Food & Drink » Food & Wine

A Beale Street Bar Tour

The iconic street isn’t just for tourists.



There are two things about Memphians that I know to be true when seasons change: They Instagram a selfie with a leaf emoji and caption it, "It's autumn, bitches!" and they drink copious amounts of alcohol in a place they do not normally go. And while spring might find you sprawled out on a blanket in Overton Park with a cooler, and winter might find you sipping wine in a fancy bar, fall finds you on Beale.

  • Justin Fox Burks

It's football, it's basketball, it's cool air, and it's Memphians' civic duty to make it to Beale at least once a year to take a photo and text your friends, "lol we're on Beale." So that's where we went. We didn't go to a bar because going to one bar is for grandmas! We went to several bars because we're young, we're wild, we are simply unhinged, and it's autumn, bitches!

Our first stop was where your sober dreams go to die: Wet Willie's. Justin asked for something that "wasn't too sweet," and our bartender said, "If it ain't sweet, it's sour," and in your face, Memphis! You will drink this sugar, and you will like it! We aren't enjoying pâté on the captain's deck; we are on Beale Street, we are partying, we are simply unhinged!

  • Justin Fox Burks

I went with a Monkey Shine, which is banana and alcohol. Justin had a Pink Dazed, which is strawberry, alcohol, and a donation to breast cancer awareness. Alex enjoyed a Shock Treatment, which is blue and mixed with alcohol. The décor in Wet Willie's is made up of mirrors so that you can see exactly how much of an asshole you look like drinking double-digit ounces of frozen daiquiris next to a tourist wearing a shirt that says "Gone Squatchin'." Our brain freeze count is at seven, our diabetes is inevitable, and I'll say this for Wet Willie's: It gets the job deliciously done.

What do rambunctious youths want?! Great deals on cheap booze! When do they want it?! From 4 to 7 p.m. during the Rum Boogie Café happy hour! We are fiscally responsible and simply unhinged! We're enjoying $3 bottled domestics and $3.75 drafts in a bar whose whole mood is old guitars! I'm about to hit you in jaw with some hardcore Memphis trivia: Those guitars do not belong to the musicians whose signatures they bear. They are purchased or donated, and when a famous musician comes in, Rum Boogie asks them to sign the guitar so they can hang it up with a nameplate denoting it as an actual guitar signed by Alice Cooper! Or Joe Walsh! Or ... yes, that's right, Robin Thicke! I'm going to piledrive you with more Rum Boogie facts. Rum Boogie offers a 3.9 percent discount for customers paying in cash, so if you pay with a card, a surcharge gets added on. Is it sneaky? Nah, it's written on your check because Rum Boogie properly informs their customers, bitches!

  • Justin Fox Burks

We cruise down to Blues City Café where a total bummer awaits us. There's a line to get in because tourists love ribs and cheese fries topped with gumbo. Not deterred, we go next door to The Band Box, which is the non-restaurant part of Blues City that has a stage and a bar. There are two women at the bar visiting from Vancouver, and they love Beale, too!

We're partying with Canadians, we're thanking them for the Grizzlies, we are solemnly recommending that they visit Stax and the National Civil Rights Museum, and we are simply unhinged! Our Canadians tell Justin "good for you," when he tells them he's vegan! He's validated, I'm drinking Bud Light draft, Alex is racking up compliments on his Jaren Jackson Jr. jersey, and we are running amok on Beale!

  • Justin Fox Burks

Beale is not just for tourists, and real Memphians know that because they've picked up a book and read about its history! You can hear live music seven nights a week! You can drink in the street! You can hit multiple bars before a game! There's a nip to the air and you're simply unhinged because it's autumn, bitches!

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