Fried Food and Dinosaurs on the Road to Memphis
When my boyfriend was invited to read a story of his at the launch of the newest issue of The Pinch literary magazine, based in Memphis, I convinced him we had to go. I love the South—for its friendly locals, music, and most importantly, for its food. Instead of spending upward of $300 on a flight, we decided to take a road trip. Surprisingly we only got lost once in 1,000 or so miles between New York and Memphis. And it was all because the ferocious beasts at Dinosaur Land distracted me from my navigatrix duties. Oops.
After a scenic detour through the back roads of the Shenandoah Valley, we got back on course and headed toward the Southern Kitchen, a local joint recommended to us by a friend-of-a-friend, off of I-81 in New Market, VA. After enjoying my first bowl of traditional Virginian peanut soup ever, I dug into a heaping platter of fried chicken. While it didn’t have the cayenne kick of the chicken we later had at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville, or slip right off the bone meat like at the original Gus's Fried Chicken outside of Memphis, it was still deliciously crunchy on the outside and full of juicy meat on the inside.
Now, you might be thinking, Did she really eat fried chicken three times in five days? Most definitely. And on the fourth day I ate fried whiting at Nashville's Eastside Fish ("The Crunkest Fish in Town"), complete with fried okra, hush puppies, and collard greens on the side. Yum.
Once we got to Memphis we managed to take a break from driving and eating to check out the Peabody Hotel’s famous marching ducks and visit the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, located at the original site of Stax Records where legendary musicians like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and The Bar-Kays recorded from the late ‘50s until the label went bankrupt in the mid-70s.
In addition to learning the history of the record label, there was also a great collection of soul music artifacts to ogle, including the Hammond organ with which Booker T. and the MGs recorded the hit “Green Onions” and Isaac Hayes's 24k gold rimmed, peacock blue Eldorado Cadillac, which made Elvis Presley’s over-the-top decorations at Graceland seem subtle in comparison. My only complaint was, that while the museum allows this music to live on, it's a shame that music isn’t recorded there anymore and that the instruments on display are just gathering dust.
Lyndsey Matthews is an online editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
Photos by Lyndsey Matthews