A Local Guide to Memphis: Best Bars, Breweries and Patios
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
In the second installment of my series “Things I’ll Miss about Memphis”, here is a list of the best places in the 901 to get cocktails and craft beers!
First and foremost, if you know me at all or if you’ve browsed my website, you know that I love cocktails. Cocktails that remind me of places I’ve been, places I want to go, and those that are just, well, damn good cocktails. The art of cocktail making is alive and well in Memphis! However, there are three places that have a special place in my heart.
The first of these is Belle Tavern, a speakeasy/cocktail bar smack dab in the middle of downtown. You will find this little gem in Barboro Alley, off of 2nd Street between Union Avenue and Peabody Place. Or you can have dinner at 117 Prime on Union Avenue and sneak through the back entrance by the bathrooms.
No matter how you get here, be prepared for a cocktail experience like no other! Having a drink here is like taking a master class in what a real cocktail should taste like. Order one of your favorite classic cocktails, or try one of the unique inventions created by their very talented mixologists. After having a drink here, all other cocktails will pale in comparison!
My other two favorite cocktail spots are The Cove and The Lucky Cat, both located in the Broad Avenue Arts District. The Cove, or as I like to call it The Pirate Bar, is a fun and funky dive bar that makes you feel like you’re actually on a pirate ship. With a selection of liquors that is like a veritable treasure chest, every cocktail they make here is guaranteed to be top-notch. Looking to taste a particularly difficult to find whiskey or bourbon? Just ask…they probably have it tucked away somewhere behind the bar! And if you’re lucky enough to get one of the few seats at the bar, chat it up with the bartenders. Along with their talent for making sinfully delicious cocktails, one of my favorite things about The Cove is the friendly banter and fun stories. Oh, and don’t forget to take a picture in the pirate cut out boards on your way out!
The Lucky Cat is the newest addition to my list of favorite bars in Memphis. The Lucky Cat is a Ramen restaurant downstairs with a cocktail bar upstairs. I say “bar”, but that doesn’t really do it justice. This super cool lounge with a hipster vibe will make you want to hang out all night! And let’s not forget about why we come here. Their talent for serving up the best classic cocktails around is impressive and refreshing. This place will turn you into a cocktail snob in a heartbeat, and you’ll love it!
Downtown Dive Bars
What's a Best Bars list without a collection of dive bars? A swanky bar with fancy cocktails is nice, but you just can't beat a down and dirty dive bar with a little bit of grit and a whole lot of history. We've got that. Let me introduce Earnestine and Hazel's, a former brothel turned juke joint that just screams Memphis.
Downstairs, pull up a stool and order a beer and Soul Burger. Don't ask what it is, just get it. Then go explore upstairs. More than a few ghost stories are hidden in these walls. For a real treat, wander down to the private piano bar at the end of the hall and get to know the bartender. He is a Memphis legend.
Let's round out the list of best dive bars in Memphis. The Green Beetle serves up the best beer in town, along with a little something called a Bushwacker that's like a chocolatey-boozy milkshake for grown-ups. There are ghost stories here as well, don't be alarmed if you get a chill down your spine when you visit the women's bathroom.
A self-proclaimed speakeasy, the Blind Bear is a fun stop on Main Street with tasty cocktails, pool tables, and comfy couches. Looking for a classic beer and shot joint? You've got to go to Bardog Tavern and try one of their breakfast shots. Irish pubs? Got that too. The Brass Door has the best Irish whiskey, beer, and fish n' chips in town.
We can't talk about Memphis bars without mentioning Beale Street. Home of the Blues, Barbecue, and the Beale Street Flippers, if you're looking for a party, this is the place to be.
Clubs, bars, music joints, and restaurants lining both sides of the street, Beale Street is a King sized party crammed into a three block section of downtown. From B.B. King's Blues Club, to the Rum Boogie Cafe, Silky O'Sullivan's, Alfred's, and countless others, this is the heartbeat of our city.
Cool outdoor spaces
Nothing beats a bar with an outdoor space, and Memphis has some of the best! What I like the most about these locations is that they are refurbished industrial sites. I absolutely love it when old sites like this find new life in a way that brings people together. If you’re looking for a place to hang out in the fresh air and enjoy some libation with friends and family, or anyone else for that matter, you have got to check these out.
Railgarten in midtown is just what it sounds like. Created out of an old rail yard, this combination outdoor/indoor space has so many different areas you could get lost! A classic tiki bar, diner, ping pong tables, sand volleyball, and live music stage just to name a few. Grab some friends and head over to Railgarten to celebrate anything worth having drinks!
Not to be outdone, Downtown Memphis boasts its own incredible outdoor hangout spot. Loflin Yard is an outdoor haven in the middle of the city. Have cocktails at the bar in the Safe House or Coach House, hang out on the Patio, in the Front Yard or the Back Yard. With yard games, fire pits, rocking chairs, cascading waterfalls, and even a blow up water slide in the summer, no matter which “yard” you choose, you’ll have a great time!
Patios are a precious commodity these days, and Memphis definitely delivers in this area. With so many to mention, let’s break this down by location.
Looking for the best patios on Beale Street? Check out Silky O’Sullivan’s and the rooftop bars at the Tin Roof or Alfred’s.
For spectacular views of downtown and the Mississippi river, have a few cocktails on the rooftop of Old Dominick Distillery. The only representative of the Tennessee Whiskey Trail in West Tennessee, Old Dominick also has a fun tour and indoor bar downstairs where you can sample their spirits and try a few new cocktails.
In the South Main Arts District, grab a table along historic Main Street and watch the trolleys go by. My absolute top picks are the Green Beetle or S.O.B. The Green Beetle has earned two spots on my list because I love it so much! It's not fancy, it just feels like your neighborhood bar, even if it's your first time there.
S.O.B. (South of Beale) is a little gastropub with scrumptious snacks and creative cocktails, served on their outdoor patio or in a quaint inside space with brick walls and dim lighting. I know this is an article about drinking, but I have just three words for you. Duck. Fried. Rice.
Walk along the tree lined cobblestone section of Main Street and you'll find patios galore! The views here are spectacular, and if you're visiting here for the first time it's a great place for an afternoon cocktail while you're waiting for the ducks at the Peabody to start their walk down the red carpet at 5:00. Some of my favorite Main Street patios for great drinks and yummy food are Local Gastropub, the Blind Bear, Majestic Grill or Felicia Suzanne’s.
At Overton Square, my favorites are Second Line, Bayou Bar & Grill, Babalu, Lafayette’s Music Room, and the patio in the back of Local Gastropub. In the same area, but tucked away in a quiet neighborhood, check out Ecco on Overton Park. While you’re here, walk one block down and get a New Orleans style Snow-ball for dessert from Parish Grocery. You can thank me later.
Cooper Young can’t be beat for Patios, as almost every restaurant here has an outdoor space. Young Avenue Deli, Cafe Ole, Celtic Crossing, and Sweet Grass/Next Door are the best in my book. Just down the street on Cooper Street you’ll also find Slider Inn, an awesome outdoor patio with a Jameson Slush that will rock your world!
If you happen to be out east, try Brookhaven Pub, Hog & Hominy, or Venice Kitchen. The Bluff or The Casual Pint are my favorites in the University of Memphis area. Further east in the suburbs, notable mentions are Swanky’s Taco Shop in Germantown and Hickory Tavern at the Shops of Carriage Crossing in Collierville. I try to support local business over chains as much as possible, but the Flying Saucer in Cordova is one of my favorite places to meet friends for outdoor good times, so I would be remiss not to mention it here as well!
Keep your eye on Memphis in this regard, the craft beer scene here is making a name for itself! With breweries in every part of town you can imagine, the beer is flowing, and it’s delicious!
The brewery to go to downtown is Ghost River Brewing in the South Main warehouse district. They have an awesome outdoor patio, a tap room with board games and comfy seating, and usually have food trucks on site. Their tried and true favorites are sold year round, but they also serve seasonal and limited releases that will satisfy your best beer cravings as well. My go-to ale here is the Ghost River Gold. Unless it’s fall. Then it’s definitely the Riverbank Red.
The Eastern Suburbs are playing with the big boys as well. Meddlesome Brewing is the newest brewery on my list of favorites, and I wish I had made the drive “all the way out to Cordova” sooner! Located in an industrial park in the suburbs, they have a quaint little tap room with a great atmosphere, yummy beer, and super cool owners who I randomly met while on a bourbon tasting tour in Kentucky. My pick is Brass Bellows. Cheers to you and your beer, guys!
Midtown is the hot spot for breweries in Memphis, and one of the best is Memphis Made Brewing in the Cooper Young area. In a converted industrial building, they have creatively designed their tap room with multiple seating areas and have an outdoor space that has become an iconic picture taking spot. My favorite? Fireside Amber Ale.
Halfway between Midtown and Downtown, and right down the street from Sun Studios in a really cool old brick building, you’ll find High Cotton Brewing. Their tap room may be small, but their beer is packed with big flavor!
The only problem I have here is that I can’t decide which of their beers I like the best! Scottish Ale, Saison, Porter, or Hefeweizen…just to name a few. I usually end up going for one of their flights so I can taste them all! Cozy up in their taproom on a cool day, or hang out in the shady breezeway to escape the heat of summer. Either way, you’ll be glad you came.
Last but certainly not least is the brewery I will miss the most, Wiseacre Brewing on Broad Avenue. With a painted water tower leading you to them like a beacon, their outdoor space is funky, eclectic and cool. I mean, anywhere that uses a painted storage container as an entrance is cool in my book. But let’s talk beer. Creatively named and tantalizingly tasty, every beer here is delicious. I’ll leave you here with the name of a beer that is the epitome of a craft beer mic drop. Gotta Get Up to Get Down.
Ready to wet your whistle with some delicious cocktails and craft beers? Come on down to Memphis where the libations are flowing and the patios are calling your name!
Looking for tips on all the best of Memphis? Check these out!
A Local Guide to Memphis: Best Eats
A Local Guide to Memphis Music
A Historic Sightseeing Tour of Memphis