I'm not going to lie. We did not connect with Memphis. At all. The city is a run down ghost town with very little that appealed to us. In fact, we opted to drive through the three main streets, rather than walking them, as we did not feel safe or inspired enough to get out of the car and explore the city.
Our hotel concierge recommended we head over to Broad Street and have lunch at The Liquor Shop. After a three hour drive from Nashville we were hungry and ready to eat. Upon arrival we quickly decided to leave. We did not like the restaurant's location, crowd, service or lack of cleanliness. We drove further down Broad Street hoping to understand why this is a popular destination area. There is a cluster of cute retail shops, a yoga center, a Krav Maga site and a delicious looking bakery. However, even this well-kept cluster was not enticing enough for us to get out of the car.
Next we headed to Beale Street, a street known for its' vibrant music scene. The strip is small and in the middle of a sketchy part of town so we opted to continue our tour of Memphis inside our vehicle.
Finally, we drove towards the downtown area along N. Main Street and S. Maine Street. The buildings are not well kept, there was NO ONE around besides a few homeless stragglers and the area just gave us all the creeps. I was beginning to regret our decision to make a stop in Memphis.
Luckily, I booked our hotel stay at The River Inn in Harbor Town instead of The Peabody in downtown. I actually was torn between these two well-rated hotels and do not regret my choice one bit as we would have been very unhappy in downtown. Harbor Town is an upscale, newly developed neighborhood over a bridge, on Mud Island, just a couple of minutes away from downtown but felt like we were transported to a whole new planet. As soon as we pulled up to Harbor Town, we all let out a huge sigh of relief. We were back in a happy place. Famished, we ran into the local market, grabbed grub and had a picnic along the Mississippi River.
The River Inn has received many accolades and has won many notable awards like "Best Hotel in the South" by Conde Naste Traveler. This boutique hotel offers pampering touches for all hotel guests to relish like welcome drinks upon arrival, port and truffles at turn down, fresh coffee brewed each morning on every floor and a full breakfast at either one of the hotel's restaurants or delivered in room. While they don't have connecting rooms, they happily accommodated us by keeping our rooms directly near one another in a private little wing. Its' location is safe and beautiful. They also have three restaurants including award-winning Paulette's and The Terrace, a rooftop bar with views of the Hernando de Soto Bridge's nightly light show. Ironically, until we got to Mud Island our experience in Memphis was a murky one. This hotel was a lifesaver to what could have turned out to be a not-so-fun leg of the trip.
This was our first time dining indoors since Covid hit. We originally requested outdoor dining but due to a rain forecast we needed a plan B. Although they were fully booked for the evening the manager arranged a private seating area by the bar to rest my nerves. However, guests were walking into the "private" bar area, unmasked. We asked to have our table moved to a more isolated one. We were moved to the main dining hall with plenty of space between tables but I was not relaxed, especially with a nearby patron having loud coughing fits. Lucky for us the food was so scrumptious, we were easily distracted. We started with spicy, fried cauliflower bites and mushrooms stuffed with crab meat. Both instantly devoured. For mains we had lamb chops, vegetable gnocchi, and herb crusted salmon. Everything was extremely well prepared and the service was wonderful.
After dinner we walked across the street to witness the most spectacular sunset over The Mississippi River and the nightly light show that runs from sunset until 10:00 pm. This was definitely a perfect way to end the evening.
To be fair, Memphis has clearly been impacted by the pandemic. If more businesses were open causing more people be walking around, we could have had an entirely different experience. Of all the cities we have visited thus far, this one is by far the most visibly impacted. I have heard wonderful things about Memphis and I am quite aware that the timing of our visit was just not an ideal one. If you've been to Memphis, I would love to hear your experience.