The beef at this local icon is consistently voted the best in town by Memphis magazine's annual reader's poll. The decor, I quickly notice, isn't half bad, either. Although the walls are covered with a fascinating array of Memphis memorabilia, it's the thousands of frill picks stuck in the ceiling that are this joint's standout feature. For $1, you can try to guess exactly how many there are. Sadly, gambling is for no man on a budget. Sure bets are the gut-busting World Famous Huey Burger ($4.60) and some of the biggest onion rings I have ever laid eyes on ($1.60).

Next, I head up the street to the Peabody Hotel, the nicest digs in town. It's here that the famed duck march takes place every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. This silly tradition began in the 1930s and is still quite a spectacle. It revolves around hordes of folks lining up around the lobby's central fountain, martinis in hand, to watch as five of the cutest mallard ducks you've ever seen swim up out of the fountain and march along a red carpet into a nearby elevator. Don't ask.

Watching adorable ducks waddle through expensive hotels does nothing to spoil my appetite for dinner, incidentally. After last night's ode to pig, I make a beeline for Gus's World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken. I don't want to hear anything about your grandma or the Colonel. Save it. Gus's chicken is undeniably the best fried bird you'll ever eat. "I don't even know," says night manager Scott Ramboin, when I ask him what the secret is. "They just tell me how to cook it, not how to make it."

I douse my three-piece white-meat plate ($7.80) in hot sauce and devour this heart attack on a platter like a contestant on Survivor. It's so good, despite scorching the roof of my mouth, I continue on undeterred. Then I realize, I too am a survivor.

I stumble back to the Sleep Inn, dizzy from a cholesterol-induced food coma, having survived a budget weekend in Memphis with enough spare change to upgrade to the MATA airport shuttle ($12) the next morning and still have 86 cents worth of jingle in my step.
Now if I could just bring the Chicago Cubs a World Series and put Bob Knight back in charge of the Indiana Hoosiers, my father could rest easy. Pretzels, anyone?


sean mccormick is a dallas-based photographer. his images have appeared in publications such as fortune small business, parents, and men's health.