As far as classic American cities go, Memphis is a tough place to beat. It’s the birthplace of both rock’ n’ roll and Southern soul music. Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Otis Redding, and Johnny Cash all once called it home. It’s got some of the best BBQ in the country. And, along with a famous hotel featuring not one but two duck marches per day, it’s pretty clear why a local boy like Justin Timberlake would have no shortage of hometown pride — a fact that’s plainly evident in his new Spring 2019 Levi’s® collection.
Called “Fresh Leaves,” this second round of the Levi’s® x Justin Timberlake collaboration offers up new takes on several Levi’s® classics. Many of which include subtle nods to his beloved hometown.
In honor of both the Memphis-inspired collection and the town itself, we asked Justin to give us an insider’s guide to the city.
Breakfast in Memphis is definitely not for the faint of heart. This is no avocado-toast town. It’s all about real food for real people. And for Justin Timberlake, not to mention much of the Memphis population, it begins and ends with The Arcade. Located in the heart of downtown, The Arcade is Memphis’ oldest restaurant and one of its most popular.
For those in search of a religious experience while in Memphis, Sun Studio is the spot. It’s the birthplace of rock ’n’ roll and one of the most hallowed grounds in all of music. So, it’s no mystery why a world-famous musician like Justin Timberlake would revere it.
From this little studio on Union Avenue the world came to know Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin’ Wolf, Roy Orbison and a slew of other iconic names and bands that defined music for the second half of the 20th century.
Though technically not native to Memphis, this world-renowned chicken spot is still very much a Tennessee institution. Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken first entered the public consciousness as a humble family recipe sold out of the back of a tavern in Mason, Tennessee during the 1950s. By 1973, Napoleon “Na” Vanderbilt and his wife Maggie’s hot and spicy fried chicken sold between two pieces of white bread, had become so popular that they left the tavern and opened up their own spot just off Highway 70.
Located in an inconspicuous brick building on Front Street, the place is about as low frills as you’d expect a legendary Southern chicken joint to be — but that just helps put more focus on the delicious food.
Just a couple of miles away from the spot where rock music was born, you can also explore the birthplace of Southern soul. Otis Redding, Albert King, Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and the MGs — when it comes to the soul and R&B sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Stax is ground zero.
While the record label itself is long gone, the Stax museum, near the site of the original recording studio, keeps the memory of this extraordinary musical era alive. Along with tons of photos and artifacts — including Isaac Hayes’ seriously tricked out gold-plated 1972 Cadillac, the dance floor from Soul Train, and a complete 1906 Mississippi delta gospel church — there’s also a fascinating documentary that provides plenty of insight on Stax’s history.
Visiting Memphis and not eating dry rub BBQ is like visiting Italy and not eating pasta. It’s just what you do. And when you do it, it should be done at The Rendezvous, the quintessential rib joint in a quintessential BBQ town.
Much like Gus’, it’s a place Justin Timberlake nearly always pops into when he comes home. First opened in 1948 and still family owned, The Rendezvous is a basement restaurant located across from the famous Peabody Hotel. With its location tucked away in a nondescript alleyway, just finding it makes you feel like you’ve earned your BBQ feast. Once there, the downstairs area opens up into a sprawling brick-walled cavern dotted by tables with checked tablecloths and customers up to their elbows — sometimes literally — in Memphis dry rub.
When rounded out by the perfect sides and a pitcher of beer, it becomes the sort of meal to build an entire trip to Memphis around.
Drinks at Earnestine & Hazel’s
As any local will tell you, a trip to Memphis wouldn’t be complete without a drink at the city’s most famous — or infamous depending on your point of view — dive bar. Located on South Main Street in what is by some accounts the oldest building in town, Earnestine & Hazel’s is a tricky place to pin down. While on one hand it’s your basic dive bar full of dive bar amenities — cheap beer, grimy floors, bad lighting and a killer juke box — it’s also one of the most notorious, and possibly haunted, locales in Memphis.
Over the course of its long history, the building that would eventually become Earnestine & Hazel’s has featured a wide array of businesses — from a church to pharmacy to hair salon and eventually a bar and brothel. While the brothel finally closed down in 1992, Earnestine and Hazel’s—the bar version—now exists as one of the city’s most popular curiosities.
Check out the full Fresh Leaves collection to see Justin’s inspirations brought to life.