After the wedding festivities ended on Friday night, we had the rest of the weekend to do whatever we pleased. And since Monday was a holiday, we weren’t in a big rush to get home, so Eric and I wanted an adventure.
I feel like we don’t really live spontaneously, as Eric and I are both fans of plans and schedules, for the most part. But after a spontaneous Saturday morning of Baton Rouge tourism (a trip to the top of the capitol building and lunch at The Chimes), as well as a little photo shoot in the LSU BCM courtyard with Jonathan and Liz, we were ready to hit the road.
We had several different ideas, some a bit more ridiculous than others. One idea was to go camping. We brought our tent and sleeping bags in anticipation of this plan, but then realized that everyone wants to camp on Memorial Day weekend, so all of the campgrounds were full. Another idea (the more ridiculous one, I suppose) was to drive to Rosemary Beach, Florida (where we honeymooned- about 5 hours from Baton Rouge) and spend some time on the beach. I was really pushing for this idea, as I really wanted some beach time and I was seriously craving a blueberry cake donut from Charlie’s Donut Truck. We hit a snag in this plan when we learned that all of the nearby campgrounds and hotels were booked. Apparently everyone also wants to hit the beach on Memorial Day weekend.
So we abandoned the beach plan (and the camping plan), and decided to head North instead, mostly because we didn’t want to spend any more time in the car than necessary. So, with a taste for BBQ on Eric’s brain, we headed for Memphis. Knowing that Memphis is kind of the ultimate BBQ destination, we sought advice from a Memphis native/BBQ enthusiast, Tommy Dillard, and his soon-to-be-wife, Elaine. They sent us to Rendezvous, a famous BBQ place in downtown Memphis. I’m glad that they advised us on this choice because I don’t think we ever would have ventured inside this place on our own. You see, Rendezvous is in a rather sketchy looking alley. But this sketchy alley was full of people waiting to get into Rendezvous, so we knew it had to be good. We had about 45 minutes to wait, so we wandered over to the Peabody Hotel, a landmark that Elaine told us about.
The Peabody is famous for many reasons, one of which is the duck march through the lobby every day. That’s right, folks. Ducks march through the hotel lobby. They live on the hotel roof, ride the elevator down to the lobby, walk down the red carpet, and play in the fountain. Then they go back upstairs at night. Isn’t that crazy? Unfortunately, we had already missed the ceremonial duck march that day. But we were able to take in all of the other things happening at The Peabody. That is the place to be on a Saturday night. The place was packed. The music was blaring. The guests were partying. Tommy told us that we should go up to the top floor to see the view of downtown Memphis. We attempted to do that, but the floor was closed for a private party. Bummer. But I’m guessing that the wedding reception going on in that hotel was pretty awesome. And very swanky. Maybe next time, Memphis.
We headed back over to the alley and did some people watching while we waited to get into the restaurant. It’s an interesting crowd that visits Rendezvous. But I guess a diverse crowd is a sign of a restaurant that appeals to everyone.
We finally got to go inside and were a bit overwhelmed by everything going on. I guess you could say that we were pretty overwhelmed by Memphis, in general, mostly because we’re becoming less and less “big city” folk as we grow old. But Rendezvous, in particular, was insane. The walls are covered in pictures and random art, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. We were seated in a section full of photos of our waiter posing with customers, holding babies, and just generally looking like a nice fella. Unfortunately, this is not the version of the waiter we got. When he came to take our drink orders, he didn’t even look at us, and he mumbled “What can I get you to drink?” so badly that Eric had to ask him to repeat himself. He came back twice, once to take our order and once to bring our ribs. And that was the last we saw of him. No refills. No check, even 45 minutes after we finished eating. We ended up just putting some money on the table and leaving. So I’m not sure what was going on there, but the service was terrible.
The ribs, on the other hand, were excellent. We split a full rack with sides of baked beans and coleslaw. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to convince myself to eat coleslaw. but I did give in and try the baked beans. They were quite tasty and sweet, but I could only handle a few bites. I could eat a lot of ribs, though. They were dry rubbed (since we were in Memphis), but there was some BBQ sauce on the table that made them even more delicious. Eric was a little disappointed that they weren’t “fall off the bone” tender, but I thought they were wonderful.
After leaving the restaurant, we really wanted some dessert. Not knowing where anything was in Memphis (or what would be open at 10:30 pm), we decided to get something near our hotel. I really wanted a peanut butter chocolate fudge milkshake. Back in the day, you could get these at Sonic, but they stopped selling them a few years ago. I thought that they had them at Steak n’ Shake, so we went through the drive-thru there. Just so you know, they don’t have peanut butter chocolate fudge milkshakes either. Big disappointment. If anyone knows where I can get a peanut butter chocolate fudge milkshake, please let me know. I’ll be forever in your debt.
Eric and I were growing increasingly frustrated with Memphis after the horrible service at both Rendezvous and Steak n’ Shake, but we trusted that everything would be better once we got to our hotel. But as soon as we walked into the lobby, a man in a towel was complaining to the front desk that someone had thrown up in the hotel pool. Welcome to Memphis. And once we made it up to our room, we had to turn on the heat (even though it was 80-something degrees outside) because the AC was set to 60 degrees. Sixty degrees is very cold when you come inside from a humid summer evening. This was met with a shivering chorus of, “I hate Memphis” from both of us.
Things improved a bit in the morning when we made plans to visit another famous BBQ place- Neely’s. Apparently this place has it’s own show on the Food Network or something, so we figured it had to be good. Although, once again, the place did not impress from the outside. But I’ve always heard that the best restaurants are the ones that look like shacks.
As far as the comparison goes, Rendezvous was superior to Neely’s in the ribs department. We got the same meal at both restaurants, and we both agreed that while Neeley’s ribs had a better texture (more of the “fall off the bone” tender), Rendezvous’ ribs had better flavor. But Eric voted for Neely’s in the categories of baked beans and sweet tea. And we both much preferred the service at Neely’s. I appreciate a waitress who checks on her customers. Overall, if you’re looking for the real Memphis BBQ experience, I’d go for Rendezvous. Just hope for a better waiter.
After our BBQ taste test, we hit the road for home, stopping in Nashville to get some frozen yogurt and walk around Vanderbilt’s campus. It seems that I can only sit in the car for a few hours before becoming overwhelmingly antsy, so Eric was kind enough to brave the 90-something degree heat and stretch our legs. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: UK has the ugliest campus in the SEC. Vandy was beautiful. I felt like we were walking through a forest. And the buildings were beautiful and didn’t look like they were built during some horrible 1970’s construction boom (like many of UK’s buildings). And I can’t imagine how much more beautiful the campus would have been if the sidewalks weren’t covered in dead cicadas. Those things are taking over the city. Eric started using a water bottle as a bat to knock the cicadas out of the air after they started attacking us.
And now we’re cicada free, back in good ol’ Lexington. The adventures will continue on Friday though, when we go canoeing on Elkhorn Creek!
Hope you all had a lovely holiday weekend!