The Dirty Crow Inn is the neighborhood bar that's not. Located at the corner of Crump and Kentucky, it's near the Budweiser distribution center and not much else. Yet it thrives.
The entrance's double doors are overlaid with black vinyl, leaving what's inside to the imagination. But through those doors is one of the more interesting watering holes in Memphis. Posters, framed and not, are hung sloppily on dark red walls and spread across the ceiling, with everything from obvious Elvis adorations to more obscure show flyers. There's a mounted fox with beads hanging from its neck. Nothing is cohesive about the place, but that's why it's so inviting. The Crow could maybe host 50 people — and they all would get along here.
I arrived at 2 p.m. on a Monday, ghost-town hours, and, indeed, it was ghostly, save for Brandon Davis, a 17-year veteran of the downtown bar scene who's slung beers at the Crow since the bar opened its doors last April. I order Wiseacre's Gotta Get Up to Get Down, what I order everywhere, because it's my favorite beer and change scares me. Davis is wearing a gray plaid shirt, a Braves hat, and a big smile as he hands me a menu.
"Close your eyes, put your fingers down [on the menu], and you'll be happy with what you get," he says.
I start to go for the wings, maybe soy ginger with wasabi ranch or the Sriracha honey. The menu says they fall off the bone. I ask Davis if they really fall off the bone, and he ensures me that: Yes, not only is all of the food fresh, but the meat brines for 24 hours. There's nothing frozen at the Crow, and it's all made from scratch. The wings are good, he says, but people too often overlook the sandwiches.
In fact, the special of the day is a smoked chicken Philly cheesesteak called the Dirty Poncho. It's smothered in onions, peppers, and a homemade cheese dip. Davis seems enamored by the sandwich, and I order it at his word. I also invite the Poutine fries to my mouth party, because they are covered in smoked chicken gravy and topped with Mozzarella cheese and also because that sounds like it could kill me, and, also, lastly, if a meal is going to kill me it needs to at least sound that good.
My food arrives as more customers come in. There's Jacklyn Wadlington, who works across the street and routinely orders the dry rub wings. There's also Michelle and Bruce Andrews, who live about 15 minutes from the Crow and are visiting for the first time. People of all kinds visit the Dirty Crow, Davis has noticed.
"We've got truck drivers and lawyers who come in here," Davis says. "We don't have any foot traffic — you've got to make a point to come here."
And with that statement, I see why the Crow seems so special. Off the beaten path, the Dirty Crow is wrapped in mystery, like the only bar left open in the world. It's a quaint corner hub, a place of reprieve for wayward travelers who are just passing through. Regulars from as far as the suburbs make a commitment to come. And when I bite into my sandwich, I can understand why. Dirty Crow Inn, 855 Kentucky (207-5111)