TOWNE'S TOWN 

TOWNE'S TOWN

HAIR OF THE DOG (NICE DOG!) I first heard about one of this city’s best-kept secrets a few years ago. While suffering from a particularly vile hangover and starving, my friends introduced me to it. I was so charmed and satisfied through my nausea that I’ve been going there since, with or without the hangover. I know this doesn’t sound like the beginning of the rave review that the Wiles-Smith Drugstore deserves, but it’s the truth. And if you go there, just like every other person that walks through the door, you’ll be back. Located on Union Avenue near Belvedere, the Wiles-Smith drugstore and lunch counter is one of only two privately owned pharmacies in Memphis and the only one with an honest to goodness old-fashioned soda fountain. Wiles-Smith has been serving up the best and cheapest lunches for 57 years and as the owner tells it, has served over three generations of Memphis families. Its old -fashioned lunch counter and its easy- going attitude never fail to make you feel like you stepped into a time warp. The drugstore has survived two fires and has become nothing less than a Memphis landmark. At most anytime of the day, you’ll find a good crowd there ranging from ladies from neighboring Central Gardens enjoying coffee and visiting, to groups of good ol’ boy businessmen to loners perusing the papers or a good book. I usually fall in the latter category and I find it’s the perfect way to soak up the surroundings and loudly slurp up the best milkshakes around without apology. You’ll more than likely encounter some familiar faces when you go -local politicians or media personalities. The owner tells me that it’s even one of Cybil Shepherd’s favorite haunts (but please, don’t let that keep you away.) It’s no wonder that people are addicted. Where else can you get a Swiss on Rye for $1.90 and anything else on the menu for not much more. Nothing’s more than around $4.00 and you can take your pick from homemade chicken or egg salad to the neon orange pimento cheese we all remember carrying to school. My favorite is the BLT, the best in town. Superbly mayonnaisy with crunchy, almost burned bacon and crisp iceberg lettuce with ripe, juicy tomatoes on perfectly lightly-toasted white bread. MMM, they are almost as good as the ones my mother made and just as artery-clogging. If you’ve got a real death wish, try the chili dog with slaw. I just hope you don’t have to go back to work after that one. They serve breakfast too and Saturday mornings are always bustling with regulars and the aroma of fresh coffee. Don’t forget about the best part, the soda fountain. It’s almost impossible to eat there without ordering something from the fountain and I’m telling you, the shakes are even better than the Gridiron’s, and trust me, that’s saying a lot. You can get malts, shakes, or coke floats and in the summertime, two lovely concoctions called freezes in either orange or lime. If you’re health conscious, they do have salads and a cottage cheese plate, but really, what’s the point? While you wait for your food, which takes about two minutes, you can browse the aisles for some 1970’s hair gel or get your prescription filled There’s just about every cure for any malady you may suffer from available. There’s even a kind of medicinal mini-museum--a little cabinet with all sorts of creams and tonics from the turn of the century. Don’t forget to check out the particularly menacing stuffed porcupine that stares at you while you pay. And on your way out, you can get your future read for a penny by the scales next to the door. (The scales are a little light so after you eat like a pig you still will weigh less than when you came in!) The drugstore is perfect place to take out-of -towners for a true taste of Memphis. I go almost every Saturday for BLTs and Strawberry shakes. You can’t beat it for a relaxing lunch and if you’re low on cash, it’s the certainly the best for your money. And if you happen to have a hangover, you can buy some aspirin and a coke float all at the same time. I can’t imagine a better cure. The Wiles-Smith Drugstore is open from 9 til 5 Monday thru Friday and serves lunch until 4:00. On Saturdays, it’s open til 3.

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