Tag Archives: Memphis

The best barbecue on the Great River Road

Monday, June 17, 2019

Where there’s smoke, there’s… some of the best barbecue in the United States.

Sure, you might automatically (and correctly) think of St. Louis and Memphis as barbecue hot spots on the Mississippi River, but the truth is, you can find delectable BBQ at restaurants up and down the Great River Road—it’s just a matter of knowing where to go.

Here’s a region-by-region breakdown of where you can find the best brisket, ribs and more along America’s greatest drive.

North

Even if they don’t have the traditions of their Southern cousins, the states of the northern Great River Road still have plenty of restaurants that produce delicious barbecue. In the Twin Cities, visitors can find authentic Carolina barbecue at Revival, which has restaurants in Minneapolis and Saint Paul (and also sells smoked meats at the Keg and Case Market in Saint Paul).

Head to La Crosse—the biggest city on Wisconsin’s section of the Great River Road—for great bites at Piggy’s (and don’t miss live blues music in the Smokin’ Blues Lounge downstairs on Saturday nights). Across the river in Bellevue, Iowa, you’ll find another barbecue-and-blues restaurant at Flatted Fifth Blues & BBQ, housed in a historic grist mill on the banks of the Mississippi.

A short drive from St. Louis, Beast Craft BBQ Co. in Belleville, Illinois, has won lots of awards since it opened in 2015, including nods from Thrillist (who called it one of the 33 best BBQ joints in America) and Food & Wine magazine (Illinois’ best barbecue).

Middle

Now this is barbecue country. We could do a whole article—or several, in fact—on the offerings in St. Louis and Memphis alone, but we’ll pick a few that you must check out. In St. Louis, don’t miss Pappy’s Smokehouse near Saint Louis University; while you’re waiting in line for their award-winning ribs, check out the autographed menus plastered on the walls.

In the tiny town of Bardwell, Kentucky, locals flock to Prince Pit BBQ (which also has a store in nearby Barlow). Further south in Memphis, you’ll find delicious barbecue almost anywhere, but be sure to visit the iconic Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, which has welcomed rock stars, presidents and regular folks alike to its alley-front location since 1948.

South

Did you know that Arkansas’ only James Beard Award-winning restaurant can be found in a town of just 3,500 people? Well, that’s how good the reputation is for Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, which has been serving customers since at least 1910 and may be the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the state.

Clarksdale, Mississippi, is home to the infamous Crossroads—the place where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul in exchange for his unearthly musical talent. Just a few steps away from the marker commemorating this location is Abe’s Bar-B-Q, which has been serving locals and visitors to unfettered acclaim for decades.

Louisiana is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, so it only makes sense that you’ll find po’ boys and fried chicken in addition to the barbecue favorites on the menu at The Francis Smokehouse & Specialty Meats in St. Francisville. What started out as a specialty meat shop now serves hundreds of sandwiches daily; don’t miss their fancier relative, The Francis Southern Table & Bar, next door.

Flavors of the Great River Road: Tennessee

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Savor the flavors of the South when you explore the Great River Road through Tennessee. From barbecue to bananas—yes, bananas—and everything in between, there’s plenty to whet your appetite.

When it comes to cuisine along Tennessee’s Great River Road, the undisputed king has got to be Memphis. (All apologies to Memphis’ other king, Mr. Presley.) Memphis is a city that boasts history, culture and personality in a bundle that can’t be beat. It has everything to offer from stellar live music venues to can’t-miss historical spots. Among these one-of-a-kind traits are the flavors of Memphis—especially barbecue. Locals have been perfecting their craft for centuries here, making a science out of sweet-and-spicy combos that you can now find in a variety of Memphis-born dishes.

If you’re looking for a twist on some classic barbecue, head over to Central BBQ for their signature BBQ nachos. That’s right—these chips are loaded with your choice of chicken, beef or turkey and topped with barbecue sauce, assorted cheeses, jalapenos and a dusting of BBQ Shake. This favorite has been featured on several foodie blogs and has the local seal of approval.

A critic’s favorite is the dry-rub ribs at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, a diner located across the street from the famous Peabody Hotel. The cooks here have perfected the Memphis tradition of using dry rub instead of barbecue sauce for ribs you’ve only tasted in your dreams.

A food tour through Tennessee wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the sweeter side of the menu. You might be familiar with Elvis Presley’s favorite lunch, a peanut butter and banana sandwich. But did you know that Tennessee actually has a connection to the banana industry? The Kentucky-Tennessee border cities of Fulton and South Fulton were once home to the only facility for distributing bananas to the northern states, so it became known as “The Banana Capital of the World.” Locals are so proud of their role in bringing bananas to the United States that they still celebrate the Annual Banana Festival every September.

If you’re looking to catch a few flavors of your own, head westward from South Fulton to Reelfoot Lake. It’s home to Reelfoot Lake State Park, a nationally renowned fishing destination for anglers going after crappie and bluegill. Plus, Reelfoot Lake—the only natural lake in Tennessee—welcomes visitors at lodging properties like Blue Bank Resort, which offers delicious cuisine at its Fishhouse Restaurant.

Between barbeque and biscuits, sweet teas and sugary treats, Tennnessee is the perfect place for a food tour you won’t forget. Add these stops to your trip and your taste buds will thank you all the way home.

(Photos: Charles Vergos Rendezvous/Facebook)

Welcome to Drive the Great River Road Month!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

pikes peak state park iaIt’s September, so you know what that means: it’s Drive the Great River Road Month!

This month-long celebration encourages folks to explore the nation’s oldest and longest National Scenic Byway, which stretches along the Mississippi River through 10 states, from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.

So why should you drive the Great River Road in September?  Here are just a few reasons:

  • Beautiful fall color. As the leaves change, motorists can travel from north to south to take in the splendid colors of fall at scenic sites like Buena Vista Park in Wisconsin or Pike’s Peak State Park in Iowa.
  • Interesting museums and historical sites. More than 70 interpretive centers line the Great River Road. Learn about the culture, history and heritage of the Mississippi River at these unique sites.
  • Food. There are great dishes to be had up and down the Great River Road, from classic Southern dishes in New Orleans to classic barbecue in Memphis.

Need some resources to help plan your trip? Order our free 10-state travel map or download our free app.

And don’t forget to enter the Drive the Great River Road Month Sweepstakes, where you could win $500 to spend on your next trip along the Great River Road.

6 things you might not know about the Great River Road

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lake Itasca and the Headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State ParkThe Great River Road is America’s oldest and longest National Scenic Byway, so it makes sense that it’s also home to a lot of history and unique attractions. Here are a few things you might not know about the Mississippi River and the cities and states along the Great River Road.

  1. It takes approximately 90 days for a raindrop to travel the length of the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.
  2. There are more than 70 official interpretive centers—museums, historical sites and more—along the Great River Road.
  3. Memphis, Tennessee is home more than 100 barbecue restaurants.
  4. The Mississippi River actually flowed backwards after a series of earthquakes that rocked the New Madrid, Missouri, area in 1811 and 1812. You can learn about it at the New Madrid Historical Museum.
  5. Founded in 1791, the French Market in New Orleans is the oldest public market in the United States.
  6. Waterskiing was invented on Lake Pepin—part of the Mississippi River that forms the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota—in 1922.

Golfing the Great River Road

Thursday, March 24, 2016

ONA Golf Course 3_resultIt’s always worth making room in your trunk for some clubs when you’re driving the Great River Road. The route will take you past some of America’s finest courses and you’re never far from great golfing. The Mississippi River Valley features some spectacular terrain that makes for challenging play. Many courses offer dramatic views of the valley and the river beyond. Here are some golf courses to check out that are on or near America’s oldest and longest scenic byway:

Trempealeau Mountain Golf Club, Trempealeau, Wisconsin

This fun and challenging course is located on beautiful rolling farm land.

Galena Golf Club, Galena, Illinois

Built in 1927, the Galena Golf Club is an 18 hole, par 71 course that challenges golfers of all skill levels.

Emerald Greens, St. Louis, Missouri

This course provides beautiful views and a chance to see some of the Mississippi region’s wildlife.

Links at Riverside, Memphis, Tennessee

For more than a century, golfers have been playing this public course near the river’s edge, which is also a short drive from downtown Memphis.

River Bend Links, Robinsville, Mississippi

This par 72 links-style golf course presents the only true Scottish links course in the mid-South.

Audubon Park Golf Course, New Orleans

Located just minutes from downtown New Orleans, this immaculate 18-hole course is surrounded by century-old oak trees.

 

Celebrate Drive the Great River Road month

Thursday, September 04, 2014

sept 1 great river road red wing mnSeptember is Drive the Great River Road Month, a great time to explore America’s longest and oldest National Scenic Byway.

Fall is the perfect time to drive the Great River Road. Vibrant colors paint the trees from Minnesota to northern Mississippi, and you’ll find festivals, farmers markets and fun activities all along the Mississippi River corridor.

Looking for a few things to see and do in each of the 10 Great River Road states? We’ll head north to south with our suggestions:

  • Minnesota: Want to see where the Mississippi River starts its journey to the Gulf of Mexico? Visit Itasca State Park in Minnesota, where you can walk – yes, walk – across the headwaters of the Mississippi.
  • Wisconsin: A perfect stop to see fall color, Grandad Bluff in La Crosse gives you a 600-foot-high view of the city below and the Mississippi River beyond.
  • Illinois: Make a stop in the charming community of Galena, where you can find historic sites, tempting shopping, and toast-worthy wineries.
  • Iowa: Want a great view? Hop aboard Dubuque‘s Fenelon Place Elevator, the world’s shortest, steepest scenic railway. Ride to the top for an astonishing panoramic view of the Mississippi River and three states.
  • Missouri: This stop isn’t really more of a where, it’s a what: St. Louis barbecue. St. Louis has dozens of delicious barbecue options, including perennial favorite Pappy’s Smokehouse.
  • Kentucky: Learn about the Mississippi River’s role in the Civil War at Columbus-Belmont State Park, where you can find a six-ton anchor that – along with a mile-long chain – was used to blockade the river during battles between the North and South.
  • Tennessee: Students of American history should visit The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, an educational experience built around the preserved Lorraine Motel. Learn about the struggle for civil rights in America and see the preserved hotel rooms where Martin Luther King, Jr., spent his last hours.
  • Arkansas: Don’t miss the The King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, which welcomes tens of thousands of blues fans to the Mississippi Delta every year. Don’t miss this year’s festival Oct. 8-11.
  • Mississippi: Traveling through the Mississippi Delta? Stop by the Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center and Museum on Highway 61 in Tunica. There, you’ll find valuable travel tips and advice from area experts. The museum is scheduled to open later this year.
  • Louisiana: You might recognize this place from numerous movies and TV shows — Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie welcomes visitors with an awe-inspiring canopy of 300-year-old oak trees leading to a pristine antebellum plantation.

Find more attractions in each state here.

 

Can’t-miss restaurants along the Great River Road

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

While journeying down the Great River Road, you’ll pass through ten different states, each with its own unique dining culture. Here are some restaurants located just off the GRR that you should definitely check out.

Minneapolis, MN: The Bachelor Farmer
Located in a newly restored building built in 1881, The Bachelor Farmer captures the historic yet modern feel of the downtown Twin Cities. You’re guaranteed the freshest Nordic-style food, thanks to their use of local ingredients, including produce from their rooftop garden.

La Crosse, WI: The Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern
Dine on Waterfront Restaurant‘s contemporary versions of American classics, relax in the cushy lounge and enjoy the smooth sounds from the piano bar. And as the name hints, patrons can appreciate panoramic views of the Mississippi River, as the restaurant is situated along the waterfront.

Dubuque, IA: L. May Eatery
L. May Eatery takes pride in its use of local ingredients, serving a rotating seasonal menu of “gourmet comfort food.” Whether you’re craving a sophisticated pizza, delectable seafood or a refreshing cocktail, L. May guarantees delicious cuisine.

Quincy, IL: Tiramisu’
Order the unique homemade pasta when you visit Tiramisu’. This Italian restaurant also offers a fine selection of wine, pizzas and more. A great place to unwind.

St. Louis, MO: Bogart’s Smokehouse
Strap on your bib for a BBQ excursion at Bogart’s Smokehouse. You’ll need an appetite for this one, as the smokehouse serves up mouthwatering meats like pulled pork, smoky brisket, apricot bruleed ribs, pastrami and prime rib.

Memphis, TN: Restaurant Iris
Specializing in French-Creole cuisine, Restaurant Iris has been named Memphis’ “Best Restaurant” for the past four years by a number of qualified reviews. Its charming atmosphere can be attributed to its presence inside a restored old home near the historic Overton Square.

New Orleans, LA: Commander’s Palace
Last stop on this culinary food tour of the Mississippi… New Orleans! Commander’s Palace is the perfect place to experience New Orleans culture. Serving award-winning Creole dishes since 1880, the restaurant holds vibrant history, and vast experience has driven their success throughout the years.

Blues along the Great River Road

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Birthplace of the Blues, Dockery Farms, Cleveland, MississippiBlues history is alive and well along the Great River Road. And while the genre is most prominent in the Deep South, you’ll find blues highlights in other states along the Mississippi as well.

Born in the Mississippi Delta in the late 19th century, blues originated from African American spirituals, work songs and chants. It’s no wonder then that Mississippi is flourishing with blues history. The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale honors Mississippi as the birthplace of the blues, and the Mississippi Blues Trail tells stories through words and images of historic bluesmen.

Memphis’ Beale Street District served as a music haven for African Americans at the turn of the 20th century and remains a legendary blues entertainment destination. Memphis also boasts the Mississippi River Museum, which features five galleries explaining the origins of the blues, including pieces such as vintage band equipment, radios and various records.

The Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas focuses on the history of the Arkansas Delta, presenting exhibits, educational programs, tours and more. Their current exhibit, called, “Helena: Main Street of the Blues,” gives a unique perspective of the delta’s rich blues history.

Finally, Chicago’s Blues Chicago club features some of the area’s best blues artists and is a popular blues hotspot for fans all over the world.

Experience rich blues history along the Great River Road.

Spotlight TN: Memphis Barbecue

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fill up on Memphis BBQ during your Great River Road stop in Tennessee! This style of barbecue is all about pork ribs, usually marinated with a rub made of herbs and spices and basted during the cooking. Rubs can be wet, dry, mild, spicy or sweet, with or without mopping sauces applied periodically. Tennessee hosts a number of barbecue festivals throughout the year, and features excellent Memphis barbecue restaurants that you can dine at year-round.