Back in August, WKNO Memphis ran a Local Color episode dedicated to the best burgers of the Midsouth. One of the burgers featured, and voted #5 in their viewer poll, was the Arcade Restaurant cheeseburger. Since then, that burger as been on the Best Memphis Burger radar.
The Arcade is Memphis’ oldest restaurant. It’s still open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Arcade was opened by Speros Zepatos in 1919 after emigrating from Greece. His son Harry Zepatos took over The Arcade Restaurant in the 1950’s and turned it from a cafe’ to the diner you see today. It’s is now run by third generation family members, Harry and Karan Zepatos.
The arcade is located in the South Main historic district on the corner of Main and Calhoun. It’s diagonally across the street from Earnestine & Hazel’s. Movie makers love this place. Scenes from Mystery Train, Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Elizabethtown, Walk the Line, and Blueberry Nights have all been filmed in the restaurant. Even Elvis Presley was a regular Arcade customer. His favorite fried peanut butter and banana sandwich still remains on their menu.
I can attest that when you walk into the Arcade, you’re walking into some really great Memphis history. From the neon signage to the worn counter tops to the old plates and coffee cups you get that nostalgic feeling like time has stood still inside those doors.
Tim and I sat down at the counter and ordered up The Famous Arcade Cheeseburger (that’s how it appears on the menu) and fries. I asked for mine medium and he requested a medium-well burger. We got them both, cooked right on the money. The hand-formed, 100% Angus beef burgers we were served were about 1/2 lb each. Lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle were all served on the side along with a small packet of mayo. My burger was big, juicy and loaded with flavor. While I got a hint of some seasoning, bite after bite it was the Angus beef flavor that made this burger so enjoyable. Because the burger was so big, the single slice of melted American cheese didn’t really hold up against the flavor of the burger. I would have preferred a second slice to really get that cheeseburger taste. It was good to the last bite nonetheless.
The bun was nothing special, meaning it was just a good old fashion hamburger bun. It worked great though. It held my burger and toppings together while not taking anything away from the taste of the delicious Angus burger.
The french fries were probably my least favorite part of the meal. They’re the same frozen Sysco fries that Huey’s and half of Memphis serves. I had to really hit them with some salt and pepper to give them any taste. There was nothing wrong with them, but after getting those same fries at Alex’s Tavern, so generously seasoned with Cavendars, it’s hard to appreciate them any other way.
I give The Famous Arcade Cheeseburger 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re hungry for a big tasting burger and a side of real Memphis nostalgia, the Arcade Restaurant has it all. Don’t miss one!
The Arcade Restaurant
540 S Main St
Memphis, TN 38103
If you have a favorite burger that you think is Memphis’ best or that I need to try and review, please drop a note in my suggestion box.