There are many ways in which ElvisBlog topics are generated. As you know, some are deeper looks at subjects that appear on Graceland.com/news. Also, regular readers sometimes send me a link to stuff on the internet that lends itself to a blog article.
And sometimes I am sent a comp copy of a new Elvis book about to be released. ElvisBlog does not make a practice of giving free publicity for things. However, if a book contains something unique that I can build a blog article around, I’ll go with it.
From the subtitle of the book Elvis Style, you would think it is all about Elvis fashion. Indeed, the 90+ pages on his clothing are incredibly complete – well written and full of great photos. But it was in Chapter 3 – Elvis Food – that I found something unknown to me a possibly to you as well.
No discussion of Elvis’ food preferences is complete without a page or two on his favorite, the fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. Author Zoey Goto wrote in Elvis Style:
“The Arcade Restaurant in Memphis continues to be the Elvis sandwich temple, as fans from across the globe flock to sample their fried peanut butter and banana sandwich in the original booth where Elvis once sat.”
“Elvis was a regular visitor in the 50s, often accompanied by the Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips. The duo would sit at a booth at the back of the restaurant, conveniently located next to the back door in case Elvis had to make a dash from his enthusiastic fans.”
Henry Zepatos, the third generation owner of the Arcade, says that although the peanut butter and banana sandwich is one of the most popular items on the menu, when Elvis visited he would actually come in for traditional Southern cooking – meat and vegetables. He also liked black-eyed peas and mashed potatoes.
The Arcade has the honor of being Memphis’ oldest restaurant, having opened in 1919. It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since 1925, the Arcade has undergone very little change. In fact, the counter was replaced only after repeated elbow rubbing wore through the plastic laminate.
Speros Zepatos founded the diner in 1919 after emigrating from Cephalonia, Greece. Situated at the corner of South Main Street and G.E. Patterson, the original building was a small, one story, wood framed building. Food was actually cooked on potbelly stoves. In 1925, Speros tore down the wood structure and built the Arcade Building in a Greek revival style, complete with retail stores to signify the “Arcade” name.
His son, Harry Zepatos, took the Arcade to a new level in the 1950’s. He made the cafe into the hip, fifties diner you see today. The interior design and furnishings, the spectacular neon signage, and original storefront have all stood the test of time.
As you look around this old part of Memphis, it still has the same look and feel that it did many years ago. The neighborhood buildings have been refurbished, yet the old-time charm still exists.
It is interesting that movies about two of Elvis’ contemporaries at Sun Records, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, have included scenes shot at the Arcade Restaurant. The diner’s nostalgic feeling has attracted many other movie makers. Some of the films with scenes shot at the Arcade include Mystery Train, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, and others.
This is a photo of the peanut butter and banana sandwich served by the Arcade Restaurant. There is a video on their website that shows how they make it. Next time you visit Graceland, you might want to take a side trip to order this specialty at the Arcade.
And if you want to take a detailed look at Elvis’ wardrobe, check out Elvis Style by Zoey Goto. As said above, it also contains a section on Elvis food, plus his jewelry, his hair, his cars, and even the architecture of three Elvis homes.
The book ends with a chapter on Elvis’ legacy in modern-day fashion. Zoey has said she’s really up for me reproducing the chapter (with lots of photos) on a future ElvisBlog post. She is a famous fashion and design journalist, so she has unique insight into Elvis’ tangible and direct influence on fashion almost 40 years after his passing. You can be sure I’ll be taking her up on this opportunity.
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