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



The Dublin House, Irish in name only, seems more like a smoking lounge than a bar, but it anchors the easternmost end of the Madison Ave dive bar strip.  (Or at least it did, since we just found out it’s no longer in business.) There’s one other “Irish” place, Murphy’s, nearby.  We weren’t supposed to go there, though, because one of our new friends had been Banned for Life after getting caught tagging the men’s room. MEMDIVE_Dublin_summ

Dublin Bouncer


We stopped in at the Dublin House for a drink with our new model-actress friend, Sarah Rose.  She’d traveled to Memphis from San Francisco on a psychedelic school bus, accompanying a rock band whose every member looked like the Atticus Fetch character on Californication.  Her self-appointed duty was to chronicle the band’s trip on social media and to take copious handwritten notes about her Memphis experience.

As I brought a round of beers back to our little table, I thought I felt something grabbing my left arm.  My Queens-bred instincts kicked in, and I turned fast.  There was a blonde lady there, a few years younger than myself.  And she was petting my leather jacket, and sort of talking to herself.

“It’s soooo soft,” she was saying.  “I love soft leather.  Like this.  Sooo soft.  How did you get it so soft?”

I probably said something like, “Hi I’m Rob!”

Sarah Rose, who possesses the literary wit of a late Victorian novelist and the dictation skills of a courtroom stenographer, whipped out her pad and started putting things down.  “I try to capture meter,” she would later tell me.

The blonde lady’s people approached, two of them.  It turned out that the blonde lady was a Drunk Nurse, a very, very Drunk Nurse.  Her sister, who had a lot of facial piercings, was something else.  The third person was the sister’s husband, a soldier.  He was just back from 10 years fighting in Iraq, and he was about to head back there for a third tour.  He loved being in the Army.

Drunk Nurse kept asking me about my jacket, the same questions over and over.  I was running out of things to say about it, so I showed her the stitched patch where it had been torn open on CPCVI.  This held her attention for a while

“Wow, that’s rough right there.”  Big eyes.  “Not soft.  Everything around it is so soft.  So, so soft.”

“Hey, why is this pretty girl with you guys?” asked the sister, pointing at Sarah Rose.

Sarah Rose looked up but kept writing in her notebook.

Dan evaded the question and tried to explain our barbecue quest to the group.  “Well, we have this website, called The Manic American…”

The soldier interrupted him.  “Wait!  Are you guys from Man v. Food?!”

Nurse’s Sister kept asking Dan which one of us was going to get with Sarah Rose.  I ignored her.  Dan tried to respond but stammered.

Sarah Rose kept writing, then looked up to ask me something.  Nurse’s Sister intensified her interrogation of Dan.

“One of you needs to get with this girl.  Why isn’t it you?”

Dan stammered bashfully again: blood in the water.

“You’re taller than him!” Nurse’s Sister screamed at Dan, pointing at me.  “You should have dibs on her!  Why don’t you call dibs?!  Look at the way your friend is in there talking to her!  Get in there!  Say something!  Stand up for yourself!”

Dan continued to stammer, making many different facial expressions but not saying any words.  Sarah Rose went back to writing.  Did not look up again.

“Oh, that’s what the pretty girl does!” shouted the Nurse’s Sister, now on a drunk soliloquy-rampage.  “The pretty girl writes!  The pretty girl writes!  Look at the pretty girl write!”  She pointed at each of us in sequence: “Camera, camera, pretty girl writes.”

The soldier stepped away and tried, hard, to pick a fight with three guys at the bar.  One by one, they rolled their eyes and looked away.  He came back and asked, “So are you guys from Man v. Food or what?”  This was really going nowhere, so I asked our new friends some questions about themselves.

They told us they were from the “Fraleigh” district of Memphis, otherwise known as Frayser-Raleigh.  As they put it, this was “the wrong side of the tracks.”  We told them we’d just been there for lunch.  After hiking in a nearby state forest, we’d gotten barbecue-pork-topped cheeseburgers at the “Fraleigh” outpost of Tops BBQ.  We also shot some photos in the neighborhood.

“What the fuck were you doing there?!” Nurse’s Sister asked.  “You guys were lucky to get out alive.  Luckier that you got out with your cameras.”  Why were people always telling us that?

The soldier went back to the bar to try to start another fight. Nurse’s Sister took Dan aside to give him some lady advice.  Sarah Rose went missing.  This left me alone with my jacket admirer.  She looked at me with big, childlike eyes and made a pouty face.  I could tell she was about to say….something.

“I like your jacket,” she started.  “And I like you.”

Then she went for it.  “And I hope you like cougars, baby…..‘cause I’m pushin’ 30.”

We need to get out of here, I thought.  And somehow we did, though I think we lost Sarah Rose.  I never had to tell the cougarnurse that I was already over the hill.

Choose Your Next Adventure:

The Last Real Place in Memphis | Actual 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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