Sunday, November 17, 2013

Memphis BBQ - Plain and Simple

I consider myself a bit of a BBQ aficionado.  It's a delicious food from which I can never just leave alone.  So, when folks ask, "What do you like?"  this is what I tell them.


I look for tenderness, juiciness in the meat.  Is it smoked, and does that flavor carry over into the meat products?  When dealing with ribs, how tender is it?  Is it overcooked and dry, or juicy and falls off the bone?  How are the sauces?  What all comes with the meal and is that good?


Wet ribs:  Blues City Café.  I order the full rack of ribs (comes with beans, slaw, Texas toast, and Fries)  You can also click here to hear the music they play there.  Blues City Café is at the corner of Second St. and Beale St.  Ask for extra BBQ sauce to dip your ribs in, and if a  little mixes with your ketchup it enhances your fries.  The meat is so juicy and tender, and it really just falls off the bone!  LOVE this food.  I always say a silent prayer to Chef Bonnie Mack who has gone to cook BBQ in the sky...

I also like the ribs at The BBQ Shop on Madison Ave.

Sandwiches:  The BBQ Shop on Madison Ave. also has one of the greatest sandwiches.  Usually piled high on Texas Toast, or if not served as a sandwich you can get it as a plate with toast on the side.  I enjoy the slaw on my sandwich with beans, and fries.

My other favorite place is Central BBQ.  But, only the one on Central Ave.  It's tiny, and sometimes there's a lengthy, but worth the, wait.  The meat is tender, smoked really well, and nicely flavored.  You get a sandwich on a toasted bun, any number of sides, and then you put on which sauce you prefer and as much as you like!  I just do not like their Summer Ave. location.  There is plenty of space for folks to gather; but, it is just not as good as their original location on Central Ave.

Dry ribs:  The Rendezvous.  Frank Sinatra used to fly in to go there, and there's a reason.  The dry ribs there are delicious!  The service isn't my kind of thing, though: the whole old, angry waiter bit.  It works for tourists; but, I'm in Memphis already--just feed me good food and let me be. Still, this place is good enough for Elwood Blues and Brother Zee Blues to stop in for dinner, and if it's good enough for The Blues Brothers, you KNOW it's good enough for me.

THE BAD  (but still good)

TOPS BBQ:  So, the other day I couldn't stop at a certain TOPS BBQ shop's drive-thru window.  I hated to place an order and then split; but, last time I went the BBQ meat was so dry and HARD (crunchy) that it wasn't even edible.  This time, I see this sign in the window:

Outside a window of one of the TOPS BBQ shops in Memphis.
I figure more than likely because folks try to get something for nothing.
"This is bad, I want my money back; but, I ate it all!"

Not all their locations are bad like the one I mentioned.

I will tell you that when it comes to GOOD fast food BBQ at the following TOPS BBQ locations:  Marion, AR, Fraiser Blvd. and Summer Ave. in Memphis, TN.

They are good, but they are hit-n-miss.  However, if you want probably one of the best burgers of all time, go to TOPS BBQ!  (I'll have to do a burger post one day.)

TOPS ribs from delicious Marion AR location.
Best with a side of Sweet Baby Ray's for added flavor.

Interstate BBQ.  It was pretty much, to me, the same fare as TOPS BBQ but at twice the price.  The owners have somehow gone on to star in Food Channel programming, I think.  Still doesn't make their BBQ the best. 

There was also a competitor family restaurant called Neely's BBQ which is now closed, and, at best, their BBQ was flavored a bit more like the kind you get out of the freezer section in the plastic container at the grocery store to me.  Not good.


Really, there aren't any ugly places.  In Memphis even bad BBQ is good.

Corky's BBQ.  My very least favorite place.  Very bland, not flavorful--more like the TOPS BBQ fare as well.  Same stuff, twice the price.  Very corporate flavored.

Three Little Pigs BBQ.  You know I hate eating places where their logo is the animal that is happy to serve itself to you as food.  I hate that.  Why?  Because, who would be glad to die and be your food?  Other than the rabbit who is happy to feed itself to Aslan in "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe."  Still, the food was, while okay, mediocre and the service wasn't all that grand the two times I've been there.  Not bad; but, really I'll only go if it's a precursor to bowling at Billy Hardwick Lanes (owned by the parents of Chris Hardwick, host of The Talking Dead which discusses The Walking Dead).

Nice.  I talk about BBQ and Zombies...


There are really only a few things I'll go to my first grabs:
Blues City Café Sauce - I can't get enough!  I had a friend in from Australia once who ate there, a few weeks later sent an e-mail fussing he couldn't find anything like it, so I shipped him a bottle!  You have to go to their store to buy it in the bottle.
Sweet Baby Rays - All different kinds and flavors; but, I prefer the original.
Rendezvous Dry Seasoning Rub - this is good when cooking all meats: fried or grilled even!  It's WAY cheaper at the grocer store than on their website!


Are you a shop owner from one of my 'blah' ratings above?  Want to prove me wrong?  Invite me out and show me your best fare.  I'll do an update on my website here and resubmit my discoveries to the world.  Will it be better? Worse? same?  Let's find out together.


I have heard of a few other places that I've never even tried.  Share your favorite locations for BBQ in the comments below and let me know where I'm wrong or where I'm right!  Let me know who I should be bragging on instead.

Another good reference to read can be found by clicking here.

Want to go eat BBQ in Downtown Memphis, but don't want to spend a million dollars to park?  Go to Parking Can Be Fun.  Last time I was there it was $4 to park.

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