Memphis is My Boyfriend: Episode 3: A Nostalgic Date Night
Every date night with Memphis can’t be out in those streets. Especially with Covid lurking around. So I decided to bring Memphis home and just chill. In order to make this date night pop, ya girl gotta get the right eats.
When you think of Memphis, I bet you think about barbecue, Beale Street, and Elvis. That’s all good and everything, but I’m a native Memphian, not a touristy one. Yes, there’s a difference. (Just ask 10 native Memphians if they’ve ever been to Graceland and I’m sure nine will tell you, “Naw, mane! I’m from Memphis.”) When I think of Memphis, I think of tamales, hot wings, burgers, and Beale Street. Yeah, I love me some Beale Street. Issa whole vibe.
For this date night, I wanted to take a walk down memory lane.
As a little girl, we would ride the MATA bus everywhere. We would always start off by taking the 10 Watkins(1) and connecting to wherever we needed to go. In those days, it could be minutes or hours before you could get a connecting transit. So my mom, brothers, and I would shave off the time by going to Dyer’s Burgers on Watkins. Those burgers were, and still are, amazing — greasy, seasoned, and flavorful. I recall watching the cook fry up the burger in the grease and watching the burger patty float a little.
Finding a burger like Dyer’s within my “delivery area” was unheard of. Until I ran across James Michael Fisher, also known as Chef JBless, of A & J’s Food Delivery. It’s apparent that taste and flavor is a high priority for this Black-owned business. I initially hit him up on Instagram (@ajsfooddelivery901) for his wings. I was pleasantly surprised to find that his cost of wings hasn’t tripled like everyone else’s. So for my first time, I ordered some honey-gold wings and a burger and had it delivered to work. Y’all! That meal made my whole day! While the wings were on point, in price and in flavor, the burger took me back to my childhood days on Watkins. The burgers are well-seasoned, moist, and oh-so flavorful! So before leaving the house, I placed an order for wings, burgers, and fries.
Sidenote: Seriously, why are chicken wings so high? Chicken thigh prices haven’t doubled, and wings and thighs both come from the same chicken! Somebody make it make sense!
I first decided to get some tamales. Now, Mexican tamales are different from Black people’s tamales. As a very young child, before my days on Watkins, we stayed in Dixie Homes(2). Across the street from our projects(3), there was this man who sold tamales from a cart on the corner. I wasn’t too much taller than the cart itself, but as my mom and I approached the cart, I could smell the spices and flavor. My mom would pass me my tamales and I would grab the wrapping and gently unroll my delicious tamale. Y’all. Blessed!
There’s only one place that I know where I can get a tamale from my childhood. So with my audiobook on full blast, I drove to Orange Mound(4). Pop’s Tamales are amazing and remind me so much of the man on the corner with the tamale cart. Sometimes I wonder if it’s the same man. There, I bought seven tamales for $14: two for me to eat in the car, two to eat at home, and three for my hubby.
Now, I only had one more place to stop before heading home to meet Chef JBless. Buster’s! I have been a patron of Buster’s since my old college days back in ’03. But on this day, I wasn’t looking for liquor. I was looking for a very special beer, a beer with a name close to my Memphis heart. A beer that is just like how I like my men — dark and full of body. After much anticipation, Beale Street Brewing Co. released a peanut and banana porter, and it is available at Buster’s. I strolled in like a boss and headed straight back for the beer cooler. I grabbed my four-pack, blew Kahlúa a kiss, and checked out. I was in and out in under 15 minutes.
I had just pulled back in my driveway when I received a text from Chef JBless that my order had an ETA of 5 minutes. I cleared the coffee table, poured the beer like a pro, unwrapped my tamales, and welcomed in the hot wings, burgers, and fries. With the food and drinks ready to be devoured, there was only one last thing to do. We sat on the couch, streamed a little HBO Max, and exhaled before we inhaled.
Gotta love it, mane!
1 10 Watkins (n.) — a popular MATA route in Frayser
2 Dixie Homes (n.) — one of the Memphis Public Housing communities, 1938-2006
3 projects (n.) — a term given to Memphis Public Housing areas
4 Orange Mound (n.) — first African-American neighborhood built by and for African Americans, located in Southeast Memphis
A & J’s Food Delivery: 901-849-3981; IG @ajsfooddelivery901
Beale Street Brewing Co.: IG @bealestbrewingco
Patricia Lockhart is a native Memphian who loves to read, write, cook, and eat. Her days are filled with laughter with her four kids and charming husband. By day, she’s a school librarian and a writer, but by night … she’s asleep. @realworkwife @memphisismyboyfriend