For a taste of this town, try the Tastin' Round Town Tour
photographs by Jonathan Postal
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Lance Silkes, aka Limo Lance, is many things. He’s a proud Italian American, a blues enthusiast, a former optometrist, a husband and father, a talker, a self-described wise guy, a good singer.
And, yes, Limo Lance did once drive limousines for a living. This last bit is important, because, says Silkes, “I’m a transportation guy.”
Specifically, he transports tourists and citizens alike to some of the city’s best bites while stuffing them full of Memphis history through the Tastin’ ‘Round Town tour company he founded two years ago with his wife Carol and another couple (who have since been bought out).
Tastin’ ‘Round Town currently offers four tours: BBQ Tasting, Downtown Burger Tour, Sweet Life Downtown Dessert Tour, and Taste of Downtown Memphis.
Participants meet up with Silkes (his wife and assistant also lead tours) at a designated spot. He’s not easy to miss, as he’s the one carrying a giant whisk. The whisk, bought at an odds-and-ends store on Summer, is about two-and-a-half feet long. In restaurants, it’s used to mix large amounts of food. For the purposes of the tour, the whisk not only makes Silkes stand out in the crowd, it also serves as a tool for breaking the ice with a quip or two. “I’m causing a stir,” Silkes might say. Or, if it’s Elvis week, “Elvis ordered an omelet.”
Silkes has the tour planned out in what he calls “modules,” historic facts that he shares along with each restaurant stop.
“When we audition restaurants, the dishes we choose fit into my story,” Silkes says. For example, for a recent dessert tour, Silkes starts things off with cannoli he’s brought in from Little Italy. A good source of water is essential to the cannoli’s delicate pastry and that source in Memphis is the aquifer, he explains.
The modules work in any order, for any tour. Topics cover everything from the Chickasaw Bluffs and the resurgence of blues music to preservation efforts of historic buildings and the future of such areas as the Pinch District. All this is told around mouthfuls of divided-up plates of food — banana pudding, tamales, burgers, shrimp and grits, lemon icebox pie, barbecue nachos, hot water cornbread, and on and on.
The list of restaurants included on the tours is long, with five to six restaurants visited during each three-hour tour. They are mostly in the downtown area. Among them are Automatic Slim’s, Huey’s, bleu, The Arcade, Central BBQ, Cozy Corner, Majestic Grille, Lunchbox Eats, Blues City Cafe, and the Center for Southern Folklore.