Pork Bracket Round 1: Bar-B-Q Shop vs. Coleman’s Barbecue

Posted by Holly Whitfield | July 6th 2010 4230 0

The barbecue sandwich is a decidedly American food. It’s an example of our ingenuity – who else could work such magic with the least expensive part of the pig?  Over the weekend, I celebrated freedom with two pork sandwiches. Let’s meet the contenders:

In this corner, the pulled pork sandwich from Bar-B-Q Shop, a midtown stalwart:

Pulled Pork Sandwich from Bar-B-Q Shop

In the other corner, representing for Millbranch Road, a sandwich from Coleman’s Barbecue:

Pork sandwich from Coleman's Barbecue

Pork Sandwich:

I really need a little napkin graphic to represent how many napkins I go through while eating a given sandwich. If I had such a graphic, I would need to use about 10 of them to represent the Bar-B-Q Shop sandwich. After studying all of the angles and making a few attempts, I gave up on trying to pick it up and attacked it with a fork instead.

The sandwich comes chopped, but for an extra .25, they’ll use pulled pork. I went with the pulled, and the meat was laid on the bun in large, tender strips. The first bite yielded a kind of slimy, fatty piece, but it seemed to be the only one. The meat was so tender, but it was kind of dry – there was a lot of chewing involved.  (6.5 points)

The sandwich from Coleman’s was a little more restrained – all of the pork fit nicely onto the bun, making the sandwich super easy to pick up. The meat’s texture was almost perfect – a few crisp bits for flavor, but mostly tender, moist pork. (8)


I may have messed up in ordering my sandwich from Bar-B-Q Shop. When I told my mom what I had ordered, she said that I should have asked for it with hot sauce. I’m starting to think she was right. The mild default sauce is sweet and smoky, but lacks any bite. The sandwich comes absolutely smothered in it, to the point where it almost overpowers the pork. (5 points)

At Coleman’s, the sauce-to-pork ratio is a little more moderate. The sauce isn’t as thick as Bar-B-Q Shop’s, but even their mild sauce was tangy and delicious. (7.5 points)


I’m a total sucker for spicy fries, and the ones at Bar-B-Q Shop didn’t disappoint. They were cooked perfectly – crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle. (8 points)

Sadly, Coleman’s fries were a let down. They were school lunch style crinkle fries, the kind you’d dump out of a big Ore Ida bag and heat up in your oven. (4 points)


Bar-B-Q Shop has table service. The service is friendly and attentive, but very, very Southern. Know that you’ll get called “baby” a lot. (7.5 points)

Coleman’s has counter service. We placed our order and barely had time to sit down before they called us back up to get our food. The people there are friendly, and the service is super efficient. (8.5 points)


Bar-B-Q Shop’s definitely got atmosphere. It’s super dark inside, even in the middle of the day. The walls are painted rust red, and there’s a ton of exposed brick. It’s sort of cavelike. Nothing wrong with that. (8 points)

Coleman’s atmosphere is a lot like their service – completely efficient. Their building has huge windows on three sides, which makes it nice and airy (though, the scenery outside isn’t terribly impressive). There is a very down-home vibe about it, though. (6 points)


My meal at Bar-B-Q Shop (a regular sandwich, fries and a drink) totaled at 9.07 before tip. Technically, it’s not that pricey, but it seemed like it. (6 points)

At Coleman’s, my regular sandwich plate (sandwich, fries, slaw and a drink) was 8.17. It wasn’t that much cheaper than Bar-B-Q Shop, but it felt like a better value. (7.5 points)

The Winner: Coleman’s, by a hair. They came out with 41.5 points to Bar-B-Q Shop’s 41 points.

Go There:

Bar-B-Q Shop

1782 Madison Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 272-1277

Bar-B-Q Shop on Urbanspoon

Coleman’s Barbecue

5175 Millbranch Road
Memphis, TN 38116
(901) 332-9929

Coleman's Bar-B-Q Pit & Grill on Urbanspoon

Show Comments


  1. Karen says:

    Thank GOD! I have never understood why people always rave about the Bar-B-Que Shop. I have tried several times to understand why it is always one of the top 3 in reader’s polls, but has always been a let down.

    If someone can explain, please do……

  2. Gregg says:

    In my humble opinion, you should have ordered the shop sandwich chopped on texas toast and added some hot sauce. If you are judging each on their standard sandwich, that would be theirs. Never had their pulled. I’ve eaten just about every sandwich in Memphis and few come close to the Shop. Hate to hear that you didn’t like it.

  3. rodger says:

    If you eat at the BBQ shop and don’t get your sandwich on Texas toast you’ve done yourself and the BBQ shop a disservice. If you don’t understand why it is regularly ranked
    in readers polls then you don’t know anything about BBQ. BBQ shop has also won the top ribs awards at the Memphis in May BBQ competition 3 times. And lastly for those of you that don’t know, Corkys came from the BBQ shop (stole their recipe and their pitmaster). I keep bottles of their sauce in my fridge and I drink it right out of the bottle.

  4. E says:

    I don’t think I will ever quite have the capacity to understand the only pervasive Memphian religion–BBQ (I’m from out west, originally). The readers are fired up! For me, it’s the BBQ beef on texas toast with hot sauce that I go back to the BBQ Shop for. I like the restaurants you’ve picked for the brackets in these challenges. Lots of variety, names I haven’t been recommended (in my year here), and new corners to check out in the city! Coleman’s you’re next…

  5. Victoria says:

    Do the sandwiches from both places come with the sauce already on? Because that’s just wrong. What are they hiding?

  6. Susan says:

    I agree. Thank you for articulating my frustrations with the BBQ Shop!@Karen

  7. Paul Hogue says:

    You can't judge a BBQ place by the item that isn't their specialty.  I love Coleman's sandwiches, but for ribs I go to the Bar-B-Q Shop.

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