Pork Bracket Round 1: Central vs. 4-Sho
In the first round of the Barbecue Brackets Pork Bracket, midtown landmark Central Barbecue goes shoulder-to-shoulder with 4-Sho, a Whitehaven shop located in a strip mall.
Let’s get it on!
The sandwich at Central was a pile of tender pulled pork with a huge scoop of sauce on a soft hamburger bun. The meat was tender and absent of any of those weird fatty, hard to chew bits that sometime lurk deep with a barbecue sandwich. A word of warning – it’s hard to pick the Central sandwich up without coating your hands in sauce. (8 points)
The 4-Sho sandwich was similarly sloppy. Sauce-coated pulled pork spilled from the bun, making the sandwich almost impossible to lift without making a huge mess. The meat was tender, but there was something off about it. It was a little too tender, almost squishy. (4.5 points)
Central’s sauce is everything that I love about Memphis barbecue sauce. It’s thick and tart and sweet. The flavor is complex – there’s definitely some vinegar, possibly some brown sugar, and maybe a shot of liquid smoke. (8.5 points)
The meat on the 4-Sho sandwich was completely saturated with sauce. Sadly, that sauce was kind of watery and comparatively flavorless. (4 points)
The fries at Central have great texture – they’re crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. They seem like they’re hand cut, and they come to the table unseasoned, save for a touch of salt. (7 points)
In the picture of my meal from 4-Sho, it looks like there are only three fries. There were more than that, but I ate them in my car while they were still hot from the deep fryer. The fries weren’t spicy, but they had some sort of salty, slightly sweet seasoning. (8.5 points)
Ordering at Central is sort of like ordering at Bryant’s: there are rules, and you need to know them and follow them so that the line doesn’t get backed up.
After you order at the counter, find a place to sit and remember your number – waitstaff in tye-dyed t-shirts walk through the room holding up trays and yelling numbers. It’s efficient, and I can appreciate that. (7 points)
At 4-Sho, I placed my order at the counter with a really nice woman who was wearing a t-shirt that said “Eatin’ Good in the Hood” on the back. The service was a little slow – it took about 20 minutes to get my sandwich, fries and drink. (5 points)
I ate at Central at about 12:15 in the afternoon, right at the peak of their lunch rush. The dining room is packed and loud and a little hard to maneuver, and the line for the counter is sharply divided by the closed door (they get mad if you hold it open when it’s hot out). Central is decorated with tons of smiling pigs, which will never stop being a little weird. (7 points)
While Central is constantly buzzing with activity, 4-Sho is relatively dead. I was the only person there at lunch today, and the only noise came from the box fans (they don’t seem to have an AC) and the midday news. Though 4-Sho has tables, when my food was done, it was presented to me in a paper bag with a to-go cup, like they didn’t really mean for me to stick around. (3.5 points)
My meal at Central was $7.64, which isn’t bad for the quality and amount of food. (7 points)
At 4-Sho, my combo meal totaled at $5.25 – it was definitely less expensive then Central, but I’m not sure if I would be willing to spend that much to eat there again. (7 points)
Winner: Central (with 44.5 points). Alas, 4-Sho’s delicious fries weren’t enough to keep it in the running.