Monday through Friday, the menu features a cocktail of the day along with two small plate options. The Pau Hana happy hour is Chef Ben Smith’s test kitchen as he prepares to launch a more casual restaurant concept in the building’s southernmost dining room in 2018.