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We’re about halfway finished with Food & Wine Across America, our coast-to-coast quest for America’s best food cities. One of the most enjoyable parts about visiting an unfamiliar city is meeting the locals (chefs, writers and other food luminaries) who share with us their favorite hometown restaurants, bars and markets. We extensively research every city’s dining scene before visiting it, but these passionate locals are essential to the process, helping us to find the very best that every destination has to offer (and often assisting in the eating process as well).

A couple of months ago, I spent a meal-packed weekend in Memphis for the November issue of F&W. There were so many restaurants with the potential for deliciousness that I squeezed about 20 meals into three days. I wouldn’t have survived the dine-a-thon without the help of two Memphians: Melissa Peterson, the editor of Edible Memphis magazine, and Jennifer Chandler, a local food columnist and author of the excellent Simply Salads cookbook. Ladies, my stomach thanks you.