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Memphis in May BBQ Review

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I first would like to thank the people of Memphis for a wonderful time and to add another unique experience in my life's journeys. The weather was humid and sultry, the city was decked out in an emerald plumage afforded by the vast expanse of trees, and was deluged with the smell of smoked hog. Unlike Los Angeles, the haze in the air was much more pleasurable to the smog that we are accustomed to. And yes, I thought the tap water in Memphis was an ole wives tale, but I was wrong..... the water is quite tasty and maybe even pleasurable.

My first experience in the eating cuisine was at Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. Holy Mole!! Pandora's Box Beelzebub!! I have never had fried chicken as what I experienced at Gus's. I had a small warm thigh which was warm with a golden honey crisp skin, when I bit into it a little oil ran down my cheek, kinda weird but it brought me back . I grabbed a leg, then another thigh, and then a wing. The chicken had a nice zing of spice to it, and the batter was not overly thick or salty like other fried chickens spots that I grew up on i.e. Browns. The guy sitting next to me said that this chicken was not special, and I had to restrain myself for not smacking him upside the head with my wishbone. He mentioned that he would have been happier with his neighborhood KFC, and he did not like the spice associated on the bird. My eyes just rolled into the back of my head......

I then walked on over to the Rendezvous to try the most vaunted dry rub ribs. I have heard so much about these ribs that I did foster some heavy expectations on these ribs. I did find out that these are not in fact smoked ribs which I thought was a pre-requisitie for good Q. I received my plate of ribs, sides of tangy mustard slaw, bbq beans, and a side of pulled pork. The ribs unfortunately pretty dry, and I have to say, I think I have had a better rack of dry rub Memphis style ribs at Virgils in NYC. Yes, this is sacriligeous to say but true. I was definitely not happy with this meal, and I thought the Vous was kind of a disneyfied eating experience with all the historical stuff but no meat to sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, I passed on eating the rest of my ribs and settled to just enjoying my side of beans. I think I will come back to try it again but this was a dissappointment for me.

The next day I had a pretty decent salad at Grill 83 at the Madison Hotel. It was a fried oyster salad (quite a huge portion for $11) with ranch dressing micro greens and baby heirloom tomatoes. Probably the fanciest meal I had this past weekend.

That evening I attended the Memphis in May BBQ event. It was quite the party. I have never seen so many people get into the spirit of BBQ and smoked pig. Names such as Notorious P.I.G., Natural Born Grillers, No Pig Left Behind, and Big Al and the Buttrubbers were some of the novel names of the BBQ crews. I had connections with the SSG Grillers and enjoyed tasty pulled pork, and smoked turkey, but their star was their slow smoked baby back ribs. Dry rub and no sauce was what i got right out of the smoker, and it was truly succulent. The tent that they had was a double decker "dance club" that featured a might fine mystery fruit punch. I wisely stuck with the beverage of choice bud light.

The next day, I headed over to a place my friend Chris recommended: the Cozy Corner. When I arrived at this place, I knew immediately this was the type of place aesthetically that I was looking for. A single floor, white wood paneled bbq shack with a real smoked up pit as soon as you enter, and chaotic activity at the counter. All sorts of people were having the experience, from old ladies from the neighborhood with curlers in their hair, a right side of the tracks family celebrating their sons graduation from Rhodes College, and 4 frat dudes from New Jersey on a road trip in search of their favorite bbq. My plate of 4 ribs, 3 wings, coleslaw and bbq beans was a mountain of food. The shiny patina from the sauce that was placed on the ribs provided a very nice outer garment. I started to wonder if these ribs were going to disappoint me as much as what I had at the Rendezvous. Thankfully, I was quickly corrected on the first bite. Succulent, moist, and juicy ribs with a slow burn of heat combined with the correct amount of sweetness provided me with a knockout similar the way Manny Pacquiao had his way with Ricky Hatton in a 2nd Round TKO. Flavorful wings not charred but with the same bbq sauce were also quickly disemboweled. I slowly marched through my meat with a very nice sweet tea and lemon with a nice hint of sweetness. Enjoying the creaminess of the cole slaw and the plump and vibrant baked beans. I will be back.

In reflection, I just peeled the first outer shell in Memphis for some good Southern eats. I will be back with alot left on the table, Central BBQ, the BBQ Shop, and Payne's. I hope to be back to taste the sweet tap water of Memphis, smell the humidity and pork smoke in the air sans mosquitoes, and excitement brought by the people in Memphis for the Memphis in May festival.

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  1. Bustin on Rendezvous is no sacrilege. I love the place for what it is, but I've had some terrible ribs there many times!

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    1. Good insights into the Memphis in May experience. I personally love the Rendevous, but perhaps the reason is that I order my ribs after I'm neck deep in cold beer. As for your comments regarding the humidity, I was down on the river that weekend and, compared to a normal spring or summer day in Memphis, there was no humidity. Come back in August when you can cut it with a dull knife. I enjoyed reading about your culinary experience in the Bluff City.

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      1. re: sdriver

        Just got back myself....regarding Gus's, good you had the dark meat as it was not bad, but the breast meat was dry and stringy...was there on Friday...what's with all the police??? Every corner had them...seemed seedy area but still..never seen that before...Rendezvous I tried, would have been ok but it seemed they put the rub on the ribs after they were done...kind of weird, and the red colored cole slaw tasted like someone dumped hot sauce in it...beans were hot too...and expensive....I missed the Cozy Corner as they were closed on Sunday aft...as was Tom's for I wanted rib tips...Interstate was my favourite, beef ribs were great....Corkys had great ribs and brisket, a hidden gem with them....waiter says nobody orders brisket....Leonards buffet was very good, catfish and dry ribs were awesome..bought some of their rub...owners were very nice as told them we were from Canada...Central was pretty good..pork was dry as it was everywhere we went...turkey was good...brisket was rubbery...had nice choices of sauces, regular, hot, mustard and vinegar....onion rings were quite good there as was the mac and cheese....had a late night Memphis sandwich at Top's BBQ with slaw and sauce, was good....pork at the peoples choice at MiM were mostly all dry, was hard to judge a favorite....did the cookers caravan, tour guide was great...one team gave sample of pork and was the best of the weekend...not dry, sweet with fruit juice brine and smoky...was about to eat my fingers...haha....think they finished 2nd in Whole Hog...