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Jul 8, 2011 06:47 AM

Memphis Bar-B-Que

What is the best barbecue - that is not just a "tourist trap"?

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  1. There are lots of threads you can look through about this, but short answer is that I prefer Payne's for their sandwich and Central for their ribs. BBQ Shop is also good.

    1. The best BBQ in Memphis, TN can be found at A & R. BBQ Shop, Central, Rendezvous, Cozy Corner, Interstate, Neely's, One and Only and Payne's.

      A & R Bar B Que @ 1802 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN. 901 - 774 - 7444.

      BBQ Shop @ 1782 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN. 901 - 272 - 1277.

      Central BBQ @ 2249 Central Ave., Memphis, TN. 901 - 272 - 9377.

      Charlie Vergo's Rendezvous @ 52 S. Second St., Memphis, TN. 901 - 523 - 2746.

      Cozy Corner @ 745 N. Parkway, Memphis, TN. 901 - 527 - 9158.

      Interstate BBQ @ 2265 S. Third St., Memphis, TN. 901 - 775 - 2304.

      Neely's BBQ @ 670 Jefferson St., Memphis, TN. 901 - 521 - 9798.

      One and Only BBQ @ 1779 Kirby Pkwy., Memphis, TN 901 - 751 - 3615.

      Paynes BBQ @ 1762 Lamar Ave., Memphis, TN. 901 - 272 - 1523.

      The BBQ Shop and One and Only are my favorites but Payne's is famous for their pulled pork sandwich.

      Incidentally Interstate just reopened after a huge renovation.

      Central BBQ
      2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

      Cozy Corner Restaurant
      745 N Parkway, Memphis, TN 38105

      10 Replies
      1. re: Littleman

        I'm not a native, but I've visited Memphis many times. I've always enjoyed Rendevous (yes, it's touristy, but I love those dry ribs!) and I second Paynes for their sandwiches! My pastor is a Memphis native and he swears by the Germantwon Commisary. I haven't been there yet, but want to try it out the next time I get down that way.

        1. re: mikjackson77

          We lived in Memphis for years and Commissary is one of my favorites. You have to get the chocolate pie - so good! Plus, they have lots of options instead of just ribs - bbq salad, bbq nachos (yum), bbq potato, etc.
          Personally, I like the sausage & cheese plate at Rendezvous, but find the ribs to be a little dry (not talking about the rub) but still good. Corky's Ribs are much better IMO, but Rendezvous sauce is better.

            1. re: dailybread8383

              I have to agree. Rendezvous is an overhyped joke for any true barbecue fan.

              1. re: mahalan

                Half the folks will agree with you and half the folks will think those are fighting words. I think everyone should visit the Rendezvous at least once and make their own decision.

                I have had some TERRIBLE ribs at the Rendezvous and I have had some delicious ribs at the Rendezvous. I've NEVER had a bad sausage & cheese plate at the Rendezvous and I've never had a bad time there.

                It's certainly not typical Memphis BBQ. However, it's a very special and unique place with a very loyal following. Most people either love it or hate it.

                1. re: Ross B

                  Agree totally. Rendezvous isn't a tourist trap, it is more of a food mecca. People will sometimes go to Memphis just to eat there.

                  I've had ribs that weren't great there a couple of times (and consistency really should be a factor when judging ribs; most can get it right at least some of the time), but when they are on the ribs are really, really good.

                  The bar is great for dining alone - something about sitting in a bar in a food mecca leads to conversation with your neighbor. Almost every time that I have been there, at least one of the people sitting next to me actually lived in Memphis. So the place isn't just filled with tourists who don't know any better.

                  1. re: Clarkafella

                    The Rendezvous has a very loyal local following. I would guess that more than 50% of their business is from local customers.

                    1. re: Clarkafella

                      Filled with tourists and locals who don't know any better? I was a tourist who bought into the hype of the place...glad I ordered the minimum to try as it was disappointing and weird with the raw rub on the ribs.

                      1. re: ebay3392

                        Trust me...there are numerous other BBQ joints that I prefer over the Rendezvous (Central, Paynes, Gtown Commissary, BBQ Shop, Cozy Corner, Interstate, Neely's, etc.)

                        However, I am a native Memphian and love to have fun at the Rendezvous and enjoy the Michelob and the sausage & cheese plate. Heck, sometimes I go and don't even order BBQ.

                        Again, many folks will agree with you and many withh agree with me about the Rendezvous. However, I think everyone should try it at least once and form their own opinion.

                        Cozy Corner Restaurant
                        745 N Parkway, Memphis, TN 38105

                  2. re: mahalan

                    It's a Memphis institution and everyone should go at least once. When people go to Memphis for the first time, I tell them to go the Rendezvous first - enjoy yourself, have the experience, and THEN I'll tell you where to go to have the good stuff (BBQ Shop, Central, Payne's, etc).

                    In any event, don't forget that Rendezvous ribs are not actually barbecue - they're cooked fast over direct heat. That rub that they use is tasty, though, and one-of-a-kind.

            2. If I returned to Memphis, and had only one place to go...Interstate. When I went there in 2009 I had so many BBQ joints to choose from with all kinds of reviews that I decided to ask who would know the best...the people... everyday people working at the airport, car rental, Kroger, and even my hotel front desk dude... ALL 4 of them said Interstate! They did not let me down! I would second with Corky's, Leonard's and way way down the list, Rendezvous.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ebay3392

                I love the sandwich at Interstate, particularly if I remember to ask for the sauce on the side, but BBQ Shop has the best ribs and Central is almost as good. We actually did a "rib-off" one time and BBQ Shop did edge them out. Interstate's ribs were way different from the rest- better than you can get in 99% of the world, but not as good as the others...

                1. re: Clarkafella

                  I love the BBQ sandwich and the balogna sandwich at both Payne's and Interstate, but I think both of those places have very average ribs. I go there for sandwiches and Central for ribs. BBQ Shop definitely has both. I know that a lot of folks like the Texas Toast at BBQ Shop, but I always order my sandiwich with a regular bun.

              2. We were laid over in Memphis during Hurricane Irene, so we spent 36 hours happily investigating the scene. I will disclaim the below by mentioning that we were only in town for a short time so my frame of reference may be corrupted by the vagaries of the daily kitchen and of course my own tastes, but so be it. We had nothing we could truly describe as bad, we were only quibbling over degrees of good, mainly thanks to the helpful advice of this board.

                Monday: Despite the conventional wisdom that Rendezvous is uneven in quality, we headed there because "that is the thing to do." I last ate their ribs about 15 years ago and had fond memories, so wanted to take the wife for the experience. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, not open on Mondays. We went to Central BBQ instead.

                Central BBQ. I had the ribs. While they were the customary "falling off the bone" the meat was a bit mealy. Certainly not a bad rib but not transcendent. I will give them a generous pass as it was late on a Monday night. The real stars were the sides - the absolute best beans we had during the trip: well seasoned, well flavored and the right ratio of bean/liquid. The greens were turnips, for which I give an "A" as they are far superior to the somewhat listless collard that is the staple green. Wife had the pulled pork - a solid entree.

                Tuesday: Lunch at BBQ Shop. I had the glazed ribs - really, really good. The right sweet/spicy/smoke balance. The meat was tender but still clinging to the bone. I liked the ribs so much I ordered two full slabs to take home with me to distribute to my pork obsessed office-mates. Sauce, hot or mild, was excellent. Beans were good but not great. Wife had the BBQ salad with brisket, which was a great salad with - well - brisket. (When in Rome...?)

                Dinner at Germantown Commissary. The ribs here are all about the smoke - the Laphroaig of ribs. Somewhat dry, but not offensively so. Good sauce served on the side. She had the pulled pork which is some of the best we have had. Every order served with a deviled egg, which is just cool in its authenticity. Beans were a bit watery.

                Like I said before, everything was good - I would gladly return to any of these places. Just wanted to add my piece to the lexicography of Memphis BBQ.

                Central BBQ
                2249 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38104

                Rendezvous Charles Vergos
                52 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38103

                1 Reply
                1. re: Themistocles

                  Thank you for a thoughtful and thorough review.