Iowa State fan reuniting with Memphis business owner for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Lew’s Blew Note Bar and Grill is located on the southeast side of Beale Street, right behind FedEx Forum.

Emily Barske

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — On the southeast side of Beale Street, where the AutoZone Liberty Bowl parade starts, sits a restaurant and entertainment venue best known for its catfish nuggets and the “pound and a half wings.” But for one Cyclone fan, it’ll also be a place for a reunion. 

Lew Winston, owner of Lew’s Blew Note Bar & Grill, has operated his restaurant for three and a half years. About a year ago, he met Dawn O’Connell, a Cyclones fan from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, when she was visiting Memphis and came to his restaurant. The two became acquaintances — Winston has the philosophy that “we treat you like family.”

When O’Connell found out Iowa State would be playing in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, she messaged Winston and told him to get ready because she and her family would be sure to stop by. 

Winston says he is a Memphis fan — because he lives here — but he’s cheering for Iowa State because of his friendship with O’Connell. He thinks Iowa State will probably win. 

“(Memphis) has a hell of an offense, but their defense ain’t sh–,” Winston said, laughing.

Winston said he’s never been to the Liberty Bowl because he’s usually been working. Running a food and entertainment venue with just eight employees often means coming in before lunchtime and leaving between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. after bar close. 

Winston, who is 63 years old, had a variety of jobs on Beale Street including being a night manager, doorman and security guard at different venues. He’s seen everything from stampedes, to people having to pay to get on the street, to a slew of music festivals. 

The venues walls are decorated with Memphis memorabilia and objects that tell Winston’s story. In one corner is a framed jersey from the late NFL player Cortez Kennedy, who was a friend that he met at a previous job. Winston has been to more than five Super Bowls.

“I’m a football guy,” Winston said. “I like a lot of different players.”

Next to the framed jersey is a stage for live entertainers, usually blues artists, and karaoke singers alike. Winston says he brings in acts that will engage with the audience and sing updated music. When Tito Jackson performs on Sunday for New Years Eve on Beale, he’ll make his way to Lew’s for the afterparty, Winston said. 

When he decided to open Lew’s, he knew he needed to do two things: make good food and have good entertainment. Winston says everyone else does barbecue, so he wanted to be known for something else. He chose wings. 

“Everyone says ‘A pound and a half? How much is that?’ A lot of ’em,” he said, laughing.

Winston has seen a few Cyclones fans trickling in the past few days and he’s hoping more like O’Connell will find their way to Lew’s.