Staff Picks 

Best of Memphis 2007

Readers, you've had your say. Now it's time for the Flyer staff writers to put in their two cents on what's the best of Memphis.

Best Reason to Think Before You Vote:

John Ford

Second-Best Reason to Think Before You Vote:

Edmund Ford

Third-Best Reason to Think Before You Vote:

Rickey Peete

Best New Acronym: Until this year, S.O.B. was a nice way of calling someone the son of a really cranky lady. But leave it to Memphians to take the popular slur's acronym and use it to define what some City Council members and county commissioners believe to be the scourge of our society: the Sexually Oriented Business. Couldn't they have tried a letter combo that wasn't already in use? Like BWHCBIA (Bars Where Hot Chicks Bare It All). Or better yet, TPWBOPBDTOW (Those Places We Blow Our Paychecks But Don't Tell Our Wives). — Bianca Phillips

Best Addition to the Local Music Scene: The International Folk Alliance Conference, held at the Cook Convention Center and downtown Marriott in March for the first time since the organization relocated to Memphis last year, is scheduled to stay in Memphis for at least the next three years. At this terrific, user-friendly event that deserves to attract many more unaffiliated fans, roots music of many stripes spilled out of hotel rooms and makeshift venues into lobbies and into the street. Much of the Memphis music community engaged with hundreds of visiting musicians and industry insiders. — Chris Herrington

Best Hot-Water Cornbread: This soul-food delicacy at the Williams Street Grocery and Deli (755 Williams Avenue) is not a pancake, despite the resemblance, and the flavor and texture differ greatly from standard buttermilk cornbread. It's hot, flat, smooth, and mouth-watering, whether buttered, hot-sauced, jammed, or plain. — Preston Lauterbach

Best Least-Known Athlete: Let's hear it for Cindy Dyer. Cindy who, you might be wondering? It's okay; most fans of this Memphis Roller Derby dynamo don't know her real name. Known as Lil' Cinner on the track, the diminutive jammer for the Angels of Death, sprints, weaves, ducks, and even leaps, often getting through her opponent's blockers not just unscathed but untouched. Identified by national derby fans as one of the best jammers in the country — and unofficially breaking national records — Cinner has helped the Angels secure an undefeated inaugural season against the league's other teams. And her talents haven't just been noticed here. Cinner has also helped the Memphis Roller Derby travel team to an undefeated road record, beating leagues from New Orleans, Birmingham, Alabama, Knoxville, and Nashville. — Mary Cashiola

Best Contact High: Heaven just might be a place called Wayne's Candy Company. Located in South Main, Wayne's is a hidden Candyland of sweets and sours. From the outside, it looks like any small, squat warehouse. But inside ... oh, inside. Lining the walls are every candy you've ever heard of — Lemonheads, Pixie Stix, SweeTarts, Laffy Taffy — and many you haven't. As soon as you open the door, the smell of sugar hits you like a cotton-candy cloud. Go ahead, breathe it in; what can it hurt? Just a word to the wise: Leave the kids at home. — Mary Cashiola

Best Underrated Hire: When Chris Wallace, formerly second-in-command for the struggling Boston Celtics, replaced the legendary Jerry West as the Grizzlies' hoops honcho, the hire was mocked near and far, with one national wag writing that "only in the NBA would someone from the second-worst team be hired to run the worst team." But, faced with a skeptical, show-me fan-base, Wallace has been a revelation, replacing West's cranky, Ivory Tower persona with down-to-earth, fan-friendly appeal, including taking calls from fans regularly on two local sports-talk-radio shows and even accepting one group of fans' invite to hang out and talk about the team — actions virtually unheard of from pro-sports executives. Of course, Wallace's PR skills won't matter if he doesn't back it up with results. But so far, his basketball decisions seem shrewder than those of the Logo he replaced. — Chris Herrington

Best Gospel DJ: Brother Ford Nelson has graced the Memphis airwaves for 56 years, the longest tenure for any local disc jockey. The former piano player in the B.B. King band spins current and traditional gospel — leaning toward the fast-paced, rhythmic gospel that influenced local soul musicians — from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday on WDIA AM-1070.

Preston Lauterbach

Best Drive: Despite Memphis drivers, the city has some beautiful, easy-to-drive streets. Take the case of North Parkway. With its graceful trees and gentle twists and turns, North Parkway makes driving in Memphis an improbable but absolute pleasure. Traffic moves at a steady pace, left-turn lanes are comfortably nestled between grassy islands, and the houses — though many have seen better days — look inviting.

Mary Cashiola

Best Dirty Martini: In most bars, martini drinkers who prefer their beverage on the savory side have two options — drink it dirty or down it dry. But thanks to the innovative folks at Side Street Grill, there's another choice. The creatively named "Coonass Martini" has all the traditional flavor of a dirty martini with Absolut Peppar for a spicy kick. Imagine mixing olive juice with the water from the jalapeño jar and you get the idea.

Bianca Phillips

Best Use of Memphis Mojo: Pretend for a moment that you're a tourist waiting in baggage claim at Memphis International Airport. The walls are institutional gray, made grayer by the flickering fluorescent lights. So far, you're not too impressed by Memphis. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a colorful ad for the Stax Museum of American Soul Music with a picture of what seems to be Isaac Hayes. We don't have any mummies, the ad reads, just some bad muthas. You laugh. The trip is looking up. — Mary Cashiola

Best Worst News for Midtowners: Excitement brewed for months as Midtown health-food nuts eagerly awaited the new Jimmy's Market, a health-food grocery store planned for the old Burke's Book Store space on Poplar. But last month, Jimmy Lewis, owner of the former Squash Blossom, announced he wouldn't open the market after all. He blamed construction costs, operating costs, and the recent purchase of the Wild Oats chain by Whole Foods. — Bianca Phillips

Best View of the New Bridge: Sure, it's neat to look upon the bridge proudly straddling the Mississippi from Tom Lee Park or Mud Island. But for me, it

doesn't get better than the view of the bridge from Poplar near Manassas, where all of sudden it's directly in your line of sight, juxtaposed between tall buildings, with no context for its existence and not a speck of water to be seen. It's almost apocalyptic and the only excuse to take Poplar downtown. — Greg Akers

click to enlarge JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Juke Joint: One Block North, at 645 Marble Avenue, has been a North Memphis institution for nearly 20 years with the guidance of owner Jesse "Rabbit" Herd. The music features Stax, Hi, and Goldwax Records alumni Leroy Hodges, Roy Cunningham, Kenny Kight, and Leroy Dotson and rotating guest vocalists. — Preston Lauterbach

Best Replacement: Last summer, Good Morning Memphis fans were shocked when former anchor Ron Meroney was arrested and charged with statutory rape. The cheerful host allegedly had sex with a 14-year-old in Maryland. Thankfully, he was replaced with Ernie Freeman, a younger, goofier sidekick for the always-smiling Valerie Calhoun. We like Freeman because he says whatever comes to mind, and he's not afraid to ask the obvious. — Bianca Phillips

Best Place To Skip Class at the University of Memphis: In my wayward youth, I was known to skip a few classes while enrolled at the U of M. Skipping is not a recommended path to academic or financial peace. But if you're going to skip, do it by parking your car in the lot at Highland near Poplar, in between Subway and the old Highland Quartet movie theater. There's shaded parking in the back corner, so you can be cool while you crank your music and read or listen to talk radio while playing hooky. You're also close enough to campus if your conscience wins the day. — Greg Akers

Best Mid-Week Social Gathering: With its posh tapas and costly cocktails, Dish isn't the place you'd expect to cater to the lowbrow crowd. But every Wednesday night, broke Midtowners gather for White Trash Wednesdays, which features tunes by 1980s hair bands and a $5 all-you-can-guzzle beer bust. Until recently, the bar offered $1 Busch cans for the event. There just ain't nothin' like drinkin' the official beer of NASCAR on a hot summer night while a DJ spins Poison and Ratt. — Bianca Phillips

Best Scandal: Back in June, Gwendolyn Smith went public with a scandalous claim that several prominent businessmen tried to hire her to do the nasty with Mayor Willie Herenton on videotape. According to Smith, the plot was conceived to prevent the mayor from winning a fifth term. One of the businessmen allegedly involved is attorney Richard Fields, and he claims the whole thing's bogus. Herenton reacted by calling the supposed plotters "snakes." True or not, the scandal created headlines and made for some damn good dinner gossip. — Bianca Phillips

Best Local Music Breakout: With a small speaking part in Craig Brewer's Black Snake Moan followed by an excellent sophomore album, Anchors & Anvils, this has been Amy LaVere's year. The up-and-coming roots-music chanteuse is suddenly becoming a household name among even casual local music fans. — Chris Herrington

Best 20 Inches: Black Lodge Video doesn't just separate their movies into genres but also classifies them by director. The section for Akira Kurosawa is a one-stop repository for the best films from the best filmmaker there ever was. I find myself going to that shelf first every time I visit, just to make sure it's still there. I sleep well at night knowing that shelf exists, visions of sugar samurai dancing in my dreams. — Greg Akers

click to enlarge One Block North: Best Juke Joint - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Best Memphis Neighborhood Bar: The best Memphis neighborhood bar is actually in Heber Springs, Arkansas.

After selling his Memphis security business a few years back, Maurice Lipsey bought 250 acres along the Little Red River. But he never lost his love for Memphis, so he set about creating a place for his friends — and those who would become his friends. He built eight two- and three-bedroom houses, each with fireplaces, whirlpool baths, satellite television, and decks that overlook the Little Red.

He sells what he calls "quarter-shares." If you buy a quarter-share in one of the houses, you get one week a month at Fat Possum Hollow, year-round. Business is good — there aren't many shares left — and almost everybody who's bought one is from Memphis. He also rents out a big bunkhouse.

Maurice will tell you all this at the Fat Possum Hollow bar, which he also built. It's not a bar in the regular sense — it's in a barn, and you have to bring your own poison, but Maurice will set you up, and if you're from Memphis — and like I said, everyone is — you'll feel right at home. The barnwood walls are covered with Tigers sports posters, CA front pages, old photos, and Memphis memorabilia. There's a giant fireplace, a pool table, a television permanently tuned to ESPN, one of the world's best beer-bottle collections, and a big friendly Airedale named Monroe.

Call Maurice and check the place out if you're looking for a great getaway: 501-362-7738. — Bruce VanWyngarden

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