In our homogeneous age where every city has a Chili’s and a Denny’s, every hotel looks like a clone, it’s a joy to find a city and especially a hotel that isn’t afraid to rock its own distinctive Bankhead Bounce and Booty Dew.

Central Station, a boutique hotel on South Main in Memphis, Tennessee, proves my motto that anything can be used to make art.

Even a mostly vacant train station whose demolition (or not) was a contentious topic at city commission meetings until 2019 when a $55 million facelift turned it into a singular hotel/art museum/historic showcase.

Here are five reasons why it’s the best place to bunk when visiting Memphis.

1. Location. Location. Location. This adage for real estate definitely applies here. Sitting smack dab in the Arts District, Central Station is within walking distance of Beale Street, the Blues Hall of Fame, the Orpheum, Earnestine & Hazel’s and the Lorraine Hotel which turned Room 306 and its tragic history into an inspiring National Civil Rights Museum. It could solve a lot of our current educational arguments if this poignant museum was required visiting for every school child in America.

2. It doubles as an art museum. A life-size hand-beaded portrait of Isaac Hayes is the first thing to catch your eyes in the hotel lobby. Created by Mardis Gras artist Demond Melancon, the beaded Hayes in his iconic hoodie from his 1971 “Black Moses” album is a forerunner of the unique art that lines the hotel’s walls and hallways.  Look for crayon folk art drawings from blues musician, Henry Speller, Andrew Gray’s “I AM A MAN” and Felicia Wheeler’s mirror portraits of Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Ann Peebles. Every guest room has a Jamie Hamon photograph taken on a train trip from New Orleans to Chicago, the one remaining route still servicing the Amtrak station on the hotel’s second floor.

3. It offers daily curated music. It’s not everywhere you find a 30-foot wall of vinyl records or a dedicated listening room or a DJ named Jone$ who spins the collection’s 40,000-plus Memphis tracks from a booth made out of the massive organ frame once played by Elmertha Cole, Booker T. Jones’ piano teacher. Eggleston Works, a Memphis designer of custom speakers (they even have a physicist on staff to insure authentic sound) outdid themselves in 8 & Sand, the cocktail lounge that hosts regular “Live at the Tracks” performances.

4. History drips from every nook and cranny of the century-old train station. Johnny Cash and B.B. King are just two of the stellar somebodies that punched their ticket at this railroad station that once averaged 50 daily arrivals and departures. The railroad theme is carried throughout the hotel from its carpet to its signage to its specialty cocktails. But my favorite piece of history is the adjacent Earnestine and Hazels, a notorious dive bar that serves the world’s best Soul Burger and has a haunted jukebox. As the story goes, the building was once a church, a brothel and a pharmacy with a beauty salon on the second floor.

After owner Abe Plough invented hair straightener and the suntan lotion that became Cooppertone, he bequeathed the place to the two beauticians upstairs. Cousins Earnestine and Hazel parlayed it into a restaurant and speakeasy that entertained B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles and Tina Turner after local gigs ended. As for that haunted jukebox, it allegedly just starts up at odd times, often playing the very same tune you just hummed or thought about.

5. You get room service from James Beard chefs. Thanks to Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, five-time James Beard nominees, who opened their fifth Memphis restaurant (it’s a French brasserie called Bishop) in Central Station Hotel, all 123 rooms can simply pick up their phones and order say Parisian gnocchi or duck cassoulet or Tarte Flambee.