Thursday, September 19, 2013

Memphis Nosh: Bayou Bar & Grill

It should come as no surprise that I love living in Overton Square.

It's a great neighborhood filled with awesome people and really inspiring and good businesses, and I've lived there (in the 3-block radius at least) since I moved to Memphis in 2009.

So I've seen it grow up quite a bit.

One place that has been there the entire time, and has stayed consistently great, is Bayou Bar & Grill. I'm pretty sure it was actually the first place I ate in Memphis (as an adult/after officially moving here - the first place I ate when I was visiting to move here was Golden India).

Everything there is good.

I should know.

I'm almost positive I've tried it all, or at least been at the table and stolen bites of food from people who've ordered things I've never had.

I'm a really great friend, y'all.

Anyway, yesterday I got off work early and was starving, but didn't really want to go someplace new, and didn't want to drive too far out (I had to go to The Booksellers at Laurelwood, but that was as far as I was willing to drive). So I thought about it, and decided I needed 3 things in my lunch:
1. Close-ish to me.
2. Big portions/lots o'carbs.
3. Dependably good.

Problem solved - Bayou!

*Also, can we talk about how pretty it's been lately. Like for realz. 

Bayou is right in the heart of Overton Square, and shares a building/restrooms with Le Chardonnay next door (which I've never really been impressed with - anyone have suggestions for really good food there?). They also have an amazing patio - with misters!

*From the parking lot, facing Madison - right behind me is my car (obvs) and the Malco Studio on the Square.

*Looking down Madison towards the front door of Bayou. 

*Bayou is a great place to watch football. They have two large projector screens and at least 7 other TVs, and they play a ton of games. 

The inside is about what you would expect from a kind of dive-y Cajun bar: 

 Lots of beads, a ton of sports stuff, a large, nice bar, big open space with lots of tables (I was up on the elevated part where there are 4 tables, but this is only a tiny part of the actual restaurant - I've only had to wait once or twice is how big the place is).

And I love Cajun food/music. The music varies, but it was kind of blues-y the day I went.

Also, who doesn't love Zydeco bands? I mean.

 *My friend from Manchester, England, was talking about booking a Zydeco band for her wedding. It's like the international sound of happiness. I mean, they even (almost) had one on Gilmore Girls!

I mean it's even featured in the Sims:

*True story: My brother and I used to speak in Sim language all the time. And totally still do. It's awesome.

What you don't expect when you go to Bayou, though, is how clean and friendly it is.

I recognize that a little bit of dirt is normal, and that some of my favorite places aren't the cleanest in the world, but I really appreciate when a place has a great atmosphere, a totally non-pretentious vibe, is kind of a dive in a lot of ways, but has amazing food and is clean. It's like the trifecta of awesome, if trifecta meant five (pentafecta?).

I sat down and immediately knew what I wanted.

Like I said, I was really hungry.

Like no breakfast, went to the gym at 5 am, needed some food hungry.

No judging.

I ordered my favorite appetizer, the crab stuff shrimp (4 for $6.95), which comes with this amazing spicy Zydeco sauce.

*And a Diet Coke. I like to balance my calories out, clearly. 

Yes, those are jumbo shrimp, stuffed with crab, wrapped in bacon, and then...deep fried? 

This is health food here, people.

They aren't small either: 

Each one is a good two bites.

Probably 3 if you're not trying to shove them in your mouth as fast as possible. 

Here's the inside: 

*Yeah, that's absolutely grease dripping off. It's like flavor juice!

I ate all 4 in about 3 minutes. 

Seriously. I let them cool down (because they are like tiny crustaceans made of lava when they come out) and then just devoured them. 

Oh but there's more. 


The fried chicken po'boy. With spicy fries. 

If heaven isn't like All Dogs Go To Heaven, it's absolutely like seasoned fries and Gambino's bread at every meal.

So this comes with fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, and Cajun mayo.

Here comes my only negative thing. 

My waitress was not great. She was really nice, but seemed to just be having an off day (which we all have!). 

I asked, really nicely, if I could have the Cajun mayo on the side. Yes, I am that person. But I don't like as much as is usually on there, so it's just easier to get it on the side, and I like it more. 

So when my food came, she brought me two packets of mayo. 


I asked, when she came back, if I could have the Cajun Mayo that usually came with it, she said, "Yeah, tartar sauce" and walked away before I could correct her. 

And then brought me tartar sauce. 

I didn't see her/couldn't get her attention until she brought the check, so I didn't tell her or ask for anything else, but don't put tartar sauce on a chicken po' boy. I didn't, and put the Zydeco sauce on instead (which ended up being AMAZING) but check your sauces. 

The other server working that day seemed really enthusiastic, and I've never had bad service there - she just didn't seem like she wanted to be there. 


The fried chicken po' boy is massive. Like, too much for one person to eat. 

Especially if they've had an appetizer. 

I was really really REALLY hungry y'all. 

I mean, look at the perfect toasting on that bread! The greasy but not soggy breading on the chicken! That tub of spicy sauce just waiting to be used!

Look at those fries, nestled so gently next to my sandwich, perfectly complimenting the squishy but firm bread! 

*Seriously they're crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and just spicy enough that they aren't just regular fries. They're fries of the gods.


Yeah, I at the whole thing. 

I'm convinced the bread is a huge part of it. I love Gambino's bread, because it crisps up nicely when you toast it like this but doesn't get hard. 

I hate hard bread. 

I don't really even like super crusty bread. 

When I bake bread, I leave it doughy in the middle. I don't expect that, but bread should be soft enough to eat but firm enough and dense enough to stand up to the fillings. 

This does that. 

So I ate everything. 

But how could I not? 

I mean, really. How could I not?

My check was about $17, which is a little high for lunch but I did have an appetizer - the prices at Bayou are actually really reasonable, especially for the amount of food. 

I've seriously never had anything bad there. My friend Ashley loves the gumbo, my friend Courtney said it was the best brunch she'd ever had (and I'm inclined to agree - they have $5 bloody marys, screwdrivers, and mimosas, and the French toast is out of this world). Other favorites are the Bayou Burger, any of the fried shrimp or catfish dishes, and the Blackened Shrimp and Chicken Fettuccine. 

They also have a daily special during the week. Monday it's Red Beans and Rice, Tuesday it's the Fried Chicken Po' Boy and Gumbo, Wednesday it's Jambalaya and side salad, Thursday it's Cajun Meatloaf with Grits, and Friday is the Fettuccine with a side salad. All for $6.95, all day. And if you tell them you're in a hurry, I'm sure you can get it pretty fast, which makes a nice lunch break. 

Also, and this is my secret trick, Bayou is not exceptionally busy on Friday and Saturday nights late - we usually go out around 10, so people are done eating dinner, but places like Local, which is very much a stand around or hang out at the bar place, or Bar Louie, or Boscos, are still packed. Bayou is pretty much done with the dinner rush but has a fair amount of people, so we walk down and eat there first a lot on the weekends. 

Plus, it's right in the middle of one of the most exciting places in Memphis right now. 

Here's the view out the window by my table: 

*Gould's is opening right across the street, Delta Groove Yoga is right there, you're right next door to Le Chardonnay, Boscos, right down the street from Chiwawa, right in front of the Malco, and just a few feet from Maggie's Pharm, Local, Bar Louie, YoLo, Boscos, The Attic (which opened today - I can't wait!), and the new stuff coming in, like Sweet Noshings, Breakaway Running, Cardio Barre, Bikram Hot Yoga, the Ramen and Yakitori Bar, and Babalu. You're also right around the corner from Playhouse on the Square, so this would be a great dinner stop on the way.

Also you're right by one of my favorite murals in Overton Square, maybe in all of Memphis, the newly finished one by Guillaume Alby (aka "Remed"). I LOVE it. 

According to the latest reports, Overton Square is at 78% capacity. I'm so excited that this area is growing, but I'm also really happy that places like Bayou are anchoring the Square with their consistently good food, great events, and delicious, delicious bread. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Memphis Life: Cooper-Young Festival

Saturday was the most gorgeous day of the year.


High of 79, chilly that morning and evening, sunshine-y with a nice, but not overwhelming breeze.

If there had been cherubs or harps, I would have though I was dead an in heaven, that's how nice it was.

(Yes, my idea of heaven looks a lot like the one in All Dogs Go To Heaven. I was an impressionable child.)

Luckily Cooper-Young Festival happened to fall on that unbelievably gorgeous Saturday this year.

Everyone else thought the weather was great too:

*Via the very cool Memphis Junction Tumblr (photos by Andrew J. Breig). 

The Commercial Appeal estimated that 120,000 people converged on the Cooper-Young area (Central-ish down to First Congo, a block or so east and west down Young). There were three live music stages, a performance area that had a drumline at one point, and a TON of tents, crafts, food, and beer, not to mention the restaurants that were open in the area. 

*Even JFK was there! Great painting btw, from a booth whose name I failed to get. 

My roommate and I went down about 1 and walked around for a bit, and managed to find the cheapest beer we found all day:

*Yeah, I'm drinking Coors Light out of a Lilly Pulitzer koozie. I'm classy, y'all. 

He wanted to watch the football game while we were down there, and we had some friends coming to meet us, so, after a failed attempt to go to Celtic Crossing (which was so packed we couldn't actually get in), we went to Young Avenue Deli. 

I like the food at the Deli, and they have great entertainment and a cool vibe, but I was glad there were other food options. Service is pretty awful, almost notoriously so, at the slowest of times, but with this many people I can't imagine how bad it was. 

Luckily we just wanted some drinks (which we got from the incredibly surly bartender who made me pay for someone else's drinks before he would give me my card back, no matter how much I told him that there was no way I could possibly have drank 23 PBRs, since I would be dead - at least he was quick and I had cash this time) since the Deli was insane too:

*Those are my friends Sarah and Daniel on the right. I know no one else in this bar except my roommate. Making friends? 

I'm an Arkansas fan (Woo Pig!) and my roommate is a Tennessee fan (I have no idea what to follow that with), but the Alabama (gross) and Texas A&M game was on the big screen, so we watched the incredible sadness of the Tennessee - Oregon game on the bar TVs. It was pretty sad, although Arkansas won so I was happy, but it was a fun time. 

My friend Ashley came down and we went and walked around, and when my roommate and Troy, our other friend, got done with the saddest game ever, they joined us. First on the agenda? A Pronto Pup.

*There's Troy and Ashley (more Lilly!) laughing at something. I clearly only have eyes for this deliciousness. 

If you're unfamiliar with Pronto Pups, they're basically corn dogs. But they're extra fried in some magical way and then brushed with mustard. Ashley had never had one, and she was impressed. 

Angels pretty much sing when you eat one. 

You think I'm joking. 

We walked around some, but the boys left us to something? Maybe to get Spiral Spuds, my roommate's favorite fair food, but either way, we of course had to follow up our footlong Pronto Pups with the most logical and healthy decisions ever. 

Nutella crepes.

Yes, the Crepemaker was there. 

*Via I had the Triple Treat and Ashley had the Black and White. We ate them kind of fast so no pictures, but they were as delicious as the look. 
**By "ate them kind of fast" I mean we inhaled them like we'd never eaten before, much less had just had a giant Pronto Pup and about 4 beers. Don't worry gentlemen - we're both available. Line forms to the left. 

We also browsed around the tents, signing up for things, and, of course, buying stuff. 

My weakness is community t-shirts. If there's a t-shirt at an event, I'm in. 

I bought 2 really awesome ones: 

*For some reason I don't have a picture of this on. It's super cute though! Stacey from Dining with Monkeys was manning the booth, and this adorable shirt, from Citizens to Preserve Overton Park was only $15.

*The back - small little insignia on the top. And it's pink!

I wanted a "Reading is Sexy" shirt from Literacy Mid-South, but they were out of my size. 

*Via Literacy Mid-South. You can buy them on their website too. 

Luckily (for me, not for my already too full closet) I happened to stop by the Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis booth. 

For those of you who don't know, Planned Parenthood is kind of my charity of choice. Of course I always participated in the Children's Miracle Network stuff for Phi Mu, and that's a great organization, and I'm doing Race for the Cure in October, and I donate to World Wildlife Fund, which my mom and I have been involved with basically my entire life. 

But Planned Parenthood is so important to me. They provide healthcare, essential healthcare, for women who can't afford it or just want to go someplace that doesn't judge them for their choices, which, at the root of it, are theirs to make in the first place. Abortions (which should be legal, safe, and rare) are a tiny part of what they do - but conservative legislators have targeted PP as part of their anti-women agenda, so it's especially important to support them now. Maybe most importantly, they serve as a voice for equality, women's rights, and the general fight against stupidity/ignorance/squeamishness about our bodies. 

Yeah, it's kind of my soapbox. 

That's why I bought this, which basically sums it up: 

*No one really needs to talk about how t-shirts kind of make me look like a porn star. I'm aware. 

We also browsed around and saw these: 

*At the Little Dead Things booth, which was run by my friend Kirby's friend (and Trilogy Tattooist Extraordinaire) Nate. 

And some awesome woodwork: 

*I don't know who this was by - if it's you please tell me!

We left about 6:30, walked back to the car (we parked on Central - if my bike hadn't been stolen we probably would have rode our bikes, but Central wasn't too bad), and went home to nap. 

Who am I kidding - we (my roommate and I) stopped at McDonalds and got a Diet Coke and a double cheeseburger on the way back. 

I also didn't go to the gym Saturday or Sunday. 

Monday was hell. 

Like I thought I was gonna die on the elliptical. 

I didn't, but I kind of wanted to. 

That night we went out, ate at Bayou, went to Local, and went home and watched The Newsroom until 5am. 

We're the coolest kids ever. 

When we got home though, we had gotten the mail. I got my Birchbox for the month (review coming soon!) and another t-shirt. FINALLY, I got my Choose 901 Overton Square shirt: 

*Um. Awesome. 

The shirts were delayed (the Memphis Flyer brought up an interesting point: Choose 901 used out of state suppliers for their shirts, kind of making the "Choose 901" spirit a little less convincing. In their defense, they are using local suppliers in the future, and, let's be honest, they do a lot of good and these shirts are great.) but I finally got mine. Definitely happy to represent my favorite Memphis neighborhood. 

Cooper-Young Fest was a success for sure. I love fall festival season - coming up there's Best Memphis Burger Fest (which I'm a judge for! I'll be judging the Anything But Beef category, and Kim from Dishcrawl Memphis will be there judging Best Straight Up Burger), Battledish (a Dishcrawl event - I've got a promo code for $10 off tickets - "pearls". I'm a judge, and it looks like it's going to be awesome! You should also follow Dischrawl on Twitter for more great codes and information about the event.), Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest , which is super fun, more concerts at the Levitt Shell, Night Markets at Broad Avenue, and a ton more. (I Love Memphis blog has a listing of all the events going on.)

And now that it kind of feels like it could possibly be fall soon-ish maybe, it's nice to be outside. 

And boots and cardigans and scarves are coming soon too. 


Friday, September 13, 2013

Memphis Nosh (Kind of): The Busy Lunch Edition

As most of you know, I'm a grad student, but I also work in my department as the department secretary.

Or, really, the first person you see when you walk in the door.

I love my job. I love being around people, getting to do something different every day, being a part of the Memphis/department community.

But, especially this time of year, it's really busy.

Gone are the days of walking over to R.P. Tracks for lunch - I still get an hour, but there are 10 times as many people here and I absolutely can only take an hour.

This presents 2 problems.

1. The UC is right across from my building. So I constantly want to go buy overpriced, not particularly good food from our dining options. And since I've been trying to eat better, this isn't really a good plan - almost nothing is healthy, and if it is, it's even more expensive.

2. I'm very lazy, and making a bunch of meals on Sunday just isn't how I roll.

Actually there's 1 more problem:

3. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work from 8-4:30 and then teach from 5:30-7, and then go to the gym from 7:45-9. Soooooo...I need to eat at least 3 times in there.

Breakfast I usually eat, or at least heat up at home. I've been eating these:

They aren't the most amazing thing in the world, but the pepperjack cheese makes them pretty good. And they're a solid breakfast for someone who is not a breakfast eater. 

I like breakfast foods, just not in the morning. 

I'm a weirdo. 

I've also been drinking this: 

The "light" version is way better I think - it's just good iced coffee for when it's so hot outside. I'll switch to the Keurig soon (I hope). 

So breakfast I've got. But lunch is harder. We have a microwave and a fridge, but most frozen dinners are just...gross. There are a couple of them that I like, like this one from Lean Cuisine: 

But they're tiny (300 calories for lunch is fine, but the portion size is really little, and they're kind of salty) and, honestly, cooked then frozen then unfrozen chicken can be kind

But I was in the store the other day and found something that has changed the game. 

One of my favorite foods, that I'm honestly too lazy to make anyway, in a frozen form that isn't a billion dollars and smells/looks/tastes amazing. 

This guy: 

Bertolli Rustico Bakes - they claim that it's "baked taste from the microwave" and that it's a "hearty marinara sauce." Big claims. 

After 6 minutes in the microwave (which was just enough time - it's a 900 watt), this is what I got: 

Not a bad size. Looks cheesy. Lots of herbs. Chicken doesn't look soggy. 

So far so good. 

So I cut up some of the chicken (which is not just in one giant patty, thank goodness), and this is what I get: 

*Filter, but only because of the fluorescent Satan lights. 

Holy Cheesus! 

Actually white chicken! 

Pasta that doesn't disintegrate on a (plastic) fork!




Sweeping declaration. 

The best frozen meal I've ever had. 

For realz. 

Now, would I love to be able to make fresh organic salads and perfectly roasted vegetables and delicately seasoned filets of various cute animals for lunch? 


Do I live in a world where rainbows and unicorns prance around, money doesn't exist, and I'm free to frolic with the woodland creatures all day? 


This, though, is as close to homemade lunch as I'm going to get out of the freezer. 

It actually does taste baked, and the sauce isn't watery. 

It's not too salty. 



I didn't have to add any seasoning to it. 

At all. 


I took a look at the box and noticed a couple of things. 

1. It gives you a wine pairing. I would love to drink wine at lunch. 

2. It's actually not particularly unhealthy, at least in comparison: 

430 calories for lunch isn't bad, especially considering that with my breakfast and dinner, and a snack between work and class, I'm barely getting as many as the nutritionist said I should if I go to the gym, which I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Plus I'm supposed to not eat carbs after lunch (she said) so I like pasta at lunch. 

The salt and saturated fat are a little higher than I would like, but it has a ton of fiber, and I'm not eating this everyday or for every meal. 

Let's compare - "real chicken parmigiana" at a restaurant and this, and food at the UC and this:

Olive Garden Chicken Parmigiana lunch portion (about the same size) is 570 calories, more fat, same saturated fat, way more sodium, and is $9.99. This was $3.99 in the store, and I didn't have to drive there, tip, or get tempted by those damn breadsticks. 

In the UC there's a Burger King - let's be honest, that's what I would eat. A Chicken Parmesan sandwich is 650 calories, 30 g fat, and 1940 mg of sodium. That's without fries (340 calories, 15g fat, 480mg sodium for the small) or the other tempting things. And I'd have to fight the hordes of students and pay around $9 at the exorbitant UC prices.

So overall, on 2 days out of the week when I need some extra carbs anyway, this isn't a bad choice. 

And it's freaking delicious. 

This has, unfortunately, not happened yet: 

I also got one of the new "Al Dente" meals from Bertolli to try - the Chicken Florentine Alfredo:

I haven't tried this one yet, but I have high hopes. 

So these aren't exactly diet foods, but they're easy and quick and not terribly expensive. 

You can buy these at Target or Kroger - go to the new nice on on Highland and Poplar if you go though, because they're awesome. 

**No, but really, I go there all the time and just wander around and buy expensive cheese. It's awesome. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I really like nice, tasteful tattoos, or ones with meanings that are important to people. I think they're a great way to commemorate events, people, etc.

Yesterday I mentioned that I was getting a new tattoo soon-ish, and a couple of people asked me what I had/what I was getting. So here's the rundown of what I already have and what I'm planning/wanting to get in the future.

I know not everyone is a huge fan of tattoos (hi mom!) but for me, they're like photographs you can't ever lose. Physical things are so tangible - I've written about loss here before, and I still feel it deeply quite often. But a tattoo is something I can look at and remember a good time, or a person or thing I loved, and I'll have it forever.

Plus tattoos look cool.

Mine do anyway.

So here are the two I have:

*My first tattoo, February 2007. It's a quatrefoil, one of the Phi Mu symbols. Also, seeing the back of your own ears is odd...
**Also, yeah, I'm a Phi Mu. No one should be surprised by this. 

*It's also weird to look this closely at your own foot...this is my stake (Mr. Pointy, to be exact) from Buffy on my right heel. My BFF from college, Courtney, has a matching one. 

Also, let's just look at how I was a total child in 2007 - seriously, I was a baby!
*Eating at the Flying Burrito in Fayetteville, AR. Yum. 

So those are the tattoos I have. No skulls, no flames, no dirty pictures, no cursing. A sorority symbol and a stake from a show with one of the strongest female characters ever to be on television. Not too shabby. 

But even though I hate piercings (I passed out after finally working up the nerve to get my ears pierced at 19 - and it was the worst pain I've ever felt. Never again.) and needles (no but really), I love tattoos. They don't hurt particularly bad, and, like I said, they have meaning for me. I would never get one that I didn't really care about. 

So there are a few I've been thinking about for awhile.

My next one will probably be the hamsa I've wanted for ages - I got this keychain in Prague at the Jewish Cemetery, which was one of the most emotional and painful places I've ever been, and that pain, combined with the experience of traveling alone, really alone, for the first time* made it a really memorable and profound experience. 

*Yes, I was basically in Paris by myself, but I was staying with someone else and we did do a few things together. I knew NO ONE in Prague, and didn't speak the language to boot, which is kind of a scary thing in a lot of ways.

*I'm undecided on if I want color or just black and white outline. This used to have the Traveler's Prayer in Hebrew on the back, but I've worn it off - not sure if I want a word or anything under or in it. Opinions welcome!

That one I want on top of my right thigh, I'm pretty sure, about 2 inches tall. Not too big, not easily seen in professional situations, but a reminder of an amazing experience. 

I'm also a huge fan of literary tattoos. I've thought about getting one of my favorite lines from The Neverending Story (the book not the movie - gross): "I wonder what's in a book while it's closed," or from Alice in Wonderland, the "How doth the little crocodile..." poem. But I'm undecided enough about both of those that I'm not getting them anytime soon. 

The literary tattoo I probably will get, which is very similar to my friend Kirby's, is one like this: 

*via tumblr. I just want my left wrist though, and smaller, and more centered.


I love Harry Potter, and the books, and the movies, and the entire universe - it's not the first set of books that really drew me in, but they are the books that made me want to write. To create a world that dense and amazing, even if it's a world of history that I can teach to my students or create in my own research. 

I also want another star tattoo - this one of my zodiac sign, Pisces: 

*via I don't want the lines, and instead of dots I want little stars, almost like the Harry Potter ones. Basically when you look at it, I want it to take a minute. I sort of like explaining my tattoos. :)
**I think I want this on my right hip. I won't ever get anything on my left one because of a birthmark I have, and I want to see my tattoos - that's my only regret about my neck one. 

I've also thought about lines from songs, like "Hopeless Wanderer" from the Mumford & Sons song, but that's not on my immediate radar.

My main concerns with tattoos, the things I have to have to get one, are:

1. It has to mean something to me. 
2. It has to be someplace I can cover up (under clothes/shoes/watch) or is small enough people won't notice it - I think tattoo acceptance is growing, but I'd like a job someday. 
3. It has to be something I can see - no more tattoos that I can't ever see. 
4. It has to be in a place that won't change dramatically if I lose/gain weight, since that happens to me (on purpose at this point) and just as people age.

*This one, via a busted link on Pinterest, breaks 2 of the rules (I can't see it, losing/gaining weight) but I love it. It's by Albert Camus, and says "Au milieu de l'hiver, j'ai decouvert en moi un invincible ete" - "In the midst of winter I discovered in me an invincible summer." There are a couple of translations of this, but this is the one I originally read. 

So we'll see. Tattoos are expensive, so I don't get them very often, but, for me, they're investments in something I will truly cherish. My last one I went to Trilogy in Memphis: 

*Everyone there is really great - it's on Highland, right next to the Stratum and Wang's Mandarin House. 

Trilogy does have a $50 minimum, so even my little stars will be $50. But they do a great job, are super friendly, do touch ups (they even did one on my foot after it healed where the line was a little light), and most importantly, are SUPER clean.

Opinions welcome on tattoos - and who wants to come with me to get the next one? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Memphis Life: French Riviera Spa

Part of the "getting healthier not being lazy working on self-improvement" plan is going to the gym regularly.

Full disclosure: I sort of hate the gym.

I have a free membership to the one at school because I'm a student, but it's really crowded, I see my students there a lot, and parking on campus is a pain.

So I rarely go.

Also, I really, really, desperately hate being sweaty.

Not that I sweat, since I'm a lady, of course.



One of my friends, Brian, works at a gym here in Memphis, French Riviera Spa, and he convinced me to at least come look at the gym on Union. It's about two miles from my house, and he's a nice guy, so I went ahead and visited.

**And the parking lot is acceptably large, unlike a lot of places on Union - there's more parking in the back. 

And was actually pretty impressed.

See, one of the things I hate about the gym, particularly at school, is that I don't like feeling like people are judging or really even looking at me while I work out. I know, realistically, that they probably aren't, but working out with 18 year olds on a regular basis is enough to give someone a complex.

At French Riviera, though, people were friendly, but clearly didn't care much what I was doing or how I looked doing it.

And no one looked 18.

Basically at Union they have a large room for classes:

*I haven't done any of the classes, mostly just due to my schedule, but they look fun when I walk by. 

And one very large room with cardio and strength training machines - this was right at closing, but it's rarely full, and there aren't any giant guys making weird noises or anything gross: 

*And yes, I asked to take these, I wasn't just being that weird person at the gym. 

All of the treadmills, bikes, and ellipticals have TVs and a little place to put your phone and a ledge for a book, magazine, or, in my case, my ipad with 50 Shades of Grey. I like mindless reading at the gym, but I'm too easily distracted to not focus on anything. 

It's hard having my brain. 

This gym is absolutely not intimidating. When you walk in (it's upstairs - it kind of looks like you're walking into Hollywood Feed until you get to the door) there's a reception desk: 

*Yeah, that's my ipad cover. It's pretty awesome. 

You don't even sign in - they've gone to little bar code swipey key things. 

*Yes I have too many keys. And a bottle opener. I'm from Arkansas is all I have to say on that one. 

*It's not even a glaringly unattractive key thingy. Also that hamsa is the one I got in Prague, and my next tattoo. 

I hate signing in to things, and I lose cards more than is probably socially acceptable, so a key thingy is the best for me. 

One of the things I was really looking for in a gym was convenience - I don't want to have excuses for not going, since I come up with those on my own easily enough. So I needed someplace affordable, with easy to get to locations, good hours, and friendly staff/customers who didn't make me not want to go. 

French Riviera (which, y'all, is not a spa - I don't have any idea why it's named that, I just accept it) met all of those requirements. 

So the Union location is open Monday through Friday from 5am to 9pm, Saturday from 8am to 7pm, and they're closed on Sunday, which works out well with my schedule, since I usually take Sunday off. 

The best part though is that with a membership, I can go to any of the gyms - including the one on Poplar and Highland, which is open 24 hours during the week and is open most of the day Sunday. So last week when I went to the Tigers game on Saturday, but did not go to the gym, I just went to Highland on Sunday. 

And it's really not expensive. 

I'm not a person who thinks the gym is an expense I necessarily need. I could go walk for free. But it's hot in Memphis, and having someplace that I go, and that I've paid to go to, and can spend an hour or so without any other obligations, is pretty nice. 

Right now they're having a special that's $25 a month (which is great, considering some gyms, that admittedly have saunas and stuff, which you don't really need) are $60 or more. When I joined, and I'm pretty sure this is still going on, if you pay for a year up front, you get 3 extra months free, all for $289. 

$19.26 a month. 

.64 a day. 

For .64 a day, I can afford it. And since I paid it all at once, I don't have to worry about it again until next November. 

And that's really nice. 

There's also free tanning at the Highland location with your membership. I don't tan, and you really shouldn't either, but if that's your thing, well, there you go. 

The gym is very clean (like, really - the woman who cleans at night is very nice and does a great job - and people definitely clean up after themselves), almost all the machines are new (and the Highland location has some swank treadmills), and the staff is really helpful. 

Here's Brian, being helpful: 

*You can follow him on twitter at @FitGuyMemphis, and he's on Facebook.

One of the other things you get with a membership is a fitness assessment. Which was depressing, but helpful - the only criticism I have of the gym, really the only one, is that they really push getting a personal trainer on you. Which is really helpful. And incredibly expensive. And I really felt pressured. I didn't do it, because 1. I can always ask for help with the machines, 2. I have the internet, which has rendered a lot of that "insider info" obsolete, and 3. My roommate majored in something like that in college, and he's free. 

So I didn't take the personal trainer, and I felt kind of bad about myself after the assessment, but it was helpful. And it's a nice thing that they add in to the membership, even if it is to sell trainer sessions. 

Overall I'm really happy with French Riviera. I do think they push the personal trainer thing too hard, but people have to work, so hopefully that can help some people. I don't respond well to that type of motivation, but some people might.

Not that personal trainers aren't at least entertaining:

Both locations I've been to are very clean, and, at the Union location particularly, the staff is very friendly, as are the other people who come to the gym (without being creepy). 

One of the complaints on Yelp has been that the membership is really binding - well, it's called a membership for a reason, y'all. 


So I highly recommend French Riviera. My hour at the gym has become one of my hours of the day, and, while I still hate sweating, I really like the results I'm getting from it. 

Not that I sweat or anything like that.