My trip down the music highway ended in downtown Memphis. After hitting the hotel and checking in, I decided on dinner along Elvis Presley Blvd to familiarize myself with the strip in anticipation of my visit to Graceland the next day. Running on fumes, the valet parking guy assured me there were plenty of gas stations along the strip. Despite my basic competence and ability to read google maps, I took a wrong turn to make things exciting. Once I found my bearings, I watched the gas gauge countdown…15 km…10km….5 km….0 km. The Jetta is a bit forgiving and it certainly wasn’t the first time I needed to pray to St. Frances of Rome, the patron saint of travelers (who was said to have an angel light her path with a lantern and protect her from hazards, for assistance). In fact, I was so desperate I even sent a prayer or two to St. Elvis Aaron Presley himself.
My prayers seemed to work because on the horizon I could see a gas station with the words “diesel” written across the sign. A closer inspection of the property quickly shifted my beseeching to St. Christopher, the patron saint of protection against muggers. I reluctantly pulled in despite seeing a rather well lit and clean gas station across the street that may or may not have had diesel so I couldn’t risk it. I went in, slid my credit card through the hole in the Plexiglas to the apathetic attendant and scurried out. I pumped and got out of dodge.
A couple of miles down the road I saw Marlowe’s, my destination for the evening. Featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it’s known more for a wide array of paraphernalia dedicated to the king. For example, it runs a free pink Cadillac shuttle from local hotels. The interior is filled with hundreds of tributes to Elvis…there are pictures, a barber chair, his karate outfit and a looping video of his greatest live performances. My fear was that this was a typical tourist trap and that more effort was put into the decor than the food. I have faith in St. Guy Fieri, however, and that troth was confirmed when I saw the majestic smoker that sat beside the gift shop.
It goes without saying that I had every intention of raiding the smoker. So, I conspired with my daughters to maximize my exposure to the various proteins. They split a BBQ combo which included 2 entrees and 2 sides ($22.95). Not to get into the nature versus nurture discussion but the fact that my youngest daughter’s love for slaw parallels mine would make for a good case study. With her slaw she ordered the brisket, ribs and fries. The meat was tender and full of smoky flavour despite efforts to douce them with copious amounts of sauce. Not that the BBQ sauce wassn’t good; there was just a lot of it. My daughter gave the slaw two thumbs up.
I decided on the BBQ spaghetti so I could indulge on the BBQ pork and experience what the menu calls “Italian Food-Memphis Style”. In keeping with the Tennessee tradition of serving sides as big as the mains, the spaghetti came with a good size bowl of beans and mac and cheese. Once again, the predominate flavour was the delicious BBQ sauce which doused the spaghetti. The pork was delicious and matched the ribs and brisket in rich, smoky flavour. The mac and cheese and beans were good B-sides to the proteins.
Marlowe’s succeeds in that it puts the food before the fact that it located only minutes from Graceland. Sure, you are inundated with all things Elvis including a pink limo, but the commitment to good food is evident, highlighted by the very impressive smoker which “graces” the busy interior. The smoked meats were delicious even though they were heavily sauced in the traditional Memphis “wet” style. Like I mentioned, the B-sides made for good eating as well.
It goes to show that flashy gimmicks can exist in conjunction with big taste and flavour. Despite the need to pray to St. Frances and St. Christopher to get to Marlowe’s, there was no need to extend invocation to St Lawrence, the patron saint of restaurateurs. I explored the origin of St. Lawrence. Such namesakes include the Laurentian mountains and the gulf of St. Lawrence, one of Canada’s most important waterways. What’s more interesting is the morbid reason he is associated with restaurants. Without going into detail, he was martyred by fire. In fact, many depictions have him holding a grid iron (see below). Ribs anyone?
Food: 4 Guyz
Service: 3.5 Guyz