We’re always on the lookout for a unique meal, something we can’t get just anywhere. This restaurant is open late, serving up a dish we’ve never seen on anybody’s menu.
My local area to-eat list had become ridiculous before the end of July, which is when Chattanooga Eats shared a video about a very curious place called Memo’s. My eyes popped out of my head and we went straight here for supper, bypassing everything else on the list. If you love very old and ultra-small mom-n-pop restaurants who do their own very unique thing, then your eyes will also pop out of your head when you learn about this place.
Memo’s opened in 1966 and serves up sort of the weird drunk cousin of Columbus GA’s scrambled dog. It’s chopped-up hot dogs in a thick chili sauce served with slaw and toasted buns. In the fifties and sixties, this stretch of road had several jazz, blues, and R&B clubs and lounges, and Memo’s was one of the places where people went to sober up before staggering home. A few doors down, there’s a long-locked gate protecting the damaged entrance to what was once a private club called The Re-Tired Men’s Den. You can read more about the old, musical days of “The Big Nine” in Charles Moss’s story for Oxford American.
Marie got home from work that Friday, changed clothes, and we were out the door before anybody knew what was happening. I was surprised when we parked and saw how close this place was to Champy’s Fried Chicken, but since they keep such unusual hours – they’re open for lunch and dinner Thursday and Friday, and dinner on Saturday – it’s likely that each time we’ve come this way, it just looked like another of the dark and closed buildings on King (formerly Ninth Street) and we never realized that the restaurant really starts humming when the sun goes down.
Another unusual thing here is their Coke fountain. I have noticed that Fanta Cherry is much, much more common in Hamilton and Bradley County than anywhere around Atlanta, but I’ve never seen an eight-head Coke fountain with four Fanta flavors. They have cherry, strawberry, orange, and grape here. I’m not pointing this out because they’re rare or anything, but having four in one machine is fun!
As for the meal, yes, it’s certainly the sort of mess that somebody would order late at night. The hot dogs are served up in a styrofoam package drowned in the thick, deep brown sauce. You remember that Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob marries Selma, and Homer wants them to serve cocktail wienies in that “brother, it ain’t ketchup” sauce? A lot like that. They give you half-ounce portions of mustard and hot sauce for the toasted buns; I just stirred the hot in with the what-the-heck-ever sauce. I won’t try to persuade you that it was great, but it sure was tasty.
Marie enjoyed the short ribs with baked beans and our son had a plain dog with ketchup. It was a sinfully unhealthy meal, but it was also fun. We had such a nice time trying this place and learning about it. Looking around, it’s just amazing that it has survived half a century. Heaven knows how Memo’s made it through the area’s very long decline, but the road has showing signs of life again over the last few years. UTC has a performance hall named for Bessie Smith two blocks away, there’s a club called Jazzanooga across the street, and the original location of Champy’s sometimes has live music too. Memo’s is only open until 11 pm these days, but as the corridor breathes and awakens a little more, Memo’s might just have to start keeping later hours again.
I haven’t found any other blog posts about Memo’s, but you can and should watch Laura Candler’s video about the restaurant.
Memo’s Chopped Weiners
430 E M L King Blvd
Chattanooga, TN 37403
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