Memphis is rich in history; so it’s only fitting that portions of that history can be found in some of the city’s most notable black-owned restaurants. Although the creation of dining establishments has steadily increased in the Bluff City over the years, there are others that have been around for decades, withstanding some of the city’s most monumental events.
“You have to embrace the food places in Memphis that have withstood the test of time. These places are full of history and besides the good food, there is always a story behind each restaurant. It’s up to us to learn it and share it.”- Cristina McCarter, City Tasting Tours
Memphians, like Cristina McCarter, can easily recite the history of many of the city’s oldest restaurants. She’s made it her mission to do so through her company, City Tasting Tours. The self-proclaimed foodie encourages other locals to visit these historical gems at least once. Their stories are plentiful, but none are absent from struggle. After all, it takes a lot to stay afloat during a recession, the civil rights movement, natural disasters, etc. Perhaps that’s why many of them have become neighborhood favorites. From dessert shops to soul food spots, we’re highlighting some of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in the Bluff City.
Located along the historic strip in Uptown, Ms. Girlee’s has been in business for more than thirty years. The restaurant is a local gem that has even been recognized nationwide for its soul food cuisine. Initially known as Melanie’s Restaurant, the location became the go-to spot for not only people in the neighborhood but from all over the country. Stevie Wonder even stopped by to enjoy some of the good southern food back in the 70s. After a fire burned through the strip where Melanie’s was located, the family relocated to Chelsea Avenue and renamed the restaurant, Ms. Girlee’s. Though the location changed, the hospitable customer service and authentic southern cuisine always remained the same.