Memphis’ Most Famous Foods and Where to Try Them

Kaylee Giacomini

Memphis is a bustling metropolitan hub on the banks of the Mississippi River most well known for music, Elvis Presley, and barbecue. There is a contested debate in the United States about who does the best barbecue - arguably one of the most iconic dishes in the country. Memphis, Tennessee consistently ranks among barbecue’s top cities. Barbecue can be found everywhere across town, and many of the joints are outstanding. Since the 1990’s, the city has been expanding into the world of cuisine and is now a delicious melting pot fueled by global fusion along with classic Southern mainstays. Here's some of the best food in Memphis!

Tags: Eating, Foodie Travel, BBQ, Noshing

  • Central BBQ - Downtown in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Barbecue: what Memphis is known for. Since the city’s conception, Barbecue has been the most famous dish in Memphis. If there’s one thing that Memphis can teach us, it’s that barbecue sauce is versatile. It is typically found on classics like ribs and pulled pork, but in Memphis some barbecue favorites include nachos, pizza, and even spaghetti. Crowning one barbecue winner in Memphis is beyond difficult, but the outspoken champion among locals is Central BBQ. A good barbecue has a few musts - fall off the bone meat, a variety of smoking woods, and the right amount of sauce that incorporates notes of sweetness and spice. Central BBQ hits all of these points while promising classic southern hospitality and a good time. Try their pork BBQ nachos, the three meat combo, and any of their classic sides.

  • Cozy Corner Restaurant in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Dry Rub Ribs: Cozy Corner is a no frills barbecue joint with more of the classics. They also have some of the most reasonable pricing in the city, with a rack of six ribs only costing $17.99. Although they do a phenomenal variety of sauces, don’t skip out on their dry rub. Their sides are just as classic as the ribs, offering only three different options of BBQ spaghetti, beans, or coleslaw. If you want a taste of one of the best foods in Memphis, order a plate and spend some time at this quintessential joint.

  • Gibson's Donuts in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Glazed Donuts: Memphis is known for its breakfast scene, and luckily you can enjoy a donut from Gibson’s 24 hours per day. Gibson’s has the most famous donuts in the city, made fresh each day with a variety of decadent toppings such as maple bacon. Get a box to share, and don’t miss the classic glazed donut. Gibson’s glazed donuts are served hot with a thick layer of the classic sugary topping. Once you’ve had your fill of all the savory delicacies Memphis has to offer, this is a great stop for a sweet fix.

  • Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Fried Chicken: Memphis is known for its meats, and chicken is no exception. Gus’s was selected as one of Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in America in 2016 due to their notoriety among the Memphis food scene. Order a plate of fried chicken (one of the best foods in Memphis) and a few sides. Be sure to try out the fried pickles while you’re there too.

  • The Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Barbecue Spaghetti: Memphis is known for putting barbecue sauce on everything, and spaghetti is no exception. In fact, most barbecue joints in the city have this classic Memphis dish on the menu. Bar-B-Q Shop not only does it best; it is the inventor of barbecue spaghetti. They’ve had the same sauce recipe for over 50 years. As an added bonus, the Food Network voted this joint the number one place for ribs in America. They have a big menu featuring many options to please a crowd.

  • Bryant's Breakfast in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Biscuits: You can’t leave Memphis without a decadent breakfast, especially one featuring a buttery biscuit. This might be a hot take, but Biscuits are one of the best foods in Memphis. The best place to grab one is Bryant’s Breakfast. Try their biscuits smothered in white sausage gravy or order a biscuit sandwich featuring an egg and bacon or country sausage. Beyond biscuits, Bryant’s makes decadent cinnamon rolls in house and has some other outstanding breakfast and lunch options to choose from.

  • Miss Polly's Soul City Café in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Soul Food: Anywhere on iconic Beale Street is a great place to get a heavy plate of soul food, but Miss Polly’s does it best. Indulge in one of their decadent platters featuring homestyle classics like southern fried catfish, pork chop, and fried chicken. Each feast comes with a variety of sides to choose from like greens, mac and cheese, and pork & beans. Come hungry, and wash down this filling meal with a cup of iced sweet tea.

  • Soul Fish Cafe in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Catfish: Any city located on the banks of the Mississippi has staple fish dishes featuring trout or catfish, and Memphis is no exception. Catfish is commonly found fried, but is also great baked. Catfish is one of the best food in Memphis, and the best place to try out a dish featuring catfish is Soul Fish. Soul Fish features a variety of classic soul food options, but nothing is better than a catfish plate with a side of hushpuppies.

  • Automatic Slim's in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Pancakes: Circling back to breakfast, you can’t leave Memphis without a stack of pancakes grilled fresh on a hotplate. Automatic Slims does a great classic cake, but their Elvis pancakes are outstanding. The stack features banana pancakes with peanut butter sauce and banana slice to pay homage to the king of rock and roll.

  • Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana in Memphis, United States

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    • kaylee

      Tacos: Like much of the South, Memphis features great Latinx dishes. One of the biggest staple dishes is a taco. Las Tortugas’ founder, Jose (Pepe) Magallanes was born and raised in Mexico City before making the move to Memphis and opening his flagship restaurant in 2002. He was a pioneer of the Mexican food scene in Memphis, and since then multiple establishments have followed suit. Las Tortugas has a broad menu featuring authentic staples, and their tacos are the best in the city.