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Omnivore - Road Trip: Seeking Soul in Memphis

A visit to Memphis, filled with soul

Earnestine & Hazel's

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Memphis is a monotonous six hour drive from Atlanta, but it's easy to rationalize those lost hours once you sit down for some of the best BBQ in the country. Whatever you think of when you hear the word "soul" - Memphis has it. Is it the music? The muddy Mississippi? The accumulated smoke of so much barbecued pork? The religious fervor of a gospel service? Or is it just the people who call this hot, humid city home? I think it's all of the above, and it's apparent in the restaurant scene that Memphis excels in soul. And I don't mean just "soul food," though there are a number of places that can scratch that itch. I mean the kind of soul that only arises out of years of toil, the kind of soul that shows itself in gritty old dining rooms and facades that make you question whether a place may be detrimental to your personal safety or your general well-being. If you fear chipped lead paint or a few decades worth of built-up grime, Memphis may not be the place for you. But if you feel that a sense of place can enhance your sense of taste, you'll feel right at home in Memphis. Even the city's most touristy restaurant, the Rendezvous, exudes soul - from the back alley entrance, to the walls literally coated in decades of smoke, to the staff, many of whom have been serving happy customers down in that basement of a restaurant for decades.