Dig into dishes favored by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Story by Chris Chamberlain
Elvis Presley will forever be regarded as an icon in the world of music, an innovative performer in multiple genres ranging from rock to country to gospel. His legacy as the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll lingers long after his 1977 death.
His singing career began in 1954; by 1956 he was an international sensation. According to his official bio at Graceland (his former home, now museum), his unique sound and style combined musical influences, blurred social barriers and ushered in a new era of American music and pop culture. Elvis starred in 33 successful films, has sold more records than any other artist, and earned 14 Grammy nominations (3 wins).
The musician, performer and (to some) heart-throb was also a lifelong genuine foodie. Elvis loved food. (That fact was sadly apparent during his final years when his flamboyant jumpsuits required frequent tailoring to fit his expanding frame.)
These days, almost as often as they tune into Elvis Radio, which is broadcast live from Graceland, his foodie fans take pilgrimages to eat where he ate. Elvis will always be associated with certain dishes. Here’s a guide to some of Elvis’ favorite eats along with details about where you can dig in and enjoy them. Odds are, you “Can’t Help Falling in Love” with each bite.
Why Go: Elvis Aaron Presley was born in a tiny two-room house on January 8, 1935. Elvis spent his boyhood in Tupelo surrounded by a large extended family, and it was there that he developed his love of music and great Southern cooking.
What Elvis Ate: Fried Pickles
Deep fried pickle chips were one of Elvis’s favorite snack foods. Combining tangy pickles with a delightful crunchy texture, baskets of these treats are still on menus around the Mid-South.
Where To Get It: Steele’s Dive is a classic Mississippi juke joint with live music every night. The atmosphere is funky, and an order of fried pickles is the perfect accompaniment to an evening of rockin’ blues.
What Elvis Ate: Pie
Elvis occasionally eschewed dinner altogether and just went straight to dessert. His favorite was his mama’s lemon meringue pie, but he was an equal opportunity dessert lover.
Where To Get It: Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen prides itself on bringing food fresh from local farms to the table in a 140-year-old brick building in historic downtown Tupelo. While the dishes are decidedly upscale, the atmosphere is casual, and the rich pecan pie might have just made the King change his mind about his favorite. Sorry, Gladys.
Why Go: You can’t talk about Elvis without mentioning Memphis and his impact on the Bluff City. Memphis gave Elvis his soul, and Sam Phillips’ of Sun Studio visit elevated him to King of Rock ‘n’ Roll status. Elvis’ home and compound at Graceland is still the city’s most popular tourist attraction. Whenever Elvis and his entourage exited through the massive wrought iron gates, fans treated the caravan like a presidential motorcade.
What Elvis Ate: Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich
No dish is more closely associated with Elvis than this sweet treat. It’s definitely a “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” item, so try it!
Where To Get It: The Arcade Restaurant, which is recognized as the oldest restaurant in Memphis, has been serving up classic diner fare since 1919. It’s been featured as a location in many movies throughout the years. Elvis was a regular customer and you can still eat what he ate at the long lunch counter.
What Elvis Ate: Burgers
Elvis used to order the iconic tiny square Krystal burgers by the sack full, often sending members of his entourage to pick up hundreds to fuel late-night parties after recording sessions.
Where To Get It: Krystal and Huey’s Downtown both serve burgers that Elvis enjoyed. While there’s a time and place for Krystal’s (usually after a night of drinking,) head to Huey’s for a more substantial burger that has been beloved by Memphians since 1970. Made with Certified Angus Beef and topped with the secret Huey’s Seasoning, there’s a reason it’s a local favorite.
What Elvis Ate: BBQ Ribs
A full rack of ribs is probably the only image that could challenge Elvis’ likeness as the logo that belongs on the city seal. Whether you like ribs wet or dry, Memphis is a mandatory stop on any rib pilgrimage.
Where To Get It: Marlowe’s was Elvis’ favorite choice for racks of spares, which is saying something in a town full of great rib joints. It probably didn’t hurt that Marlowe’s is so close to Graceland.
What Elvis Ate: Fried Chicken
Mama Gladys was known for her fried chicken, cooked golden brown in a heavy cast iron skillet. Crispy on the outside and delightfully flavorful on the inside, bone-in is the only way to go. Leave your tenders at the door.
Where To Get It: Gus’s Famous Fried Chicken is not as infernal as the now-popular Nashville Hot Chicken. Gus’s still exhibits plenty of spice to tickle your tongue. Now that the concept has franchised to 25 locations, you might not have to drive to Memphis to sample its prototypical fried bird. But you should.
Why Go: Elvis recorded more than 250 songs in Nashville at RCA’s famed Studio B on Music Row visit. You can take selfies with statues of the King on Lower Broad. His impact on Music City lives on.
What Elvis Ate: Meatloaf
Meatloaf with creamy cheese sauce was a Sunday supper specialty at Graceland, and recipes claiming to be his “favorite meatloaf” are all over the internet. Don’t believe them, though. Go ahead and try it a local diner for the real deal.
Where To Get It: Arnold’s Country Cooking is regarded as the best “meat and three” restaurant in Nashville. The experience starts with sliding a cafeteria tray down a serving line and selecting your choice of one meat main dish and three sides from the multitude of options on a steam table. Arnold’s is only open for lunch during the week, and the meatloaf is served as a special on Tuesdays and Fridays. Plan your visit accordingly.
What Elvis Ate: Prime Rib
In his final years, Elvis’s personal chef said that he ate beef at just about every meal. Vegas teems with prime rib buffets, but try a more refined version at one of his favorite Nashville haunts.
Where To Get It: Skull’s Rainbow Room is located on Printer’s Alley, which was the center of Nashville nightlife during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Bars, strip clubs, music showrooms and burlesque shows lined the narrow alley, and Elvis loved them all. Skull’s Rainbow Room has recently been revived to its past glory with a fantastic bar program, PG-13 burlesque shows performed with live music every night, and a chop house menu that lets you eat like your granddad, in a good way.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Why Go: While Elvis was born in Tupelo, lived in Memphis and recorded in Nashville, some of his most famous performances took place in Sin City where he played more than 700 sold-out shows in the early 1970s at the Las Vegas Hilton (which is currently the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino). You can still get married by an Elvis impersonator at multiple Vegas wedding chapels, but it’s perhaps more satisfying to eat what he ate at some of his favorite haunts or new hot spots that have opened since his passing.
What Elvis Ate: Oysters Rockefeller
Elvis loved this rich, buttery oyster and spinach dish so much that he included it as an appetizer on the menu at his wedding to Priscilla. There’s a reason that people used to use the phrase “Rich as Rockefeller” to describe something opulent and over-the-top.
Where To Get It: Golden Steer Steakhouse is the oldest of the old-school steakhouses still operating in Vegas. Since 1958 it’s been serving massive grilled steaks and baked potatoes as big as a baby’s head. Grab an order of bivalves as an app and enjoy an evening of vintage Vegas.
What Elvis Ate: Fried Catfish
Catfish is still a staple fish in Mississippi where farmers grow the whiskered delicacies in ponds. Served fried golden brown with a side of tartar sauce, it’s a Southern classic that can be enjoyed in the desert as well.
Where To Get It: Sunny’s Chicken & Fish is one of the best spots to sample some fine fried cuisine. Southern food is experiencing a resurgence in Vegas. If the catfish doesn’t entice you, the chicken and waffles are pretty special, too.