MEMPHIS, TN: Day One | Author Allie Pleiter


All shook up...

Yes, there’s Elvis.  Graceland. Lots of pictures, information, and souvenirs of The King.  If that’s a big deal for you—and maybe even if it isn’t—by all means take in Elvis Ground Zero as much as you want.  For me, I hear John Hiatt telling me to get “good and greasy” or Paul Simon’s “poor boys and pilgrims.” Fact is, there’s more to this city than just white sequined jumpsuits and swiveling pelvises, and I’m going to show you some of the yarny locals’ favorite spots.

First stop—and one of the highlights of my tour—is a place that to me rivals the House of Mouse as “the happiest place on earth”:

Gibson’s Donuts
760 Mount Moriah Rd
Memphis, TN 38117
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Run by the DeWeese family, this place is the real deal and worth a trip from anywhere.  If you meet Don DeWeese, aka “DD,” you’ll know it—the guy lights up the room with such a enthusiasm for his goodies that you simply must smile.  The place was packed, and rightfully so.  DD gave us a selection of his specialties, which I must say were—no kidding—the best donuts I’ve ever eaten. The bacon-maple is outstanding, and the blueberry was superb, but for me the lemon drop and the warm-out-of-the-oven old fashioned donut holes were the best of the best.  They are open 24 hours, so you have no excuse not to go, and you’ll be sorry if you miss it.

Right close by is today’s fiber find:

709 S Mendenhall Rd
Memphis, TN 38117

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Owner Brenda Meece got her start selling yarn out of her house before opening this cheery, cozy shop in 2002.  The table by the window is always filled with customers who come to hang out and work on their current projects.  “Our yarn comes with free help,” says Brenda.  

MEMPHIS, TN: Day One 30
The store hosts an eclectic but surprisingly deep selection, so you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.  Product peeks out from every corner—and even upstairs—so Yarniverse has that “stuffed but not cluttered” feeling I like in a yarn shop.  When you walk in, you get the sense that there’s something perfect waiting for you somewhere, and you want to start looking right away.

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As good on line as in person, Yarniverse’s website hosts an impressive selection of free exclusive knitting and crochet patterns.  The store hosts a nice mix of technique and project-based classes, too.  Wednesday is “sock day,” so schedule accordingly if socks are your passion.  A diverse, personable, and inventive staff (one even held her wedding at the shop and knit her own wedding dress!) ensure you get the help and encouragement you need for even your thorniest problems. And by the way, if you’re a left-handed knitter, you’ll find lots of camaraderie here!

There’s loads to see, feel, and crave; but if you need some suggestions, try these:

Harry and Hazel Hat
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An adorable baby hat with just enough ruffle to make you go “aww,” this boy-or-girl hat can be made in one or two colors of Universal Yarn’s Cotton Supreme Splash.  It’s a Yarniverse exclusive pattern, as is the companion blanket if you want to truly pamper the new baby in your life.

Knit A Long:  Fresh Till Cowl
MEMPHIS, TN: Day One 33
A cowl made in Madelinetosh is one of every knitter’s true pleasures—the colors, the feel, the drape—I think every knitter should make one for herself.  Lucky for me, I get to do just that with Yarniverse’s exclusive free pattern.  One hank gets you all this fabulousness!

Smitty Hat
MEMPHIS, TN: Day One 34
Why should the babies have all the fun?  Slouch beanies are a cozy way to keep your head warm while staying stylish and not squashing your hair beyond recognition.  Combining Brown Sheep Bulky and GGH Soft kidd mohair held together, this topper is warm and fluffy without being too bulky.  It comes in a kit, or you can get the pattern on Ravelry and grab the fiber yourself.

Heirloom Blanket
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If you’re ready to tackle a bigger project, check out this cozy throw with an easy 4-row feather-and-fan pattern you’ll learn in no time.  This is one of those projects where you can let the fiber do the talking—go for a spiffy self-striping yarn (make sure it’s a long color change, though, or the pooling may get weird on you) or a nice basic solid.  Yarniverse recommends luscious Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino for a treasured piece sure to stay in your family for a long time.

Once you’ve scored your yarn goodies for today, it’s time to sample a diverse assortment of Memphis’ best adventures.  

5101 Sanderlin Ave
Ste 113
Memphis, TN 38117
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Knitters appreciate artful garments.  You'll find those, as well as unique jewelry and handmade (yes, even knit and crochet) accessories here.  This shop may be small, but it has a truly captivating collection of clothes I’d love to own.  While I could have bought a dozen things, I settled for a clever steel ring at a surprisingly reasonable price.  You’ll definitely get individualized attention here.  Then step next door to:

Muddy’s Bake Shop
5101 Sanderlin Ave
Ste 114
Memphis, TN 38117
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They had me at a flavor called “Prozac.”  The folks at Yarniverse also recommended “The Grasshopper,” but as available flavors vary day by day, you may want to ask for a recommendation.  For those of us who love good pie, there were several nice choices here, too, as well as cookies and bars.  For me, they hit just the right frosting-to-cake ratio—some cupcakes are just piles of frosting on a bit of cake, and I’m no fan of that.  Delicious.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  where there’s yarn, there’s cupcakes. Either eat dessert first, or save your cupcakes for later snacking, because lunch is the next stop:

Soul Fish Cafe
862 S Cooper
Memphis, TN 38104

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This eatery came enthusiastically recommended by DD from Gibson's, and he was right again.  There are three locations, but this one serves our current route.  I don’t know what they put in the breading—and I won’t get to, because evidently that’s a secret—but it’s fabulous.  Best hushpuppies I’ve ever had—perfectly crisp on the outside, munchy on the inside. DD told us to get both the fried catfish and the fried shrimp, and we were smart enough to follow his advice.  Getting good and greasy indeed!

Stax Museum of American Soul Music
926 E McLemore Ave
Memphis, TN 38106

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See what I did there?  From Soul Fish to Soul Music.  I have an audiophile spouse, so I’d heard many of the artists featured at this museum.  What I didn’t know, however, was the extraordinary story of the company and its role in both community and society.  The orientation film and the exhibits pull you into the legend that was the Stax label.  I found the whole museum to be thoughtfully presented, and just the right size to go in depth without overwhelming.  If you don’t dance at some point during your visit, something’s wrong with you.  And the gift shop rocks—literally.

Spend the rest of the afternoon however you like, but head on back east for a great barbecue dinner at:

Corky’s Ribs & BBQ 
5259 Poplar Ave
Memphis, TN 38119
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Everybody told us to go to Corky’s.  Usually I shy away from the tour-book must-see’s, but this place got such raves that we felt compelled to check it out.  Boy, am I glad we did.  Sure, it’s exactly what I’ve come to expect from a southern barbecue joint—in-your-face friendly staff, rustic decor, a scent you can pick up in the parking lot, and delectable but unhealthy food in quantities to make your cardiologist nervous.  Problem was, by this point in our trip I craved something that wasn’t drowning in tangy sauce (we’d been in Memphis a few days by the time we got here).  Corky’s came through anyway: My husband did BBQ, but I had a very fine Pulled Hickory Smoked Turkey Salad and we saved room for some truly splendid Ice Box Lemon Pie.

We’re not done yet—there’s more Memphis to be explored on our next post.
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