Memphis: Part 2

With the stress of wedding prep in the past, the family was able to gather on Sunday for a much needed time of relaxation. We spent the afternoon at a cookout celebrating Carrie Clark's birthday. Despite the smothering heat and humidity, it was a fine afternoon. The grill masters deserve a special mention. The grilled chicken was very good and I heard the Salmon was even better. Those are two meats that are quite easy to overcook, but those guys did an outstanding job.

The entire clan ventured out to Beale Street Sunday evening. For those into bars and blues, it was a really cool scene. We decided to check out one of Beale's signature establishments, BB King's Blues Club, for dinner. BB King's had a great bar atmosphere. The band was awesome and there was a great deal of energy in the club. The problem, however, is that we were looking for a place for a good family dinner. The music was far too loud to allow any type of conversation and frankly, the food and service wasn't all that good.

The menu is typical bar and grill fare. They advertise BBQ, but in reality, it's steamed pork ribs and sandwiches. The pulled pork was moist and tender, but it had obviously never been kissed by real smoke. The sauce was thick, dark, and sweet. It was really similar to the Jack Daniels glaze at TGI Fridays. The folks at BB Kings can call it what they want, but it simply wasn't BBQ.

Most of the family headed out of town Monday morning leaving Katie and me the day to explore Memphis. We'd planned to visit several of the top BBQ joints in town for a small sampling of what each had to offer. However, our first stop threw a most welcome wrench into the works. Tom's BarBQ and Deli has been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. This little known dive off the beaten path serves up a unique Greek inspired style of Memphis BBQ. Because of their appearance on "Triple D", I'd already had Tom's on my list. However, just a couple of days before leaving for Memphis, Tom's made another appearance on the Food Network. This time, the show was call "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." Triple D's host, Guy Fieri, named Tom's rib tips the best grilled item he'd ever eaten. It was that endorsement from our favorite Food Network personality that made Tom's the #1 place to go on our list.

Located in an industrial park not far from the airport, Tom's is the epitome of a dive joint. The interior featured a small deli counter where you order and pick up your food. Evidence of their Food Network appearance can be seen plastered all over nearly every surface, including the chest of the owner, Adam. He was wearing a shirt with a picture of him and Guy Fieri.  The service is incredibly fast and friendly. We ordered a rib tip plate with corn, onion rings, and mixed (sweet & spicy) sauce to share. As we were paying, Katie mentioned to the owner that we'd seen him on TV and came all the way from North Carolina to try his rib tips. He gave us a free drink and promised us something "special."

The rib tips were really incredible. The Greek spice rub is so unique and flavorful. The sauce had such a rich, spicy flavor. It truly was one of the best BBQ meals I've ever eaten. To top it off, a complimentary sampler of ribs, pulled pork, and BBQ bologna was delivered to our table. All of the meat was seasoned with the Greek rub and was incredibly flavorful. I've got to give a big thank you to the people at Tom's Bar B Q and Deli for giving Katie and me a truly exceptional Memphis BBQ experience.

Because of the unexpected abundance of "Q" we consumed at Tom's, we weren't able to visit all the places on our list. The final place we decided to eat at is probably the most famous BBQ name in Memphis. Corky's Ribs and Barbecue has blossomed into a BBQ empire with locations in seven different states. Maybe it's unfair, but I actually didn't want to go to Corky's because I felt that they had become too commercial. I was afraid that in the process of expanding, that they would lose sight of what was really important, the "Q".

Since it was only a couple of minutes from Katie's family, with whom we were staying, we went to the Cordova location. Cordova is an upscale suburb of Memphis packed with newly constructed subdivisions and strip malls. Corky's, in fact, was located in a strip mall. The decor looked akin to other typical neighborhood bar and grills. Though the air outside smelled promising, I had a hard time believing I was going to get authentic Memphis "Q".

I owe the good people at Corky's an apology. I couldn't have been more wrong. The rib and chicken combo was fabulous. The ribs were sweet, sticky, moist, and tender. More importantly, they had an excellent real smoke flavor. Corky's smokes their meat using both hickory wood and charcoal giving it an extra "backyard" depth of flavor that I love. It turned out to be the perfect way to conclude our Memphis BBQ tour.

Having had a day to reflect on our trip, I couldn't be happier with how it went. I learned a great deal about the diverse BBQ culture in Memphis. There is so much variety in packaging, techniques, and flavors that make up Memphis "Q". It's truly a must for BBQ lovers.

The time spent with family was much needed. We had a great time laughing and bickering like only a family can. I'm so thankful and lucky to have married into such a chaotic, mind boggling, and all together supportive family. My mother in law (Cathy) and I decided that everybody thinks their family is crazy. I hope that your family is crazy like mine and you enjoy them half as much as I do.


Memphis: Part 1

For BBQ lovers, Memphis is a Holy place. It's one of the true BBQ destinations in our great country. This weekend, Katie and I travelled to this soulful city for a family wedding and managed to sample some of the city's finest "Q" in the process.

We started out early Friday morning and made it just west of Knoxsville before the car and our stomachs were in need of fuel. Naturally, we ended up a BBQ joint in Kingston, TN called Buddy's . After a little online investigating, I discovered that Buddy's has a huge presence in TN with 16 locations throughout the state.

Buddy's looks and operates like a typical fast food joint. The one difference being the inviting aroma of hickory smoke surrounding the place. We ordered our "Q" at the counter and took it to a booth to eat. I ordered a chopped pork plate with beans, slaw, and hush puppies. The pork was smokey and flavorful, but a bit dry. The house sauce was a tangy tomato / vinegar mix that was pretty tasty, lacked the sweetness that I prefer. The meal made for a satisfying lunch, but I left with the hope that Memphis would prove to be much better.

Saturday was all about the wedding. Congrats and best wishes to David and Katie Clark. The service was beautiful and a host of friends and family deserve a lot of credit for putting everything together. Weddings don't happen without the hard work of many behind the scenes helpers. The great thing about Katie's family is how they always come together to help one another. It was a labor of love by all involved and it turned out wonderfully. 

 The early ceremony time and hor d'oeuvres only reception provided another oppurtunity to seek out BBQ for dinner. In search of good ribs for the whole family to enjoy, I chose Central BBQ on Summer Ave. because of the positive online reviews and proximity to the church. Lucky for us, they had a late cancellation and were able to accomodate a group of twenty on short notice.

Central BBQ was near the top of my "Must Try" list. They were voted "Best BBQ" in Memphis by the readers of Memphis Magazine and the Memphis Flyer so my expectations couldn't have been higher. I ordered the whole rack of ribs (half wet / half dry) while Katie ordered the pulled pork sandwhich.

The ribs were tender and smokey, but a bit dry. We ate around 7:30 so there is no telling how long that slab had been waiting to be eaten. Because of the time required, BBQ simply can't be cooked to order. Had we come for lunch, the ribs may have been perfect. As it was, they were just ok.

The same could be said for the pulled pork. It too had good flavor, but was pretty dry on its own. The sauce was traditional dark molassas / tomato base that is typical of Memphis. It was awfully good on the pulled pork sandwhich. The general thought on Central BBQ was that the "Q" was pretty good, but underwhelming. The best part about the experience was that they were able to seat our large group together giving everyone a chance to converse.

Check back later for Part 2 of our Memphis BBQ excursion.

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes | Converted by BloggerTheme