One of my unofficial “rules” that I try to follow when preparing for a trip is pick the brains of people whose taste I admire, who have been to said location, and ask them where I should go that maybe wouldn’t show up in your typical Things to Do Travelocity search.
When I engaged in said conversation with one of my musician friends during her set break, she didn’t hesitate: “Earnestine and Hazel’s,” she practically gushed. “Cheap booze, good food, great people, and maybe haunted. Also tell them you know me, and they’ll probably give you a free tour. You won’t regret it. Best dive bar in all of Memphis.”
As a skeptic, the haunted aspect wasn’t much of a draw, but everything else in her description was. And I’m happy to report, she wasn’t wrong: we definitely did not regret it (we actually patronized the bar on two separate evenings, because it was awesome).
The place was pretty empty the night we visited. It was the 4th of July, and there were fireworks going on across town. I should mention, my partner and I have pretty low tolerance for loud cracking and booming and obnoxious crowds, so we were quite content to be spending our evening as far away from that spectacle as possible. Also one of our favorite things in the world is having a super cool bar all to ourselves, with plenty of opportunity to have quality conversation between ourselves and also, of course, with the bartenders — which is exactly what we got.
And, of course, a haunted tour. We weren’t going to let that suggestion go to waste. The manager regaled us with such stories as the jukebox occasionally playing on its own, prostitutes being pushed out of windows (it used to be a brothel), and lingering phantoms on the staircase. The stories were fun, but nowhere near as fun as watching the manager (clearly a hobbyist thespian) get into storyteller “character” to bring the stories to life.
As fun as that first evening was, I had an even better time the second night. There were more people in the bar, but not too many. We of course did the haunted tour again, because why wouldn’t we? Most of the people who joined us upstairs were going on the tour for the first time and a few were true believers in the whole haunted bar thing, so we got to add people watching and ghost story eavesdropping to the experience, which was the icing on my wandering cake.
On top of all that, we were also treated to a two-hour set from a fantastic group of musicians. My kind of music: soulful, big band, keys and horns. This was the Memphis I came to see. Honorable mention: for their finale, they did a rendition of “Purple Rain” that was nothing short of soul-wrenching. It was the perfect end to an enchanting evening.
Although that wasn’t quite the end — there was an “epilogue”, thanks to our bartender.
I mentioned that I have “unofficial rules” for traveling at the beginning of this tale. Well, another one of them is this: always leave something undone. But at this point in our travels, we’d pretty much done most of what we set out to do.
Bartender to the rescue.
For some reason he was very talkative toward the end of the evening, I think perhaps because I was reading their brochure about Memphis, and singing along to the band, and in general having a fun time. It was a little late, but I asked him where he likes to hang out (another “rule”), and what I shouldn’t miss the next time I was in town.
“Always leave something undone,” I confided to him. “Give me a reason to come back.”
He grinned, and leaned over his pad for taking orders, then slipped me a note. The Mollie Fontaine, it said. As well as the time to go, the following day, and instructions to come back to Earnestine and Hazel’s.
I laughed and reminded him that we were driving back north the next day. But he wouldn’t hear it. “Change your plans, I’m telling you, change your plans!”
We didn’t change our plans, but I thanked him sincerely, held onto his note, and promised to make our way there on our next trip to Memphis.
And as we headed out at the end of the night to catch our Lyft back to the BnB, he was still calling out that advice. “Change your plans! The Mollie! Trust me!”
I’m not sure if he can really be trusted, but he did give me my something undone, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Other stops on our Super Summer Southern Sizzler Tour: