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Arcade

540 S. Main, Memphis, TN - (901) 526-5757
Posted By Michael Stern on 5/7/2015 9:02:00 AM
The Arcade has been around since 1919; a plaque outside proclaims it the city’s oldest restaurant (neck and neck with the Little Tea Shop). It so looks like old Memphis that it has appeared in several movies that take place in the city's past, including Mystery Train. It is an airy two-room eatery with overhead spinning fans, booths upholstered in squishy pink and aqua, and tables covered with boomerang-pattern Formica.

They say Elvis ate here, and your waitress will be happy to point to the booth where he sat. One time when we walked in, it was a few days after Memphis’s annual Elvis Week (celebrated on the anniversary of his death) and a chalkboard sign atop a vintage blond-wood RCA television console in the lobby advertised The Elvis Sandwich: peanut butter and banana, fried on the griddle. But it was nine AM and we were more in the mood for country ham … which is a good mood to be in if you come to The Arcade, because its country ham is excellent. Served in giant portions with squared-off biscuits that are rich and flavorful, it’s the true-south way to start the day. Another good choice from the breakfast menu is a stack of sweet potato pancakes. With or without ham, they’re something special.

At lunch, the Arcade menu ranges offers a fine selection of meat-and-threes. Choose your entrée from such stalwarts as meat loaf, salmon croquettes, and lemon-peppered chicken, and accompany it with two vegetables from a list that includes black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes with gravy, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, buttered rice, and fresh tomatoes. The vegetables are so good that many people simply make a meal of plate of four of them, forgetting about meat altogether. Lunch comes with freshly-made cornbread and can be topped off with either peach cobbler or a fudge sundae.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Ham and Biscuits
Elvis Sandwich
Sweet Potato Pancakes
Milk Shake
macaroni and cheese
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

The ham requires a sharp knife and a good chew, but my-oh-my, does it reward you with tides of delicious, cured-pigmeat flavor.
"The ham requires a sharp knife and a good chew, but my-oh-my, does it reward you with tides of delicious, cured-pigmeat flavor."
Michael Stern





Delicious pancakes, earthy and naturally sweet. They come with bacon and (on separate plates) a couple of eggs and a choice of grits or hash brown potatoes.
"Delicious pancakes, earthy and naturally sweet. They come with bacon and (on separate plates) a couple of eggs and a choice of grits or hash brown potatoes."
Michael Stern


A single breakfast biscuit (and a good one!) on the boomerang-pattern formica in an Arcade booth
"A single breakfast biscuit (and a good one!) on the boomerang-pattern formica in an Arcade booth"
Michael Stern


My waitress promised I would love my shake, since she would be making it herself.  A little thinner than I prefer my milkshakes, but it proved to be the perfect accompaniment to an Elvis sandwich.
"My waitress promised I would love my shake, since she would be making it herself. A little thinner than I prefer my milkshakes, but it proved to be the perfect accompaniment to an Elvis sandwich."
Cliff Strutz


If you are interested in a taste of Memphis, go for the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, known in these parts as the Elvis sandwich.
"If you are interested in a taste of Memphis, go for the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, known in these parts as the Elvis sandwich."
Cliff Strutz


Even after Elvis week in August, the Arcade was doing a boom business in peanut butter and banana sandwiches -- the King's favorite -- as advertised on the sign atop this Elvis-era television set. (The photo atop the TV shows a very similar set at Graceland.)
"Even after Elvis week in August, the Arcade was doing a boom business in peanut butter and banana sandwiches -- the King's favorite -- as advertised on the sign atop this Elvis-era television set. (The photo atop the TV shows a very similar set at Graceland.)"
Michael Stern


This is the view towards the back of the front dining room. There is a second dining room in back; and of course, there is also a counter with stools.
"This is the view towards the back of the front dining room. There is a second dining room in back; and of course, there is also a counter with stools."
Michael Stern


The walls of the Arcade are covered with signs, old and new, as well as clippings, photos, and other memorabilia from its 90+ years in business.
"The walls of the Arcade are covered with signs, old and new, as well as clippings, photos, and other memorabilia from its 90+ years in business."
Michael Stern


You can see some of Memphis reflected in the window of its oldest restaurant.
"You can see some of Memphis reflected in the window of its oldest restaurant."
Michael Stern


The color scheme inside the Arcade is definitely a blast from the past. Its tables are boomerang-pattern Formica, with the pattern worn off in places where countless plates have clattered over the years.
"The color scheme inside the Arcade is definitely a blast from the past. Its tables are boomerang-pattern Formica, with the pattern worn off in places where countless plates have clattered over the years."
Michael Stern


Downtown at the south end of the trolley line, the Arcade has the ambience of an old-fashioned soda fountain cafe.
"Downtown at the south end of the trolley line, the Arcade has the ambience of an old-fashioned soda fountain cafe."
Michael Stern


The Arcade has changed since the days of this old post card, but its spirit -- and its downhome food -- remain exemplary.
"The Arcade has changed since the days of this old post card, but its spirit -- and its downhome food -- remain exemplary."
Michael Stern



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