There are certainly a number of establishments in Tupelo and in Memphis that trade as much as possible on the Elvis tourism dollar. One of these is Johnnie’s Drive-In, which originally opened in 1945 and is allegedly where the young Elvis liked to come for a meal from time to time. What’s said to be his favorite booth, one of maybe eleven in the small dining room, has a plaque on the wall. It’s easy to miss the plaque, surrounded as it is by all the memorabilia, including the newspaper accounts of his death that you see at lots of restaurants in the region. There is something of a shortage of proof in this claim. Some say that the whole Elvis connection was concocted in the wake of his death. A comment at the Tiny Travels in Mississippi blog – linked below – calls hooey on the whole thing. After all, the Presleys did move to Memphis when Elvis was only thirteen.
We pulled into Johnnie’s for lunch a few Fridays back as part of our spring road trip to visit Marie’s brother and sister. We made a couple of leg-stretching stops in Alabama, and our daughter continued to amaze us with her ability to sleep through anything in a car, for hours. She genuinely slept from I-285 all the way to Tupelo, and was mystified to learn, as we left, that we were in Mississippi. She thought that we had eaten somewhere in Birmingham.
About two years ago, I was in Mississippi, and finally had a slugburger in Corinth’s White Trolley Cafe. The next day, I had a doughburger at Dub’s in Athens AL. I thought then that the difference was that a slugburger was the thinner and more crispy of the two, but it turns out the names do not have to be quite so exclusive.
At Johnnie’s, they offer what the staff calls doughburgers, and which are noted on the menu as HBs, and all-meat burgers, called AMHBs. However, the texture and flavor of their doughburger was about identical to the crispier Corinth slugburger. Marie and my daughter each had a bite of mine. We’re not fans. Marie said that it tasted exactly like the burgers that she had in middle school.
So the HB is not especially good, and the Elvis connection may be bogus, but the people are friendly and the AMHB is perfectly fine for a fast food burger, and they also offer these cute “funnel cake fries” that make for an indulgent snack. It’s a decent little lunch if you’re passing through town. And we love the building and its canopy. They do offer carhop service, but we’d been on the road for a while and didn’t want to be in our car any longer.
The King is Dead, but if you want to stop in Tupelo to see his birthplace museum and his car museum, you need to get something to eat, right? Regardless whether he ate here or not, classic drive-ins are always fun.
Other blog posts about Johnnie’s:
Tiny Travels Through Mississippi (Aug. 2011)
Happy Mouth (Aug. 31 2011)
This Italian Family (Mar. 12 2013)
Tie Dye Travels (Mar. 19 2015)
You can see all the restaurants that we have visited for our blog on this map, with links back to the original blog posts. It’s a terrific resource for anybody planning a road trip through the southeast!