The Best Way to Visit Graceland is as a Day Trip from Nashville

The King died 40 years ago today. Let’s put it this way, the human vessel made of muscles, bones and organs that carried the soul of Elvis Presley ceased to exist. The legend and spirit is still very much alive.

Visiting Graceland is the best way to experience the life of Elvis and pay your respects to the man and his legacy. While Memphis is best known as a BBQ capital, Graceland draws people from around the world. Beyond these two things, there’s not much else to do.

The best tip I can give for visiting Graceland is to do it after your BBQ lunch. A timed ticket between 2-3:30pm is what you should aim for. Here’s why — the actual house is a 90-minute visit at most. Every body who has visited says the same comment — “it’s smaller than I thought.”

People make the mistake thinking that it’s an all-day event. The Presley family and Elvis Inc. have been revamping the experience to make it more for an all-day thing with a new museum of clothes, cars, airplanes and artifacts. This can run you $60-$159. You can skip that.

The Graceland only tour is $40 for a timed entrance and you can buy in advance the day before. It saves you 15 minutes. The tour is fantastic and how they kept the house exactly as it was when Elvis lived there should be commended. The tablet with John Stamos narrating the tour is a little cumbersome but it gives your tour context. There are no museum placards in the house to tell you what is what.

In all, I spent 2 1/2 hours total there which included a short intro video, van ride to the house from the main headquarters and proverbial stroll through the three gift shops.

Thus, there’s no need to stay overnight in Memphis unless you really like barbecue. From Nashville, it’s a straight 3 hours and 20 minutes drive. You can spend that time like I did by listening to the Elvis station on Spotify or playing Paul Simon’s Graceland album on repeat. The road trip nature makes it seem much more like a pilgrimage.

I left Nashville at 9am. Rolled into The BBQ Spot for lunch just after 12:30pm. Did a quick stop at Sun Studios (skip the tour, just walk in and out) and then went to Graceland. It’s about a 10-minute drive from the city center in a not so exciting area, unless you think gas stations, seedy hotels and strip malls exciting.

After my visit, I was back in Nashville by 8pm for hot chicken and cheap beer — the way Elvis would have liked it.

Creature Comforts in Athens, GA Could Be the State’s Best Brewery

Georgia is not a craft beery destination. Yes, they have breweries, and two nationally-distributed names (Sweetwater and Terrapin), but for a state as large and populous as it is, it doesn’t hold up.

With 53 breweries as of 2016, it ranks 49th with breweries per capita. There are may factors too elaborate to get into, but one of them, their laws, are changing September 1st.

I went to five breweries in Athens and Atlanta, and I still can’t figure out the laws. Basically, breweries can’t sell you beer on the premises. They sell you a glass, which you could put beer in. As for buying canned or bottled beer to go, that I’m not even going to bother to explain.

Which brings me to Creature Comforts in Athens. When I got to the space on Hancock Street near the Georgia Theater, there was a sign at the entrance, “43 Days Until We Can Sell You Beer”. Basically, what happens (this will be change on Sept. 1), I had to buy a pint glass and a wrist band for $12. On the wrist band were 6 tabs. I go to the bar, ask to sample a beer, they take a tab off my wrist ban and they fill my glass with 6 oz. of beer — good for half a glass. I repeat the process five more times. At the end, I keep the glass. This happened at three other breweries — Orpheus, Sweetwater and Terrapin.

Yes, it was a bit of a hassle, but damn they serve amazing beer. They don’t distribute outside of Georgia, so everything was new to me. In my research, they are known for the Tropicália IPA, which when they started out, would sell out instantly upon arrival at stores. It stands at 96 out of 100 on Beer Advocate. I made that my first sample and damn, it was amazing. It’s more on the sweet and fruity side, and not overtly hoppy bitter. Best of all, it smelled wonderful and refreshing.

Their other best seller is Automatic pale ale, named for local boys REM’s Automatic for the People and Weaver D’s restaurant. For a low ABV beer, it has the most robust flavor possible.

The other I sampled included, Koko Buni porter, Reclaimed Rye red ale, Bibo pilsner and Athena sour berliner weisse.

Beyond the beer itself, on the Saturday afternoon I visited, I was surrounded by friendly people who struck up conversations with me. Many were jealous of beer adventures I had planned for this road trip.

I was able to get some six-packs to go, but I had to jump through some hoops. I had to pay at one register, take the receipt and bring it to another area.

When September rolls around, I’m sure the Creature Comforts people will revamp their tap room procedures to make things less confusing for visitors like me. For now, I got my Automatic and Tropicália to get me happy.

 

Revolution Donuts in Atlanta Sells a Peach Slider Donut To Die For

Their motto is: “Put something good in your mouth.” So I did.

Revolution Donuts in Atlanta is the second location from the original Decatur, GA shop. It’s down the street from the upscale Krug Street Market.  While it’s hard to argue that they will lead a pastry revolution, they will reinvent your caloric intake if you’re waiting your weight.

In a dizzying display for sugary goodness, from salted caramel, apple fritter and maple bacon, it’s the fresh fruit slider donuts that are the most popular. If Georgia is known for one culinary staple, it’s the peach. Everything is peach named in the state. Thus, the peach slider is a wonder. Naturally sweet, crunchy and just a hint of tartness sandwiched in a pillowy yeast donut.

No one will blame you got getting another, or opting for a strawberry or blueberry filled slider. I got stuck in traffic on Rt 85 on a Saturday morning so damn straight I went for another.

The Original Asheville Brewing Company Location Sums Up Asheville’s Quirkiness

Before Asheville earned the title Beer City U.S.A for a few years, Asheville Brewing Company was already singing suds since 1997 — the dark ages of craft beer. Since then, the town is awash in beer — beautiful, delicious beer.

What makes ABC stand out is it’s fun original location on Merrimon Avenue, a quick car ride north from downtown. The O.G. location was kept when the brewing operation moved to the major beer hub a few blocks south of downtown within eyeshot of Burial, Wicked Weed, Green  Man and a dozen other titles. Now, the Merrimon Avenue location is a family-friendly pizza place that shows retro and newish movies that have left theaters and are not yet on disc or on-demand streaming. For $3, the kids can see the Neverending Story or The Lego Batman Movie while eating pizza while the parents are drinking some the state’s most beloved craft beers.

For me, I was digging the off-beat designs where every inch is filled with something retro or kitchy. The Star Wars booths were especially choice.

As for the beer, they was plenty to choose from and to take home. Since I was already exhausted from driving 10-11 hours, I limited myself to these and took a mix six-pack home.

  • Carolina Mountain Monster Imperial Stout — made with coffee, chocolate and vanilla
  • Fire Escape — chili beer
  • Elixir of Love — cream ale
  • Draft Punk Double IPA

The brewing operation on Coxe Ave. is a more modern setting with an open-air seating and catering to local college students and creative types.

 

Tastee Diner in Asheville Does Make a Tasty Burger

“That is a tasty burger.” — Jules from Pulp Fiction.

I do have to admit, after driving 11 hours through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, any burger would be the best in the history of hamburgers. This little darling found a proper home in my stomach.

This was the perfect burger at the time. I wanted something quick, no-nonsense and a burger I can devour in little time. I got to Tastee Diner 20 minutes before closing, so I was the lone soul to close out the place on a Monday.

Tastee Diner has been around since 1946, but went through a menu upgrade last year from a local restaurateur who took over ownership. More importantly, they kept the hole-in-the-wall aesthetic, no-thrills interior and long-time staffers.

The Burger made a few Top 100 hamburgers lists, so I had to check this off the list. The diner style burger with a local beer in a fun setting made it perfect.

While looking around the dining room with the vintage photos of Asheville, one thing stood out — a poster for the 1983 Burt Reynolds/Loni Anderson movie Stroker Ace. I don’t understand the connection. It shall remain a mystery.

Double D’s Coffee in Asheville Stands for Double Decker, You Perverts

And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die

There’s no chance that this coffee shop on wheels will ram into you while you’re enjoying your morning cappuccino, but you might get your head dinged a bit. Double D’s Coffee and Desserts in downtown Asheville is a beloved local oddity that shows the city’s offbeat quality.

The re-purposed 1970s British bus turned coffee joint is nor only a fun little must-do in the city, it serves a damn fine iced coffee alongside local baked goods. The big warning for tall blokes like myself is that the ceilings are low. So when you go up the stairs to the inside seating, watch your noggin. There’s shaded outdoor seating as well, but the upstairs in a neat little nook. For kids, there’s coloring books to keep them entertained.

Asheville’s Vortex Doughnuts Delivers Your Doughy Dreams

If there was ever a reason to ignore your hotel’s continental breakfast, it’s to explore local bakeries and their delicious delicacies. Case in point, look at those damn donuts! Compare this to the stale crap offered as a bonus at your accommodations. Meh!

Vortex Doughnuts in Asheville is located next to Buxton Hall Barbecue and Catawaba Brewery. The building is a 10-15 minute walk from downtown Asheville in one of those areas that houses quirky businesses that use to be warehouses.

Inside, the array of varieties is intense. I limit myself to two which pains me because to choose between thirty varieties is intense. It’s the Sophie’s Choice of doughnuts. I had their signature doughnut with a chocolate vortex pattern on it and the rotating tap doughtnut with pretzels and peanuts. They also offer gluten-free and vegan because it wouldn’t be gentrification without it.

Of all the doughnut places I visited on this trip, this was the best, and it was the first I visited. I could easily taken a dozen to-go so I could sleep with them next to me.