5 Star Stories: Blues City Cafe serves up good food, live music on Beale Street

Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 4:43 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This 5 Star Story is about one of the best businesses and tourist attractions in Memphis that’s celebrating 30 years, as Blues City Cafe’s recipe for good food and good times keeps rolling on the iconic Beale Street.

Good music is a mainstay on Beale Street, and you’ll find plenty of that in the Blues City Cafe’s bandbox where hundreds of acts--world renown with the likes of B.B. King, Courtney Love, and Queen Latifah--and local musicians have played to the head-bobbing delight of audiences.

Blues City Cafe actually opened in March of 1991, but under a different name, Does Eat Place. Two years later, a group of investors bought the restaurant and changed the name to Blues City Cafe. But, as longtime server Edgar Smith told us, “It was really busy at Does and it’s busy now!” And while it’s the music that likely extends many patrons’ visit to Blues City, it’s the food that draws most.

“Chef cooks the best ribs in the world,” Smith said. “And the catfish is tender baby catfish filets, lightly breaded and seasoned in cornmeal and deep fried, and Chef Larry makes gumbo. It’s really excellent gumbo.”

And he should know. He’s been a server at the hot spot since the beginning and adds that, while tourists are important to the restaurant’s success, it’s the local repeat customers who are its lifeblood.

“I waited on a table last Wednesday and it was a four generation table. They’re my regulars; they’ve been coming in since 1991 and the great grandson proposed to his fiancée down in the VIP room,” Smith explained.

While the food is topnotch, service from the likes of Smith and others is also an important part of Blues City’s winning recipe. Lonnie Yates, who says he’s the oldest server in the place, was begged out of retirement by the owners after working more than 40 years at the Rendezvous.

“And like I told Bud, ‘You just want me because I’m a good worker and I been working down there and I’m well known.’ And he says, ‘That’s right,’ said Yates, who has now been with Blues City Cafe for 16 years and added that it’s a well-oiled machine that feels like family.

“And we want people to come back here because our food is good. You know, we have good quality cooks back there who work, who spend a lot of time preparing the food. People who in the back to all the way up front and it makes the restaurant go real smooth,” Yates explained.

And who knows? While licking your fingers after the last bite of tender flavorful ribs, you might even find yourself a little star struck from the famous faces who’ve been known to grace the tables.

”I’ve waited on presidents,” Smith said. “I’ve waited on Bill Clinton. Just the other week I waited on Robert Plant. He sat right there. He’s doing an album here in town. One night, on this table where you’re at (was) Tyler Perry. And, at the same time down in the VIP room was Mick Jagger.”

Blues City Cafe is the spot to see or be seen as you “put some south in your mouth!” Just one more reason we’re proud to call this place home. The restaurant has also been featured on the Food Network’s Bobby Flay Show and A Taste of American on the Travel Channel, as well as publications like Bon Appetite and PS magazines.

For more information about Blues City Cafe, click here.

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