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Memphis Dive Bar Adventures: Ghost Mustang & The Magic Skillet

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 SIX: GHOST MUSTANG & THE MAGIC SKILLET

We were cruising the Madison Avenue strip in a snarling, growling, thundering, white ’69 Mustang that seemed to only come out at night.  Not exactly what you expect when someone offers you a ride, but definitely a double upgrade from walking.  The space between bars was eerily empty: no other cars, no pedestrians, no bikers.  Riding in the Mustang felt like being in a time capsule.  The vintage door locks, seat belt clips, and analog instruments made us feel like time travelers from the past rolling through a deserted, formerly human landscape. In search of cheap beer and maybe a snack. MEMDIVE_Stang_summ

Ghost Mustang

The Ghost Mustang delivered us to the Lamplighter.  We went through a side door into a dark room, where we found ourselves surrounded by Budweiser Clydesdale memorabilia.

The menu was even simpler than the decor.  Yet somehow the burger and the patty melt were two different things — maybe it was the bread?  Dan and I and the Ghost Mustang Captain argued a bit about sandwiches.  No one was hungry enough to eat a whole sandwich, but everyone wanted something different.

Chloe

 

When we finally settled on ordering one patty melt and one burger, we waved over Chloe, the bartender-waitress.

“Sorry, boys,” she said.  “I have only one patty left.”

Maybe it was the way she said patty, but the patty melt won.  We asked if she could cut ours into thirds.  She smiled.  I wondered how long she’d worked there and been forced to listen to stupid shit like this.

Sizzling started in the little kitchen at the back of the bar.  We drowned it out with tunes from the jukebox, which was loaded with rockabilly and proto-punk.

Lamplighter Jukebox

When Chloe brought the patty melt, it was gorgeously appealing and abjectly nauseating at the same time.  Even cut into three strips, it stood tall on its plate, surrounded by half-empty High Life bottles and a disturbing amount of cigarette ash.  The Texas toast had been griddled to golden-brown perfection.  The lettuce and onion peeking out of the bun looked crisp. Processed cheese oozed from under the beef patty, looking like something you’d have made with your chemistry kit in middle school.

The sum of the parts was delicious.  Something interesting was going on with the spices here, far more interesting than whatever made Alex’s Greekburger Greek.

Patty Melt

It was my turn to get a round of beers from Chloe at the bar.  Chloe was cute.  I told her how amazing I thought her cooking was, and I asked about the mysterious seasoning.

“Oh, it’s just a bunch of spices.  I throw some salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano in the skillet.”

“Oh really?  Did you come up with that recipe yourself?”

“I did, but it’s really that big ol’ cast iron skillet that makes things taste as good as they do,” she said, gesturing toward the little kitchen in the rear of the bar, where one heavy skillet stood atop the range.  “That thing is magic. It probably hasn’t been washed in 42 years.”

“Huh.  How many of these patty melts did you have to eat to get the spices just right?”

“Oh, I’m a vegetarian.”

For some reason I interpreted this as a sign that we had to go.  We finished our round and reboarded the Ghost Mustang.

That Buckley Look

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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