Red Miller, married to Miss Roxie for 52 years smiles “Yes I am”
The bespectacled, elderly gentleman running the cash register at tiny Roxie’s Grocery in The Pinch neighborhood of Memphis is friendly, and happy to have a conversation with a stranger.“I’ve heard y’all have the best hamburgers in Memphis”
He smiles shyly and barely nods when a voice erupts from the nearby open kitchen “Uh oh, we got Facebook walking in here, we ’bout to be famous!”
I was on day one of what would turn out to be 44 hours in Memphis, Tennessee and I’d heard breathless reports from area trenchermen that this tiny, ramshackle corner mart was putting out the best burgers in the entire city.They didn’t lie.
I rounded on the kitchen man with shoulders the size of a warehouse who’d bellowed from his spot on the range, “What’s your name good man?”
“I’m Mr Mane”
“Like Gucci Mane?”He smiles broadly, and is clearly tickled to have someone to have a little repartee with.
“I heard y’all have the best hamburgers in Memphis.”
“They didn’t lie, let me make y’all one”Roxie Miller opened Roxie’s Grocery in October of 1986 back when The Pinch was a mite more rough and tumble than it is today. Following ‘The Great War’, the neighborhood was a tangled mess of cheap housing where Irish, Italian, and Greek immigrants could rent downmarket, wood-frame bungalows to lay their heads at night.
When morning came, these new Americans trundled themselves off to work at Memphis Granite Brick Company, Memphis’ first water utility, the Artesian Water Company or area steam mills, cotton presses or breweries.
The neighborhood changed drastically following WWII as that immigrant labor force returned as newly minted former soldiers. The G.I. Bill gave these men home buying power and new suburban developments beckoned promising “whites only” neighborhoods on the leafy outer reaches of the city.With its labor base torn down The Pinch fell into squalor.
“What’s it like here at night?”
“Quiet, we go home and the neighborhood’s real quiet.” Mr Miller says softly.
Mr Mane briskly strides up with a saran-wrapped paper plate. “I hope you enjoy it”If you were lucky when you were a kid, you had a grandma like mine. She would tear apart a cellophane-wrapped bundle of ground beef and paw off a good bit of it and slap it between her palms til it was roughly shaped like a hamburger patty.
After ladling a little bacon grease from her stovetop reservoir into an old cast-iron pan she’d sprinkle a little Accent or McCormick’s seasoning on the burger and cook it hot and fast til it was good and done.
Those craggy old hamburgers still send me into starry-eyed reverie at least once a month.
That’s how they do it at Roxie’s Grocery.Like an elderly southern lady who’s trying to please her grandkids.
The neighborhood around Roxie’s is all churches, empty lots and apartment buildings. It’s hard to imagine a time when the area was chockablock with fried catfish takeout spots, juke joints, rib shacks, hookers, and rowdy rowhouses filled with fresh-off-the-boat emigrees dreaming of a new life in this strange land of Tennessee
Keisha Edwards, Roxie’s daughter in law, steps behind the register: “What did y’all get?”
Not waiting for an answer she announces “I like the Mr Goodburger, it’s a double with bacon and three different cheeses, that thing will fill you up!”I promise to try it on my next visit.
“You be safe down there in old New Orleans now y’heah?” she admonishes me as I make way outside, and deep into The Pinch wondering what other modest pleasure domes await on the bluffs of the Mississippi.
520 N 3rd St
Hours of operation
always call ahead