Call it grit. Call it soul. No matter how you slice it, there’s something about Memphis. Like the snaking Mississippi River—that great torrent that forms the city’s watery western border—it won’t be tamed. The essence of the city flavors everything from its signature bathed-in-smoke dry-rubbed ribs to the trendiest of small-plate restaurants. After the city celebrated its 200th birthday in 2020, there’s never been a better time to get a taste of its history and culture for yourself. For a state of local delight, there is an abundance of options of working man’s food. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken offers its clientele a lowbrow ambiance for its perfectly spiced, crispy chicken. No-frills is the definition of Payne’s Barbecue, where they pair a perfect pork sandwich with mustard slaw. A taste of New Orleans creole and culture can be found in Midtown at Restaurant Iris and Second Line, with a roast beef po’boy in one hand and a craft beer in another. The most iconic and perfect way to end your night out in Memphis is at Earnestine & Hazel’s, a dive bar that counts a church, pharmacy, jazz club, and brothel among its past lives.