Earnestine and Hazel’s is either a tasteful, minimally appointed cafe or a half-dilapidated dive, depending on which angle you view it from (literally). For decades, it was a house of ill repute. Rumor has it that The Rolling Stones wrote Brown Sugar after spending a wild night here. Today it’s a dive bar with creepy floorboards and rumors of hauntings and a weekends-only space upstairs.
Among the many stories and tall tales in Earnestine and Hazel’s history is the real fact that former owner Russel George, the man who invented the Soul Burger, committed suicide here. The door to his office still is locked.
There is no menu, only a question asked when you order drinks: “Are you hungry?” If you say yes, you get either a single or double Soul Burger. We recommend the single, which is meaty enough for most appetites, But the double prettier.
The spooky thing about the Soul Burger is that it is tastes like the cooks have read our thoughts as to exactly what makes a good burger. It’s a griddled patty with lots of melty American cheese, dark carmelized onions, and pickles — exactly the way it should be. The unexpected addition is that the burgers are griddled with a mysterious brown substance dubbed “Soul Sauce.” We don’t know what’s in soul sauce, but it seems to be something like Worcestershire with enough sugar to caramelize on the griddle. The sauce turns the griddle dark and crusty.
The burgers are delicious, perfectly cooked. The only way to improve them would be to thin the patties and maybe smash them. But that might be just us. The innovative sauce-griddled patties and creepy atmosphere make the haunted tavern worth returning on any future trips to Memphis. Many agree, this is one of the few dive bars we’ve belied up to where we were sitting between to teetotalers drinking cokes. Non-drinking locals come here for the incredible cheeseburgers and duck out before trouble starts or the jukebox mysteriously starts turning on and off.