Endless Summer: Take a Staycation on Memphis' Most Iconic Avenue 

Hey, it's the Flyer's annual Summer Issue, and this year we just got wacky (and, oh, so clever) and decided to take a deep dive into the many and varied delights of Summer Avenue — without question, the city's most interesting and diverse thoroughfare. Stretching from the northeast corner of Overton Park to the nether reaches of Bartlett, Summer offers a pantheon of unique — and oddball — stores, restaurants, pawn shops, thrift emporiums, car dealers, repair shops, antique malls, churches, other weirdly uncategorical enterprises, plus a strip club and a drive-in movie theater. And that's just scratching the surface. What follows is a sampling of Flyer staff favorites. Hopefully, it will inspire you to take your own urban Summer vacation, a getaway that's close at hand.

Cool Treats

Is there a dessert more emotionally fraught than ice cream? One misstep, then splat! And here comes the waterworks. Or you accidentally tell your mom to shut up? No ice cream for you after dinner (or probably ever).

But, y'all, we've been real careful and oh-so good. It's ice cream time! Now, Summer Avenue has your Baskin-Robbins, with its 31 flavors (or 36 by my count, but whatever) and your Dixie Queen (can't go wrong with a dipped cone). But we're on Summer freaking Avenue. Let's get in the spirit.

Now stick with me here: There's La Michoacana Premium Ice Cream Shop and La Michoacana Ice Cream and Paletas. These are two separate, non-related entities. The former is in the building behind the Tacos Los Jarochos food truck. They offer all sorts of Mexican cold treats like the Mangonada. This is an icy drink with frozen mango and mango ice cream, chamoy sauce, and chili powder. It's generally dressed with a tamarind straw. Sweet, a wee bit spicy (though not too much). Delicious and satisfying. 4900 Summer

Fruitmania is a colorful shop, specializing in fruit desserts. I suggest using the menu images as your guide for this. They also have a selection of ice creams in requisite flavors with requisite toppings and a number of sorbets. Among the sorbets is grape. It's very grape-y and brings to mind Bubblicious in the best way. 670 Waring

There are about 30 different flavors of paletas on offer at La Michoacana Ice Cream and Paletas — flavors like prune and eggnog and pine nuts and something called mamey (it's a fruit). There's probably not a bad one in the bunch. But we're basic AF, so we went with the classic coconut. This baby is rich and milky creamy with chunks of coconut. Summer perfection.

— Susan Ellis

4091 Summer

click to enlarge Mangonada at La Michoacana - SUSAN ELLIS
  • Susan Ellis
  • Mangonada at La Michoacana

40 Acres of Fun

Why make the long trip to Six Flags when Golf & Games Family Park is just a short drive down Summer Avenue?

Okay, maybe it's not quite the same. But there is a virtual roller coaster, and where else can you find "40 acres of fun," as the park's website says, right inside the city?

There's a little bit of everything at the park, says Aaron Bos, general manager of Golf & Games. "I've just been trying to remind people that this is really the last truly locally owned and operated entertainment company in town," Bos says. "For those who want to shop local, we've been it for 55 years."

Bos says there are activities for all ages at the park, from a sky rope trail, to bumper boats, to putt-putt, to go-karts. Over the winter, Bos says, the park got upgrades and new additions, such as a revamped laser tag arena and new technology to make the park's golf range more interactive. They've installed the same ball tracking technology used for PGA events. — Maya Smith

5484 Summer

click to enlarge Golf & Games Family Park - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Golf & Games Family Park

Time Travel

I'm hooked on looking for buried treasure. On my day off, I drive up and down Summer Avenue visiting Antique Warehouse, Antique Gallery, and A Moment in Time. There's nothing better than finding that one great thing. And I've found more than one great thing at each of these places.

Antique Warehouse has "been a mall for 25 years," says Steve Davis, an owner. They currently have 90 dealers in the 8,000-square-foot building. Outside is filled with more merchandise, but also concrete and iron garden pieces: statues, urns, and fountains.

"We've always used that tag: 'There's nothing like us in Memphis,'" Davis says. "We try to be a little different than the rest. I feel like we're  a true antique mall. Like they used to be. Full of stuff." 2563 Summer

Antique Gallery opened about 24 years ago in Bartlett, says Darlene Bell from the mall. "We moved here two years ago this past February."

The 29,000-square-foot building houses more than 100 dealers. "We have fine furniture down to Barbie dolls," Bell says. "We have one dealer who does nothing but toys. Old toys and dolls. And Barbie dolls. I can't imagine someone coming in here and not finding something they would be interested in. I think we have enough variety to fit anyone." 5696 Summer

Owner Andy Domino didn't want A Moment in Time to be like antique malls he visited around the country. "I had to put my hands in my pocket and didn't want to touch anything," he says.

His mall, which will be three years old in November, sells a variety of items, including expensive pieces, but Domino wants people to come in and say, "Hey, I can afford to buy that."

The reason he put "collectibles" on his sign is because "people collect everything. We have one guy who comes in and buys nothing but postcards. They can be written on, but that's what he likes. People think of collectibles as porcelain or ball cards, records, but we got people who just collect frogs. They come in and buy frogs."   — Michael Donahue

5855 Summer

click to enlarge Evan Katz at Antique Warehouse - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Evan Katz at Antique Warehouse

Second-Hand Stuff (and Deep Discounts)

You probably have at least one friend who travels to go shopping. Well, consider Summer Avenue as Rodeo Drive for your staycation, but with prices that are more down-to-earth. 

Summer is a buffet of funky boutiques, home goods retailers, tool shops, discount stores, and pawn shops. Look closer (and usually dig deeper) and you can often find upscale items at bargain-basement prices. 

You never know what you're going to find at Bargain Hunt. That's half the fun and half the disappointment. Don't go looking for that thing you need. Discovery is Bargain Hunt's main attraction. And, if you find something but don't like the price, come back later. For most items, the longer it's there, the cheaper it gets. 5124 Summer

The Junior League of Memphis runs the Repeat Boutique thrift store. Its members donate most of the items sold at the store. Thanks to that, you can (sometimes) find some really nice stuff at some really great prices. 

Need a blazer for that formal thing? Check Repeat Boutique. Polos? Of course. Just make sure you check shirt cuffs for monograms. 3586 Summer

Love that Patagonia look but not those Patagonia prices? Outdoors Inc. Outlet is perfect. Find all your summer adventure gear — name-brand hiking boots, T-shirts, sandals, swimwear, camping gear, and more — at a (sometimes) deep discount.  — Toby Sells
3421 Summer


Go Fishin'!

You can't actually go fishing at Gator Brown's Bait and Tackle, unless you count using a dip net to snare some minnows. But this little shop, located at the far end of Summer in Bartlett, is a terrific destination for any angler. They've got every kind of live bait you can imagine, including night crawlers, red worms, wax worms, minnows, goldfish (pond-size g​oldfish on request), chicken liver, turkey liver, rooster liver(!), and crickets. They'll repair your rod and reel or sell you a new one, including a nice selection of vintage gear.

The walls are lined with bins filled with bobbers and corks, plus lures and line and sinkers and hooks, and any other kind of fishing paraphernalia you've ever dreamed of. The shop makes its own weights and sinkers.

John "Gator" Brown, a former bass pro, opened the shop in 1999, and it's become something of a gathering place for regulars who drop in to drink coffee and share fishing stories. Mike Chambers does the reel repairs and whatever else is needed around the place. There's also Lucy, the resident parrot, who probably gets a cricket now and then. Or not. That's just a guess.

Honestly, this is the kind of place you'd expect to find on a backroad in the country near a lake somewhere, but it's in the city, on Summer Avenue. And why not? — Bruce VanWyngarden

6816 Summer

click to enlarge John “Gator” Brown - BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN
  • Bruce VanWyngarden
  • John “Gator” Brown

Rack 'Em Up!

In the not-so-distant past, I considered myself a pool shark. On any given weekend in my early 20s, you'd find me in a smoky Mississippi pool hall with a Miller High Life on standby and a cigarette hanging from my lips as I lined up an intensely focused shot in a game of eight-ball. In Memphis, HighPocket's (yes, there's an apostrophe), which opened in 1983, breathes nostalgia for me.

With nearly 30 well-kept tables (no rips in the felt!) and plenty of great-condition cues (not warped, and with tips!), it's all about real-deal pool here. It's so legit that you'll find league games going almost every night. But don't fret — aside from the busiest league days, Sunday and Tuesday — you won't have any trouble finding an open table.

Thursday night's 9-ball tournaments have been going strong for more than 20 years and are open to all with a $15 entry fee. Quarter tables ($1.50 per game) and hourly tables ($3 or $4 per person, per hour, depending on table size) are available seven days a week. In this Summer Avenue "World of Amusement," fun-seekers can also play foosball or darts. And don't forget the beer, some of the cheapest you'll find at $2.75 for domestic bottles. Smoking is allowed inside, so it's a 21-and-up venue, which means you might see me there, with my cig, High Life, and serious game face, reliving my glory days. — Shara Clark

5099 Summer

click to enlarge SHARA CLARK
  • Shara Clark

Be a Sport

Though the facade of All American Sporting Goods faces Summer, the entrance is tucked away in the shade behind the building, on Hudson Street. As soon as I arrive, I feel I've found a hidden treasure.

Inside, visitors are greeted by a cardboard cutout of a smiling Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, sporting his "Keep the dream" jersey. The jersey, a relic of a 1993 public service campaign, was originally made by All American, says third-generation manager Dylan Everett.

"It's a family operation, through and through," Everett says. "I've worked here since I was 15." Everett's grandfather, Ed Horner Sr., opened the little sporting goods store in 1968.

Since then, the store has catered mainly to school athletic departments, providing gear for football, basketball, volleyball, track, and soccer teams. But they welcome walk-ins. As a bonus, they have a clearance rack that sometimes harbors orphaned gear, ordered but never picked up. My dad, on more than one occasion, has wistfully remembered the seriously discounted blank purple-and-black letterman jacket he bought off the rack at All American.

That jacket is lost to time, but Everett and the other friendly locals at All American offer an alternative to making the trek to a big box store for that new basketball or pair of cleats — or a special jersey. Just cruise down Summer and watch for the turn on Hudson.

— Jesse Davis

3230 Summer

click to enlarge Penny in All American - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • Penny in All American

Mortimer's

There are several reasons why Mortimer's, at Summer and Perkins, is a trendy restaurant. Start with the fact that the Perkins exit ramp of Sam Cooper Boulevard practically channels you into the Mortimer's parking lot, which, as it happens, fills up quickly on weeknights, as well as weekends. But it's usually possible to find enough street space for parking close by. Other major reasons for the eatery's popularity include a lively and well-serviced bar, staffers who are able and attentive both at the bar and at the tables, and Mortimer's regular menu specials, like their half-shell oyster plates, priced at 75 cents per oyster on Tuesday and Saturday nights.

The atmosphere of Mortimer's is agreeable and chummy. It's the kind of place that both emits the agreeable surrounding hum of people en masse enjoying themselves and allows for relaxed and easily audible table talk between individuals. Sometimes there's a wait for a table upon checking in, but never too long. Even though its location makes the restaurant easy to get to from almost anywhere, Mortimer's manages to maintain an off-the-beaten-path vibe. A great venue to take out-of-towners, too.

— Jackson Baker

590 N. Perkins

click to enlarge JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker

See a Movie!

Way out on the east end of Memphis' most eclectic avenue is an open-air temple of dreams. The Malco Summer Quartet Drive-In is one of an estimated 400 such theaters remaining in the United States, and with its four screens and acres of parking, it is undoubtedly one of the biggest.

Several years ago, Malco Theaters showed their commitment to this American institution by making the difficult conversion to digital projection, and the gamble has paid off. There's no better place to sit under the stars on a summer night and watch a movie.

It's blockbuster season, so that means lots of fun fare. This week, Godzilla: King of the Monsters rules the screen, and expect the new X-Men film Dark Phoenix, Spider Man: Far From Home, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to make big splashes this summer.

But for our money, the best time to hit the drive-in is for the Time Warp. Presented by Black Lodge, the monthly program brings classics back to the place where they play the best. For June, that means Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, and Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, all for the price of one ticket. — Chris McCoy

5310 Summer

click to enlarge Summer Quartet Drive-In - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Summer Quartet Drive-In

Kryptonite Tacos!

Look! At the corner of Summer and Perkins! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's the Superman Discount Market — the best little vacation store/taco truck on Summer Avenue.

The Superman smells of leather from its rows and rows of discount cowboy boots. The jam-packed convenience spot sells everything you'd ever need to enhance your taco experience, ranging from beer and bongs to a variety of wide-brimmed hats built to keep the hot sun at bay as you stand on the hot concrete outside waiting for taco perfecton.

If you want to try every taco the Superman Market taco truck makes, and have enough to share, you'll need $20. I handed over my Jackson in exchange for two pollo, two pastor, two asada, two chorizo, two barbacoa, and two carnitas tacos, in addition to one tripe, one lingua, and one buche taco. Here's a rundown, in no particular order, because they're all the best.

Pollo: Who says a dollar won't buy much anymore? At 99 cents each, these little nuggets of perfectly seasoned, tortilla-wrapped bird are filling, fabulous, and the deal of the century.

Lingua: If butter was meat. Let this tender, moist taco slip you some tongue.

Asada: The classic beef taco and proof that basic doesn't have to mean boring.

Chorizo: This traditional crumbled sausage is salty, spicy, and not greasy at all.

Barbacoa: Memphis meets Mexico and the Caribbean with this shredded beef barbecue heaven.

Carnitas: What the succulent little pork chunks lack in size they make up for in flavor and satisfaction.

Pastor: No pineapple to set off the flavors but always a flavorful choice.

Tripe: Offal isn't for everybody, but this taco is a delicate and delicious mix of crisp and tender textures, with flavorful bits you won't mind chewing a bit.

Buche: Bits of pork stomach and throat tissue cooked till tender and tasty.

And that's what Summer tastes like.

— Chris Davis

4590 Summer

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