The sign says “Open” and the lights are friendly. Swing the doors wide and enjoy the long hardwood bar and grin at the top-hatted bartender who will greet you warmly. This is R.P. Billiards on Highland, and you are welcome here.
Once upon a time, there was a bar called the Highland Cue, and notorious it was throughout the land of Memphis for it’s unhanded times and debauched ways. But the owner went away, via a rather notorious divorce proceeding, and the property fell into the capable hands of the owners of R.P. Tracks – long since a legend in the University of Memphis and Highland Avenue drinking days. A brief but intense period of remodeling occurred and thus was brought forth R.P. Billiards and there was much rejoicing.
Billiards is a pretty big joint for a dive college bar, with lots of space for parties, pool, and darts. It features an old-school solid hardwood bar, a big-ass gaming space, and not one, but two smoking-friendly patios. A variety of booths and tables can accommodate pretty much any size party you may be having, and the owners are glad to schedule large groups in advance. Hard to go wrong here, the clientele is a curious mix of old-school drinkers, college kids, pool sharks, and beautiful crazy mad people. Word of advice: should you happen to stumble across a curly-haired woman that runs by the moniker of ‘Crazy Becky’ I suggest you buy her a drink and keep moving. She’s known for her volatility, as I learned in the old fashion. Whew.
The menu features your usual selection of bar food but with particular attention paid to hot dogs. Oh man, and what hot dogs they have, all Nathan’s Beef with a variety of toppings and side items, perfect for late-night snacking and the ever hopeful idea that if you put enough food on top of all that beer and Jagermeister, maybe it won’t hurt so bad in the morning. I can highly recommend the ‘Frenchy Coma’ which includes not only remoulade but some serious bacon. Throw some Sloppy Fries on that and you have the perfect drunken bar food.
And then there is your friendly neighborhood bartender, Scotty James. A fixture of the Memphis bar scene for years and a nigh-unto mythical figure in his trademark black tophat and saucy grin, Scotty knows what ails you and what alcohol can fix it. His exploits are legendary, his stories are hysterical, and his mixed drinks will explore the depths of your soul. Ask for the Mardi Gras shooter and serve it with love to someone you love, because it will erase inhibitions faster than a premium set of beads. Ask him for a story about the old days of Memphis and Overton Square and he will entertain and enlighten you, if you are of a mind.
The jukebox is a fancy affair that downloads your favorite tunes from the internet, and yet somehow favors country music. Truly I cannot lie, as I enjoy such a thing and if you find yourself here one night and the lonesome strains of Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” float across the dark stained tables, look around and you just might see me, nursing a drink and a memory.
This is a bar for the bar-conscious, unsophisticated and perfect in it’s unaware adherence to the archetype. It is a Cheers for the Southern gentle set and a beautiful place of libation for everyone. Enjoy it and tell Scotty I sent you.