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Memphis Dive Bar Adventures: Bar-B-Brawl at the Bar That Never Closes

by Rob Bellinger
photos by Rob Bellinger and Dan Meade

The Memphis dive bar scene is legendary, but not many people outside Memphis know that.  Here are the ten most insane Memphis dive bar adventures we had, over the course of just six nights.  All the stories are true.  Take your pick — one or all!

The Last Real Place in MemphisActual Meth Camper | Snake Tattoo Face | Down by Sundown | Ghost Mustang & the Magic Skillet | Bar-B-Brawl at the Bar That Never Closes | Perfect Ribs at 3 a.m. | Cougar in Training | Searching for Life on the Mississippi | PRAYING FOR YOU HATERZ

 

EPISODE THREE: BAR-B-BRAWL AT THE BAR THAT NEVER CLOSES

It was about 3 a.m. and time to eat dinner again.  Even before leaving the Northeast, we’d labeled the ribs at Alex’s Tavern one holy grail of our Memphis quest, thanks to this piece by Memphis Que.Diculous

We got in the car after a good time at Wild Bill’s, pretty much sober.

“Do you know how to get there?” Dan asked me as we backed out of the parking lot.

“No…. Maybe it’s down this street?”  I made a left turn and drove for what seemed like some very long residential blocks, until we ran out of road.  At a T-shaped intersection, an unassuming red awning greeted us across the way, positioned above the only glowing storefront in a long, low building.  This was Alex’s Tavern.

Diculous

Inside, there was a good crowd, including several uniformed city cops drinking Diet Coke out of red Solo cups.  We couldn’t tell if they were on detail duty, taking a shift break, or just hanging out.  Rob, the bearded barkeeper whom we’d soon know on a first-name basis, informed us that the ribs were done for the day, so we put in an order for the mysterious Greekburgers and took seats at the bar.  We mentioned to Barkeeper Rob that we were from out of town, but when we told him we’d already been to Central BBQ, an Eric Gales blues-rock show, and Wild Bill’s in the past six hours, he said we’d had a pretty good Memphis night.

Right around 3:20 a.m., the refugees from other bars began to appear.  The crowd swelled and pressed against our backs.  To my left sat a Talkative Prelaw Debutante who eventually disappeared, leaving her wallet on the bar.  Her even more annoying friend hovered over us, asking with serious vocal fry, “Were you the guys in our limo?  Hey, wait.  Are you the guys from our limo?  Who are you?”

Barkeeper Rob

Barkeeper Rob brought our burgers out from the kitchen.  They were juicy and delicious, but we couldn’t tell what was Greek about them.  Seasoning?  Dressing?  As we ate, Barkeeper Rob addressed the crowd: “These guys are on a barbecue tour of Memphis!  Where should they go?”

All hell broke loose.

“Payne’s!  Payne’s pulled pork!”

“Interstate!  Go to Neely’s Interstate!  Before it closes!”

People just started screaming at each other, and us.

“Cozy Corner!  Cozy Corner ribs! And the Cornish hen!”

“They gotta go to the Rendezvous!”

“That’s not even barbecue!”

“Go to Payne’s!  Payne’s is better than Interstate! Payne’s pulled pork!  Get there for lunch Monday!”

A dude separated himself from the fracas, walked up to us, held out his hand, and introduced himself as Q, “just like the letter.”  He said he worked at Cozy Corner.  “The building looks like a shithole,” he said, “but they make amazing food.  Hell, I’ll probably cook your food myself this week.”

Days later, when we went to Cozy Corner, they said they had never heard of anyone who went by Q.

Solo Cups

Back at Alex’s, the bar-b-brawl raged on.  We were hearing the word “Payne’s” a lot, which would greatly influence our Memphis experience.  We scrawled notes on napkins.

Our Greekburgers destroyed, we called it a night.  Satiated but ribless, we headed back to our adopted homestead to catch our first rest in Memphis.  It was 5:30 a.m. CST.  As we rolled through the quiet, far-too-wide streets of Midtown Memphis, the first rays of Sunday morning began to turn the sky blue.

Choose Your Next Adventure:
The Last Real Place in MemphisActual Meth Camper | Snake Tattoo Face | Down by Sundown | Ghost Mustang & the Magic Skillet | Bar-B-Brawl at the Bar That Never Closes | Perfect Ribs at 3 a.m. | Cougar in Training | Searching for Life on the Mississippi | PRAYING FOR YOU HATERZ

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