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One BBQ dinner in Memphis - A&R, BBQ Shop, Central, or Corky's for ribs?

I'm in Memphis next week for business for a tragically short time, which means one late dinner out. (I'm hoping to at least order takeout lunch from Alcenia's to get some Southern/soul food in as well.)

This California girl has never been to Tennessee before, much less Memphis. Where I live, BBQ is crap, so I can't wait to try some Memphis BBQ. I'm leaning towards ribs but want to keep my options open.

My research on this board has helped me narrow it down to three: BBQ Shop, Central, and A&R (Elvis Presley Blvd.--mostly for convenience, since I'm staying near Graceland). My client has recommended Corky's, which seems to get mixed reviews here. I will have a rental car.

Here's the twist: a few posts on this board have got me slightly paranoid about safety. Generally, I'm pretty easygoing about that, but since I don't know the area and am a woman traveling alone late'ish at night, I thought I'd reach out and ask: which would you recommend as meeting these three criteria: 1) great ribs, good all-around; 2) easy to find by car; and 3) has parking right by the restaurant if the restaurant is safe but in a dicey-ish area?


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  1. Post your question on the Trip Advisor Tennessee forum and you will get some good help. I would not stay around Graceland. Stay downtown and visit Beale Street. You can get good ribs at Rendezvous. I would go to Central. There's plenty of parking next door.

    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 BBQ in Southaven, MS just reopened after a huge renovation.
    Interstate BBQ @ 150 Stateline Road W, Southaven, MS. 662 - 393 - 5699.
    10 Bone's BBQ @ 5960 Getwell Rd # 126, Southaven, MS 662 - 890 - 4472.
    Germantown Commissary is outstanding if you get out E.
    Germantown Commissary @ 2290 S. Germantown Rd., Germantown, TN. 901 - 754 - 5549.

    1. If you stay near Graceland you might consider Marlowe's. They have a car that picks up patron's at their hotels. Good luck.

      Marlowe's Restaurant and Ribs @ 4381 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN. 901 - 332 - 4159.

      1. Littleman and I have addressed the staying-near-Graceland issue before. I suspect that if you are in Memphis on business, you are staying near Graceland because that is where you are doing business. But if not, I would suggest you stay downtown or in East Memphis, both of which are safer and nicer than the area around Graceland. Either Central or BBQ Shop are excellent and superior to Corky's. They are also safe and easy to find. Go to the Central BBQ on Central Ave, not Summer.

        Enjoy your visit.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Michael H

          Thanks much, gentlemen. I know you get a lot of questions about BBQ in Memphis and appreciate you answering mine.

          It's a long story, but I do need to stay near Graceland. However, the hotel itself sounds like it's safe per TripAdvisor.

          I'm looking forward to checking out Central or BBQ Shop. Keeping my fingers crossed that the plane gets in on time!

          1. re: gracie92108

            Central and BBQ Shop would be my first two choices. They are actually not too far from each other. They both have great ribs, but I think Central are a little bit better. That being said, I think BBQ Shop has a better sandwich (it comes on Texas toast but you can request it on a bun), but you can't go wrong with either place.

        2. I can tell you of a quirky kind of place that's really good for lunch--Colletta's Restaurant on South Parkway. It's on South Parkway East (exit 28A off I-240) that goes due north out of the Elvis Presley Blvd. area. The restaurant is right beside I-240 on the right going north.

          When I lived in Memphis, we'd go there weekly for their barbeque pizza and salad lunch special. It was especially tasty--and one of my favorite lunch places.

          I promise you won't find barbeque pizza anywhere but Memphis. I love the stuff.

          Another great place for BBQ is the buffet at Leonard's--the original Memphis BBQ restaurant.
          Go East on I-240 to the Mount Moriah south exit--turn right; Go right on Mendenhall (fork in road) right past Dobbs Ford. Take the first left on Fox Plaza Drive and it's on the right. The BBQ is to die for, and the ribs are very underrated.

          Be careful around the airport/Elvis Presley Blvd. area, and don't travel alone at night around there.

          1. Changing the subject just a bit, can anyone tell me the BBQ place that you go downstairs and they have the red brick walls adorned with photos? My dad is passing through Memphis next week and I wanted to send him there. Thanks.

            1 Reply
            1. I know that it is a little late but I ate at both Marlowe's and the BBQ Shop last week. First time for Marlowe's, not impressed at all. Would have been better if the ribs were served at least warm, and the visit to the BBQ Shop was a continuation of their perfect record. If I only had one shot at BBQ in Memphis, it would be BBQ Shop hands down just for their consistently great food!

              1. Thanks for all the helpful responses.

                I just realized I hadn't checked back in here with my impressions.

                I made it to Central BBQ just in time in the evening--my plane had been delayed, and I had called over to see if they'd still be open. They held it open just for me, which you've got to love.
                I got a 1/2 slab, prepared 1/2 wet and 1/2 dry. It was phenomenal--tender, flavorful, and far and away the best BBQ meat I've ever had. I also got barbecued beans, which were delicious. The macaroni and cheese and peanut butter pie were solid. Unfortunately, I didn't end up trying any of the sauces because I asked for it to go (since I got there just as they were closing) and forgot to pick some up. Needless to say, I highly recommend a trip there.

                Hearing I was interested in Memphis BBQ, my client ordered BBQ beef sandwiches from Neeley's Interstate, which were very tasty. And they FedExed me some Corky's packaged ribs as a "thank you" gift. I haven't yet tried those. I love Southern hospitality!

                1 Reply
                1. re: gracie92108

                  I always appreciate when people come back with their thoughts after posting a question.

                  I was a through and through Cozy Corner ribs guy (Payne's on Lamar for sandwich), but Central BBQ's dry ribs have won me over. They have a variety of sauces. My preferred is the hot sauce which is nit really too hot.

                  Now it seems I will have to pop up to Summer Ave to get ribs for lunch today.

                2. I grew up in Memphis and visit every chance I get. What's been said previously about the Graceland area and safety is true. However, personal safety can be an issue if you go around with your mind elsewhere. Just be careful and aware of your surroundings, you'll be fine. The BBQ Shop on Madison is good, it's easy to get a table, and it's safe to park on the street or behind the restaurant. Central BBQ on Central Avenue is also very good, but parking and seating (inside and out) is limited. It's a safe area too.
                  Do not bother with Corky's, it's too commercial and not that good.
                  If you're going to Alcenia's for lunch, and I highly recommend it, go early because it's busy and parking is limited. You can call ahead and they'll have it ready for pickup. BJ (the owner) will be glad to see you and will give you a hug.
                  Good Luck.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mikehill1957

                    Mikehill1957, I totally agree with you about awareness being important. I actually found the Graceland area just fine to stay in. While I wouldn't wander around by myself in the dark, there aren't too many places I'd do that anyhow.

                    I never made it to Alcenia's--the trip was just too short. Next time!