Besides Barbecue, my husband’s favorite food is burgers. He’s so fond of them, in fact, that during our years touring the country he would seek out the best burger spots in each city. Most were forgettable, many were good, none were perfect. Then came Roxie’s.
Four years later it has yet to be toppled from the number one spot and has become the standard by which he measures all other burgers. When it’s time for my husband to leave home for work we celebrate our joy and drown our sadness in an Uptown burger. This is the place we take friends when they ask for real Memphis food and they don’t mean “touristy” or “popular”. Over time I grew more curious about who exactly was behind this bustling little corner store with arguably the nation’s best burgers. My curiosity led me to Floyd.
Floyd (who enjoys being on a first-name basis with everyone) took over the operational side of the business when his father became very ill, not long after opening the store in 1986. He began experimenting with burger ingredients and toppings back when the area now known as Uptown was still known as Greenlaw, testing his recipes with many of the area precinct police officers. Through all of the changes in the neighborhood, the tearing down and building back up, Roxie’s has remained a pillar in the community- physically and socially.
Floyd’s father, Mr. Red (as he is affectionately called by the regulars) made it through his health troubles and has spent the nearly three decades since quietly giving back to the area’s residents. He keeps a big, black book in which he writes IOU’s for customers who come in asking for a bite to eat “on credit” because they have no money. His IOU’s don’t specify a repayment plan or date and that is just as well with Mr. Red. “All he knows is that folk have to eat,” says Floyd.
There is a pause when I ask Floyd how he feels about having set aside many of his own ambitions to help keep his father’s dream alive.
“Every morning my father wakes up he says ‘I’m 365’. He doesn’t take vacations, doesn’t take breaks. He works every day, works holidays. I feel that if he can be 365, I can be here to help.”
The line in the back of the store where orders are placed is beginning to overflow onto the narrow store aisles. Floyd’s mother Mrs. Roxie (after whom the store is named) has stepped behind the grill to help with orders so I figure it’s time to wrap up. I wait for the Uptown Burger I ordered from Floyd and then take it over to Mr. Red who rings me up. I pay and thank Mr. Red with newfound admiration and gratitude. Because I now know about the big, black book. And I know that he is 365. And he and Mrs. Roxie have, by example, raised a son who understands the power in sacrifice, the persistence that leads to success and the reward in helping those around him.
Roxie’s is located at 520 N. 3rd Str., Memphis, TN. It has 4.5-5/5 stars on Urbanspoon, Yelp & Best Memphis Burger websites.