Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Flying Fish and Arcade Diner, Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee, is a split personality city. It is the Home of the Blues, Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll, and key player in the Civil Rights Movement, yet has a soulless empty business district much like the identity-crisis cities of the Midwest or an '80's Canary Wharf, and sprawling, crime-ridden, impoverished suburbs.

Stick around for a few days, though, and it starts to reveal its magic. Beyond the world-famous Beale Street and Graceland, in the diners, coffee shops, takeouts, and pizza joints, we were welcomed with the renowned Southern warmth and generosity.

The Flying Fish restaurant, a bustling gem in a nondescript office block downtown, offers good cheer and hospitality by the plateful, along with the Arcade Diner. A small Southern chain of fish joints, Flying Fish serves up fish and seafood battered, fried, grilled, or steamed, with a no-fail ordering system: fetch chosen drink from chiller (preferably an ice cold beer), order and pay at counter, take buzzer to your table, buzzer buzzes when your food is ready to be picked up. Simple.

We were too busy eating to take pics of our food, but I can promise you the Grilled Shrimp Ka-Bob with Beans and Rice is mouthwatering, and a steal at $9. We returned the next evening to fetch takeout for a lazy hotel night in.

A brief mention of the Arcade Diner, Memphis's oldest restaurant (opened in 1919) and regular haunt for Elvis in his younger days. I can honestly say I have never had a better cooked breakfast than this simple home-style masterpiece.The bacon was heart-stopping, as was the syrup sitting proudly atop a mound of warm pancakes. I have yet to find streaky bacon in the UK as tasty as American-style smoked. I'm sure it's the dodgy colourings, preservatives, and added flavourings, but I love it! Two perfectly fried eggs and warm buttery grits made this the perfect breakfast. I wouldn't need a hangover to enjoy this every morning, just an elasticated waistband and reinforced arteries.

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