Blues, Booze, and Barbecue on Beale Street
During its heyday in the roaring ‘20s, Beale Street was likened to a carnival. It still feels that way. Acrobats catapult along sidewalks embedded with brass music notes that commemorate Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, and buskers pluck guitars on the same concrete slabs where B.B. King and W.C. Handy used to. But all this hubbub and history can be a lot to take in, especially for first time visitors. Follow our walking guide to Beale Street attractions to ensure you get the most out of Memphis’ most famous stretch.
Expand your vacation beyond Memphis with our four Tennessee vacation ideas.
Begin with Barbecue at Pig on Beale
167 Beale St.
Beyond the music and sidewalk activity, Beale Street is also famous for its Memphis barbecue joints. Start your journey at Pig, where you can enjoy the regional staple in the form of ribs, pulled pork, and brisket sandwiches. Chefs wood-smoke the meats before slathering them in a housemade, Memphis-style barbecue sauce.
Enjoy a Mid-Afternoon Treat at A. Schwab Trading Co.
163 Beale St. | 1-minute walk from Pig on Beale
Schwab Trading Co. has occupied the same brick building since 1876, making it one of the oldest Beale Street attractions. Inside, you can browse voodoo spell books, Elvis memorabilia, and souvenir washboards before enjoying a house-made waffle cone or cherry-topped malt shake at the vintage soda fountain. Classic.
Hit The Orpheum Theatre for Evening Entertainment
203 S. Main St. (corner of Beale and Main) | 3-minute walk from A. Schwab Trading Co.
After a detailed restoration, this 1928 art-deco theater sparkles with crystal chandeliers and a vintage Wurlitzer pipe organ. The building used to host raucous vaudeville and jazz shows; now, the Orpheum entertains audiences with Broadway shows and performers such as Tony Bennett and Jerry Seinfeld.
Fuel Up with a Po’ Boy Dinner at Silky O’Sullivan’s
183 Beale St. | 4-minute walk from the Orpheum
This Cajun-Irish eatery features dueling pianos, a real live goat (really), and a dinner menu that could wallpaper a small room. Though Silky’s is best known for its Memphis barbecue, the shrimp po’ boy is equally delectable. Be sure to bring a buddy or three to share a gallon-size drink served in a bucket.
Get in the Late-Night Groove at Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall
182 Beale St. | Across the street from Silky O’Sullivan’s
Skipping out on live music in Memphis—one of the birthplaces of the blues—is a travel sin. One of the best places to avoid making such a mistake is Mr. Handy’s, a divey blues club and juke joint where you can cluster around an intimate stage to see a late-night jam session up close. And when other Beale Street bars beckon, such as the adjacent Rum Boogie Cafe, you can put your drink in a plastic cup and sip it along the way. Gotta love Memphis.
Jam Out ‘Til Dawn at Alfred’s on Beale
193 Beale St. | 2-minute walk from Mr. Handy’s
When the smaller clubs shut their doors around 2 a.m., Alfred’s swells with the sounds of music, from DJ tunes to a 17-piece big band. Dig into a pile of barbecue nachos until late o’clock and raise a toast to Beale Street. The drinks flow until 5 a.m. on weekends.