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Huey’s at 45

A Memphis mainstay hits a milestone.

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In 1970, Alan Gary opened the original Huey's on Madison as a bar for his friends to hang out in. His childhood nickname was Huey. Thomas Boggs took over in 1976. He had seen the future while working at TGI Fridays and it was family-friendly. Indeed, this colorful graffiti-covered, frill-pick-strewn Memphis mainstay is a place for everybody — for kids and their parents, for late-nighters and sports fans, for those seeking the simple comforts of a burger and a beer.

Huey's first menu had two burger options: burger and cheeseburger. Today, it offers more than a dozen. As the menu has expanded, so too has Huey's, with eight restaurants and some 450 employees.

On Sunday, April 26th, 2 p.m. to midnight, Huey's is holding a 45th birthday party at Huey's Midtown. The block will be closed from Rembert to Barksdale, and there will be bands both in and out, plus burger stands, beer tents, children's activities, and more. A portion of the proceeds from all Huey's locations on Sunday will go to Restore Corps, which works to eradicate human trafficking.

World Famous Huey's Burger

Burgers are 5.3 ounces of beef, ground fresh six days a week from Charlie's Market. The formula goes: bun, mustard, onion, pickle, burger, cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo, sesame bun — all secured with a frill pick.

Frill Pick

The toothpicks were already being shot into the ceiling when Boggs bought Huey's. Each morning he would take them down. Then, one day, a customer suggested he hold a contest, where once a year, the picks are removed from the ceiling and customers would pay $1 to guess the number (anywhere between 20,000 to 30,000), with the money going to the Memphis Zoo. To date, the contest has raised $70,000.

When Boggs passed away in 2008, a heart made from the frill picks was put in the ceilings of each restaurant.

Frill picks and crutch in the ceiling
  • Frill picks and crutch in the ceiling

Crutch

A Huey's regular had been on a crutch for about a year, and when she was done with it, she declared she was going to throw it in the river. Instead, it was stuck in the restaurant's ceiling. Today, every Huey's has a crutch in the ceiling.

The crutch is but one item to be seen from location to location. All Huey's have the red-and-white checkerboard tablecloths, the chalkboard, the prescription sign and mirror with the Huey's logo above the bar, and the "Thomas says smile" sign in the kitchen.

In fact, there is a storage space where all matter of items have been stockpiled for new locations.

Wall graffiti
  • Wall graffiti

Graffiti

It's unknown how this started. Walls are repainted each year.

Homemade Lemon Ice Box Pie
  • Homemade Lemon Ice Box Pie

Homemade Lemon Ice Box Pie

The pie is from a family recipe of Boggs' first wife Charlotte. She used to take the pie to all family functions.

The prospector
  • The prospector

Prospector

The prospector, with his tagline of "Huey's or Bust!," was created by the staff of the University of Memphis' Tiger Rag (now The Daily Helmsman) to use in an ad sometime in the late '70s, early '80s.

Fries and Onion Rings

Huey's is one of the largest consumer of Idaho potatoes in the Southeast. The cheese fries is one its most popular items. Another popular menu item are the onion rings — hand-battered purple onions.

The late Thomas Boggs’ children, who are Huey’s co-owners
  • The late Thomas Boggs’ children, who are Huey’s co-owners

Family Legacy

Today, Boggs' five children are co-owners of Huey's: Ashley Boggs Robilio, vice president of operations; Lauren Boggs McHugh, president/CEO; Fulton Boggs, Huey's employee; Alex Boggs, general manager of Lafayette's Music Room (Thomas Boggs was general manager at the original Lafayette's); and Samantha Boggs Dean, special projects coordinator. They are shown above with a picture of Boggs.

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