A few weeks ago, reader Seth asked via Twitter if I had tried the burgers at Roxie's yet. I hadn't, and he offered to take me. A few other people – Kalisa, Allison and Intern Raquel – mentioned that they wanted to go, and the outing turned into a several-week long process of trying to organize a day and time that worked for everyone. We finally made it to Roxie's this afternoon, and I'm glad we did.
Roxie's has a lot of the elements of a truly Memphis dining experience.
The restaurant, which is just north of Downtown, is tiny – really tiny. There were five of us, and we wound up huddled in a corner near the drink fridges waiting for our order because almost every inch of available space was taken up with shelves, counter or people. From the outside, it looks a little bit sketchy. The cinderblock building that it's housed in is old, the signs are hand painted, and the door only has a knob on one side. There were also several people standing around outside (most likely because there wasn't any room inside).
What really seals Roxie's as a truly Memphis dining experience is that you're buying food – good food – from somewhere unlikely (see, for example, the sushi gas station). It's not a restaurant in the traditional sense. There are no tables, no chairs, and no waiters. It's just a dark, tiny corner store, the kind that sells drinks and cigarettes and toilet paper, with a kitchen in the back.
I was lucky to have lunch with people who had eaten there before because the ordering protocol isn't entirely clear when you walk in. Here's what you do: First, stand in one of the aisles and check out the menu. It's hanging in the back of the room, and it's fairly short – a bunch of burger varieties (without ingredients or toppings listed) a few meat-and-three options and some side items.
Then, walk up to the counter on the left side of the building and order your food. If you want a drink, get it from the coolers before you do this, because you're going to pay there. Credit cards, cash and checks are accepted, and everything on the menu is less than $10 (in most cases, much less). The guy at this counter will scrawl your order on a sheet of paper.
Take the sheet of paper and walk to the counter that only halfway separates the kitchen from the rest of the building. Hand it to the first person who walks up to you. Then, find somewhere to stand while you wait. The orders don't take long to come out (maybe five minutes for burgers), and they'll yell for you when yours is done.
I ordered the basic Roxie's Burger ($3.50) with cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles. It was bigger than I expected it to be, but there it was, its juices dripping on to the wax paper it was wrapped in. The burger patty was thick and tender and a little smoky tasting (meaning, it was pretty much perfect).
Since there's nowhere to sit inside, we took our food outside and ate standing up, using the back of Seth's truck as a table. All of us had ordered different things, but nothing was more impressive than Alison's Mr. Goodburger. To try to describe its enormity would be to undermine it. Take a look:
Roxie's is open daily, but you might want to pick a nice day since you'll likely eat outside. They accept credit cards and cash, and are definitely not vegetarian-friendly.