Thrillist's Best (and the Rest): What You Actually Need to Know About Natural Wine
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. If you get overwhelmed by the oh so many good choices, let the expert bartenders choose for you.
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.
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.
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.
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 in 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 and Samantha Ledbetter two of the 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 Earnestine & 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. Downstairs is now non-smoking and offers a full bar.
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.
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.
Midtown & Downtown
Outdoor seating, boozy slushies, fries, and lobster rolls both in Midtown and Downtown
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. The new downtown spot has all of what we love in Midtown writ large.
An artsy nook in the Crosstown Concourse
Art Bar at Crosstown Arts is one of a kind. It features vintage furniture and doo-dads, a record player, and comfy seating areas perfect for intimately gathering and connecting. The bar top itself serves an art gallery of sorts with rotating installations. The menu features a curated list of wines, craft beers (plus Hamm’s) and artful, cutting-edge cocktails with an emphasis on local, fresh, and foraged ingredients from Memphis and around the world.
Puck Food Hall’s flagship bar
Our food hall that could, Puck, is finally hitting its stride. Bar 409, which is right inside the main entry is the perfect place to start or end an evening, see and be seen, or kickoff weekend brunch. There’s beer, wine, and seasonal cocktails, all of which can be paired with a meal from one of the many restaurants inside.
Arrive Hotel’s swanky lobby bar
Now open on South Main, the Arrive Hotel brought with it a host of new businesses to support. Bar Hustle is the lobby bar and is named in conjunction with the hotel’s bakery, Hustle & Dough. Guests can expect several familiar faces behind the bar and lots of new and exciting concoctions on the menu like the cheekily named “Instagram This Cocktail” which contains vodka, italicus, raspberry, tomato, cava.
Kevin Keough’s gift to the over 40 crowd
The care and attention to detail that mark Cafe Keough downtown have transformed the corner space on Peabody and Cooper that Bar Keough now inhabits. The retro vibe is strong -- from the lighting fixtures to the jukebox that has all '80s songs. It’s small, but not too small, and has quickly become the neighborhood bar that Idlewild never knew it needed.
Crafted cocktails and Frobeers with a cozy living room vibe
BarWare shares a space with Juice Brothers and hopes its customers will find their way there to both detox and retox. (It’s also a great meeting place for teetotalers as the juice offerings are vast.) The cocktails are beautiful and Instagram ready as is the decor, which is romantic and inviting. And they are the only place in town with Frobeer -- a Tiny Bomb with a frosty head.
Central Station’s French Brasserie’s bar and lounge
The latest restaurant from Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman is a French Brasserie inside Central Station, which means that superstar sommelier Ryan Radish has created a list of 150 French wines, highlighting each region of France. There are local beers and the cocktail list is rooted in the classics with names riffing on a chess match. The restaurant is likely to stay busy, but the bar and little known lounge area are perfect for those who want to just pop in.
Central Station’s lobby bar and listening room
Another Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman creation inside Central Station, Eight and Sand literally sets the bar for hotel lobby bars everywhere. Home to a one of kind vinyl music collection with more than 20,000 titles connected to Memphis, an Eggleston Works sound system, and around the clock live deejays, the lounge is the place to have a drink in Memphis right now. Be sure and ask about the listening room behind the bar.
Dale Watson’s revived Whitehaven Honky Tonk
Back in the day, the Hideaway was known as Jerry Lee Lewis’s office since he played there so often. The newly revamped Hernando’s Hideaway is now Dale Watson’s office, and he has a stellar rotation of travelers and locals (in addition to himself) playing afternoon and evening shows. The vibe is perfectly old school, people actually dance, and the food is great. Live music lovers rejoice! And drink up!
Cooper Young’s classy wine bar
Go ahead, ask owner Kate Ashby to show you her tattoo. It’s a bird, or, uh, maybe it’s a knife? Now you know how her intimate neighborhood wine bar got its name. Nestled in a shopping center in Cooper Young, it’s a lovely surprise. Designed by Ashby, the decor feels as though you are in someone’s expertly curated home, and the simple menu is incredibly thoughtful.
Shuffleboard, sausages, and new twists on classic cocktails in Arrive Hotel’s basement
Named for its narrow footprint, Longshot is full of half moon booths and vintage shuffleboard tables. It’s got a fun and raucous vibe, an amazing menu of sausage based global snacks, and a full bar. The cocktail menu features timeless classics like the Old Fashioned, but with a twist. Take for example the addition of sausage fat to the above mentioned drink. Their Sidecar features cognac, lemon, curacao, green apple, and turmeric.
Broad Avenue Arts District
Cocktails as exquisite as the ramen
Lucky Cat made a name for themselves with ramen pop ups over the years, but having a permanent spot on Broad Avenue has finally given them the space to get experimental behind the bar. Balancing bitter, earthy, and umami with a smooth texture, their “Foraging Monk” features toasted barley infused Altos Reposado, shiitake + black sugar, thyme infused Luxardo Bitter Bianco, walnut bitters, and egg white. The bartenders are more than willing to whip up a mocktail and there’s an excellent sake selection as well. Look for a second, upstairs bar, High Noon, to open New Year’s Eve.
Midtown’s classic dive bar gets a fresh coat of paint
When Bill Baker closed the doors of one of our most beloved dive bars with no warning after 40 years of being in business, Midtown residents were distraught. It took a little longer than expected, but thanks to restaurateurs Tony Westmoreland and Cullen Kent, the doors to Zinnie’s are back open and everything is pretty much the same, maybe just a bit cleaner.