Short BBQ/food tour of Memphis, TN
Did a ton of research to find the best spots for BBQ in Memphis. Spent about 24hrs in Memphis and tried 3 spots according to extensive chow/yelp research. Here are my thoughts and my ratings and why.
1) Central's BBQ:
- Tried half-slab, half wet/dry + pulled turkey nachos + mac & cheese and potato salad + banana pudding
- THE BEST RIBS. of all the 3 spots we tried, these were the best. best smoke, best flavor and perfectly cooked. When doing research, this was noted to have the best "meat" but I felt the sides were good as well.
- Understand why everyone recommends the nachos... because the chips are cooked fresh and can't go wrong with melted and shredded cheese atop.
- Banana pudding was MONEY! get it.
- Space was fun, bright, not as "hole-in-the-wall" as I had anticipated
2) Cozy's Corner:
- Tried cornish hen + half-slab wet mild ribs + corn + cole slaw
- The ribs had an amazing smokey flavor, the sauce was just okay
- Corn was meh, cole slaw was fine
- Cornish hen is tender and flavorful, definitely a must try
- why this spot is so great is the family-fun atmosphere, we sat right next to the owner who was having her lunch and she was a sweetheart!
3) B-B-Q shop:
- Tried half-slab, half wet/dry ribs + bbq spaghetti + pulled pork sandwich
- Had read A LOT of great things, but was highly disappointed
- Ribs were good, but not amazing. the secret is the amazing sauces!! The hot BBQ sauce was great
- BBQ spaghetti must be a local thing b/c I wasn't a fan and didn't really get it
- Pull pork sandwich needs to be ordered pulled or not it will be chopped. Very tasty and even better with the sauce
- Atmosphere in the shop was kind of flat, quiet during lunch
Wanted to try Neely's Interstate, Payne's pulled pork sandwich but no time
ONE THING TO MENTION, everyone must must must stop by Gus's Fried Chicken!! this was the most amazing thing I ate on my trip, I went for dinner one night and again the next day for early lunch and still and dreaming about it. Perfect and I mean PERFECTLY fried chicken that tastes like it's been marinating in spicy salt brine for days, so the chicken meat itself is so so tender and so flavorful. Not to forget the perfectly fried chicken skin and batter which has a perfect spice and crisp that only dreams are made of. There's a location downtown near Beale street.
For coffee, try Bluff City Coffee which was a great surprise. Their coffee strong and delicious, also offers free WIFI.
We also swung by Pearl's Oyster House, definitely wouldn't recommend unless you have a BIG itch for oysters... gulf oysters, poorly shucked with mud and dirt all over the place. Thumbs down.
Take home point: Gus's for fried chicken!
Central BBQ 2249 Central Ave Memphis, TN 38104
Cozy Corner Restaurant 745 N Pkwy Memphis, TN 38105
B-B-Q Shop 1782 Madison Ave Memphis, TN 38104
Gus's Fried Chicken 310 S Front St Memphis, TN 38103
Bluff City Coffee 505 South Main Street, Memphis, TN
In my book, The BBQ Shop and Central have always been neck and neck when it came to the ribs, with a slight edge going to BBQ Shop, just because they were consistently perfect! Central was always great but have been just a little off the mark a couple of times; still better than any other ribs in the world except BBQ Shop!
That changed the last time I was in Memphis 3 weeks ago. I ordered my usual rib plate at the BBQ Shop and they were cold! And to add insult to injury, the beer was hot! They have always been too good for me not to give them another chance, but I've never been so disappointed in my life! BTW, even cold they were still great, but not what I was looking for.
The Central on Summer is easier for my to reach so I had been going there more often. I had drawn the conclusion that they had the best dry ribs in the city. Had to head downtown so made a stop at Cozy Corner. I'm not sure anymore - again. Both places I prefer the dry to the wet though I may use some sauce.
Last time at BBQ shop the sandwich was just okay. It has been awhile for the ribs. Payne's on Lamar is my favorite still.
I agree on Gus'. I have eaten at three of the franchises; downtown, Mendenhall and Collierville; and I think downtown is the best of the three. I still have to take a long lunch and head to Mason.
Hi..I visited Memphis back in '09 for MiM...wanted to hit Cozy Corner but it was closed on the Sunday...so went to Central BBQ...to me the pork was dry and flavourless but, before I get flamed, I was happy to have Mac and Cheese and Onion rings as the sides and the turkey was very good..which puzzled me as being an avid backyard smoker type of dude turkey is tough to get right and pork you can get right in your sleep..so I may have caught them on an off day...fellow behind the counter was very polite, oh and the great choices in side sauces, had vinegar sauce (yes!) as well as the spicy sauce...now, time for me to get flamed...what is the deal with people going ga ga over Gus's? I had some the same day, or after as I had a blur of 4 days of eating down there...think I had ribs 3x one day alone at Leonards Rendezvous and Corkys...but I was not impressed at all with Gus's fried chicken..it was ok, seemed like it was soaked in Franks Red Hot Sauce before battered and fried..my wife and i looked at each other and said 'ok, so what' sort of thing....but speaking of fried, the one thing I flipped over which was totally unexpected hit me on the side of the head surprise down there was at Leonard's lunch buffet had fried catfish..OMG that was so good I ate more of that than the dry ribs, which were very good at Leonard's...and I am not a huge fish fan...sorry off topic...but for BBQ in Memphis if I go again and had one place to go...Interstate...that would be the long and the short of it.
Gus's is usually great, but they can also be off a bit at times. I've eaten there a million times by myself and it has been wonderful, but the one time I brought my wife with me, it flat out was horrible. Give them another shot- they are on most of the time and that is a really good thing!
Ok..I will next time I visit Memphis...it was one of those things you see it getting rave reviews and you try it and you say HUH? Was like when I planned my 2009 trip and had 80 or so restaurants to choose from, and only 3 days, what to do what to do...my wife decided as we landed 'ask the locals' Airport, Kroger, Hotel Staff...all answered INTERSTATE so we quickly changed plans and were glad for it. Their sampler plate was fantastic!
Yes, I like Interstate as well! Funny that you mention asking the locals. When I first started going to Memphis (I go once a month for five days and have been doing it for 11 years), I used to ask the locals about BBQ. Every single one of them said "Corky's". It was like an automatic answer! Finally, I went a little deeper in a conversation and asked some guy if there was anything else, and he said "Oh yeah, try Interstate! I thought you were just looking for a place to grab a quick lunch or something!"
Since then, I figured out that the stock answer will always be Corky's, but almost everyone in town has their real favorite, and it is always someplace else!