Shake hands with the supernatural at Earnestine and Hazel’s

Earnestine and Hazel’s
531 South Main St.
Memphis, Tenn.

The Pitch  Don’t let the dodgy exterior fool you, behind the walls of this dive bar lies one of the richest history lessons in Memphis. Located in the heart of the city, but far enough away from the bright lights of the infamous Beale Street that it could be overlooked on your city stroll, is Earnestine and Hazel’s. Here, you’ll find the most mystifying jukebox south of the border (it’s said to be operated by ghosts) and a $6 burger that will feed your soul. Once a pharmacy in the late 1930s owned by Abe Plough, a man who created a formula to straighten hair and later Coppertone suntan lotion, the venue became a café after Plough handed the keys over to two hair stylists who were using his products and living upstairs — Earnestine and Hazel. Thanks to Earnestine’s husband, a street promoter at Club Paradise, for the next 20 years the café welcomed late-night foot traffic from the music venue’s performers, including the likes of Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, BB King, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry.  Rumour has it that the musicians would come, swap gig stories, eat, and tend to the ladies upstairs. (The café was below a brothel.)

What We Love  The history is so rich in this place it’s palpable. You can’t help but wonder how many ghosts of Memphis’s musical past are still taking up seats, post-show, at the bar. Oh, and that burger! The only food item on the menu, the bar describes it as simple — a bun, patty, onions, cheese, pickle, and “Soul Sauce” — but the word doesn’t do it justice. Coupled with a beer for US$2.50, it will definitely hit the spot and meet your travelling budget.

Don’t Miss  As an out-of-towner, a chat with the bartender is mandatory. Providing the bar isn’t too crowded, you’re sure to hear stories about the haunted jukebox, which selects music that perfectly characterizes a particular moment, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a guided tour upstairs. If the bartender doesn’t offer one up, take the tour alone (if you dare). It’s worth the spook!

Drinks from US$2.50

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