Most of Beale Street stays up way later than the rest of the city and has the added bonus of allowing you to walk from place to place with a drink in hand (the only place in Tennessee to allow this). Take a stroll from one end to the other and see which places are hoppin, as it varies from night to night.
The Blue Note, across from The New Daisy, is closest thing there is to a real deal juke joint on Beale. Handy’s Blues Hall also feels authentic and original. (Check out the McDaniel band on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)
The Tap Room is a down and dirty saloon if you wish to imbibe. People’s has the nicest, biggest pool tables in town. Rent one by the hour or pay as you go on a regular size table. (They also have a vending machine full of chips, candy, cigarettes, aspirin and dice, among other things.)
Live music and eats can also be found in other parts of downtown, too. Heading south from Beale, the legendary Earnestine & Hazel’s is known for its soul burgers, jukebox, and ghost stories. (Depending on the night, there is live music and/or free pool.)
The newish Loflin Yard is the place to be, especially when the weather is nice. It’s like a park that serves pitchers of beer, handcrafted cocktails and wine by the bottle. Their coach house often has live music and the upscale menu features mostly grilled items. The Dirty Crow is downtown’s newest dive bar. It features a great patio, crowd-pleasing chicken wings, and live music on weekends.
Downtown central has a couple of great neighborhood bars with great food—Bardog (a smoking bar) and the newly opened speakeasy-like Belle Tavern. For dancing, Paula & Raiford’s Disco is a revered Memphis institution which really doesn’t get going until 11:00pm. Don’t let the line down the street deter you. It moves fast and the party inside is worth it - think fog machines, twinkle lights, white leather couches, and a live DJ. (Also, if it’s crowded, paying a bit extra for the VIP area is suggested.)
For more soulful sounds and slower dance moves, head to Memphis Sounds Lounge in the basement of the Econo Lodge. Known for cool jazz and hot blues, it’s a fun, intimate spot for live music.
In Victorian Village, Mollie Fontaine’s is the go to. Official hours are “5:00pm til the spirits go to sleep,” Wednesday through Saturday. The entire house is beautifully decorated, dark, and cozy. The downstairs features a piano and a large bar. Upstairs is a series of smaller rooms and a small bar (that allows smoking) with adjacent livingroom-like seating. Things can (and do) get a little wild.
Overton Square entertainment district is one Midtown option for the after party. It doesn’t go nearly as late as Beale Street, but there are a few late night gems to try. Dodici, located inside and above Bari Ristorante, is a super snug and exclusive bar that only seats twelve. The bartender, Vincent Hale, has been given free reign to make the fanciest, most complicated cocktails in town. He’ll stay as long as people are ordering drinks. Robata serves ramen and other Japanese delights until midnight Monday-Saturday and Local’s kitchen doesn’t close until 3am, seven days a week.
Just south of Overton Square is the Cooper-Young neighborhood, filled with an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Slider Inn (a smoking bar) has your patio needs covered, year round. They serve sliders, fries, nachos, lobster rolls and the like until 3am. Bar DKDC has live music almost every night and is a solid bet for late night fun. It’s not the biggest bar in town, but it definitely provides a bang. Around the corner, the much roomier Young Avenue Deli features live music, pool tables, and full service late night dining and drinks.
In Crosstown, the Hi Tone is the go-to, especially if you want to rock. They have live music nearly every night, usually starting at 10pm. There’s a separate smoking bar and a smaller room in back for intimate affairs. Food depends on who sets up outside, but is typically some kind of barbeque.
In VECA, Wild Bill’s is a must for the juke joint experience. Locals and tourists alike fill the communal tables. Beer is served in 40s with extra cups or you can BYOB and get a set up. The house band, led by Ms. Nikki, plays from 11pm-3am on weekends. Bring cash and plan to chat--and dance--with all of your new friends.