In the land where Elvis is royalty and barbecue reigns supreme, many Memphians claim loyalty to one restaurant for a recurring pork fix. However, a number of local spots now boast a barbecue niche, with options and specialties in addition to the traditional Memphis-style dry-rub or wet-rub pork. We call this article: The BBQ Bucket List. We challenge you to try them all, that is, if you’re a true Barbecue Memphian.
Memphis BBQ Joints
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous
52 S. Second St., Memphis, TN • (901) 523-2746
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Since 1948, the Rendezvous has been a 901 tradition. The restaurant boasts thousands of patrons weekly, yet it’s nestled in the basement of an alleyway. The story starts when Charlie Vergos opened a small lunch counter in downtown Memphis. Unintentionally stumbling upon a coal chute below the diner unlocked the possibility of grilling meat, and the rest is history. Rendezvous has made dry-rub ribs a classic, and their royal customers agree —we’re talking presidents, royalty and rock stars. Here, Memphis history is plastered on every wall, from concert memorabilia to junkyard finds. Rendezvous’ local charm seems impenetrable by fame.
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726 N. Parkway, Memphis, TN • (901) 527-9158
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tucked away on North Parkway is a “cozy” little restaurant called Cozy Corner. With things like catfish, wings and sweet potato pie, dinner is on point. And one thing is for sure a local favorite: their barbecue. Whether you’re into BBQ beans, BBQ bologna or BBQ spaghetti, they have it all. Feeling hungry? Order a Cozy Dinner Plate with your choice of meat, bread and two sides.
The Bar-B-Q Shop
1782 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN • (901) 272-1277
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
When a Memphian thinks of The Bar-B-Q Shop, award-winning sauce is the first thing that comes to mind. At this local gem, two gourmet sauces dominate the menu. Whether it’s the original mild version or the one with a little more kick, Dancing Pigs Sauce is the secret to making any meat taste like the soul of Memphis. These secret recipes have sparked taste buds for more than five decades, and after initially selling the sauce out of the trunk of a Ford Bronco, the Vernon family finally decided to expand. Now? It’s some of the tastiest in Memphis.
Downtown: 147 E. Butler, Memphis • (901) 672-7760
Midtown: 2249 Central Ave., Memphis • (901) 272-9377
Summer: 4375 Summer Ave., Memphis • (901) 767-4672
Poplar: 6201 Poplar Ave., Memphis • (901) 417-7962
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Although not the oldest joint in the city, few would argue against the rich flavor of Central BBQ’s dry rub. Owners Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp actually met as competitors in Memphis in May’s World Championship Cooking Contest, but easily transitioned into business partners to start their own restaurant. Make sure to save room for dessert, because the hip folks at Central BBQ make a mean banana pudding!
5259 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN • (901) 685-9744
1740 N. Germantown Pkwy., Cordova, TN • (901) 737-1988
743 W. Poplar., Collierville, TN • (901) 405-4999
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 10:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (9 p.m. at the Cordova location); Friday and Saturday, 10:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (9:30 p.m. at the Collierville location)
Corky’s BBQ has been voted the #1 BBQ Joint in Memphis 22 times since they first opened over 30 years ago. So there’s no denying that they’ve got some tasty ‘cue! Can’t make it to the restaurant? You can order online to get a taste of their sauce.
Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q
2265 South Third St., Memphis, TN • (901) 775-2304
Hours: Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday, closed.
One insurance salesman’s vision to change the culture of a rough neighborhood corner has now become one of the most delicious barbecue joints in the country — Interstate Barbecue. Through barbecue, Jim Neely has provided jobs for his family, business for his neighborhood and happiness to all barbecue lovers. The combination of barbecue sauce, spaghetti pasta and a side of slaw has helped Interstate gain a delicious and flourishing Memphis barbecue market.
Germantown: 2290 S. Germantown Rd., Memphis, TN • (901) 754-5540
Collierville: 3573 S. Houston Levee Rd., Memphis, TN • (901) 979-5540
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Commissary stands by their quote, “So good you’ll slap your mama!” Their food is homemade and their Memphis-style BBQ is slow-cooked. Can’t make it to their Germantown restaurant? Their Collierville location is now open for business! Our recommendation? Try the BBQ Mac & Cheese.
1762 Lamar Ave., Memphis, TN 38114 • (901) 272-1523
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed Sunday and Monday
Payne’s Bar-B-Que has received local, regional and national acclaim for their chopped and pulled pork sandwiches and smoked sausage. Even though there isn’t much variety on the menu, their food knocks it out of the park with one bite. If you’re wanting a true Memphis Barbecue experience, this is the place to go.
15 locations around the Memphis area
Hours vary based on location
So here’s the deal — Tops is known for its sandwiches and nachos, but we have a secret for you. Next time you’re there, order the hamburger. Yes, we said that. For the traditional barbecue fan, order a plate with your favorite meat and fixin’s.
Baby Jack’s BBQ
7610 Hwy 70, Bartlett, TN 38133 • (901) 300-6922
11125 Hwy 70, Arlington, TN 38321 • (901) 430-0303
Hours vary based on location
Recipes and cooking techniques that have been perfected over the course of four generations have brought Baby Jack’s to where it is today. Their cooking style? They say “it’s a blend of traditional and scientific cooking principles.” Their family packs are perfect for a party with friends and family, and you can order it straight through the drive-thru window.
One & Only BBQ
1779 Kirby Pkwy., Memphis, TN 38138 • (901) 751-3615
567 Perkins Extd., Memphis, TN 38117 • (901) 249-4227
153 Timber Creek Dr., Memphis, TN 38018 • (901) 275-8450
6575 Airways Blvd., Southaven, MS 38671 • (662) 349-9981
Hours vary based on location
Let’s start with the half bbq quesadilla at One & Only BBQ. First off, yum! Secondly, cheese and barbecue? Talk about a perfect match. If you’re not feeling a sandwich or nachos, they’ve got delicious salads, pulled chicken and grilled cheese to mix things up a bit.
Memphis Barbecue Company
709 Desoto Cove, Horn Lake, MS 38637 • (662) 536-3763
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Memphis Barbecue Company has brought home many awards and World Championships, winning some of the toughest BBQ competitions. Their Pitmaster, Melissa Cookston, is a World BBQ Champion and brings thoughtfulness and creativity to the menu. So, what’s it like eating at an award-winning place? We’ll let you find out for yourself.
Leonard’s Pit Barbecue
5465 Fox Plaza Drive, Memphis, TN 38115 • (901) 360-1963
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
You may have heard of the show on Food Network called Diners, Drive-ins and Dives … well, Leonard’s Pit Barbecue has been featured on that very show and many more. A must-try? The Mr. Leonard Sandwich. It’s their famous pulled pork sandwich, served the Memphis way.
Whether searching for Memphis’ classic pork ribs or looking to taste something unique, the city’s many barbecue joints all have something to offer. We urge you to get out there and try all of these restaurants that make Memphis, well, the best place for barbecue.
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