Blues City Cafe serves great food and live music on Beale Street

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – This 5-star story is about one of Memphis’ top businesses and tourist attractions celebrating 30 years, as the Blues City Cafe’s recipe for good food and good times continues to roll on the iconic Beale Street.

Good music is a mainstay of Beale Street, and you’ll find plenty of it in the Blues City Cafe music box where hundreds of artists – world famous like BB King, Courtney Love and Queen Latifah – and local musicians have played to the delight of the public.

The Blues City Cafe opened in March 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 waiter Edgar Smith told us, “It was really busy at Does and it’s busy now!” And while it’s the music that probably prolongs many customers’ visit to Blues City, it’s the food that attracts the most.

“The chef cooks the best ribs in the world,” Smith said. “And the catfish is tender fillets of baby catfish, lightly breaded and seasoned with cornmeal and fried, and chef Larry makes okra. It really is an excellent okra.

And he should know. He’s been a server at the hotspot since the start and adds that while tourists are important to the restaurant’s success, loyal local customers are its lifeblood.

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

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

“And like I said to Bud, ‘You just want me because I’m a good worker and I’ve worked there and I’m well known.’ And he says, “It’s true,” said Yates, who has now worked for the Blues City Cafe for 16 years and added that it’s a well-oiled machine that feels like a family.

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

And who knows? Licking your fingers after the last bite of tender, savory ribs, you might even find yourself a little starstruck by the famous faces that adorn the tables.

“I’ve waited for presidents,” Smith said. “I waited for Bill Clinton. The other week, I waited for Robert Plant. He just sat there. He’s making an album here in town. One evening, on this table where you are (was) Tyler Perry. And, at the same time, in the VIP room, there was Mick Jagger.

The Blues City Cafe is the place to see or be seen when 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 such as Bon Appetite and PS magazines.

For more information on Blues City Café, click here.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement