Wild Card Bracket Round 1: Barbecue Spaghetti vs. Tops Burger

Posted by Holly Whitfield | September 24th 2010 5919 0

It’s time for another wild card round of the Barbecue Brackets, where the fight is between two non-traditional items from local barbecue joints. Let’s meet today’s contestants:

In this corner, the much-lauded burger from Tops Barbecue:

Tops Burger

And the challenger, a mammoth plate of barbecue spaghetti from the Bar-B-Q Shop:

Barbecue Spaghetti from Bar-B-Q Shop

Barbecue Spaghetti from Bar-B-Q Shop

The Food:

The burgers at Tops are thin quarter-pound patties topped with shredded lettuce, mustard, mayo, pickles, onion and tomatoes. Visually, it’s not terribly impressive. Sadly, the same can be said about its taste. While the burger is decent, there’s nothing crazy special about it. The toppings overwhelmed the burger and it was all a little greasy. (6 points)

Greasy seems to be the best adjective for this match up. The noodles in the barbecue spaghetti at Bar-B-Q shop were also a little slippery. That said, barbecue spaghetti is an intense food. The full order of noodles topped with chopped pork and barbecue sauce comes on a plate that’s at least 12 inches long. Sane people will need a friend (or five) to finish it.

The taste is smoky and rich, meaning that I wanted to keep eating long after I had technically had enough. It also earns a few points for uniqueness – whoever though to put barbecue on top of spaghetti deserves some kind of Achievement in Food Inventiveness award.  (Sidenote: this one is a bit of a gut bomb. You may want to clear your schedule before you attempt it because it’s going to make you want to sleep.) (7 points)


At Tops, orders are placed at the counter with a staff of hairnetted ladies. When it’s done, they yell for you to come get it. It was spartan, but friendly enough, and fairly quick. (7 points)

Bar-B-Q Shop was packed when I was there during lunch a few days ago. The service was insanely friendly, if a little absent minded. (7 points)


There’s nothing fancy about Tops. There are several locations all over Memphis, and all of them have the same utilitarian vibe. They’re making food, you’re there to eat it, and very little else seems to be required of either party. There’s no music or chatter really, just hungry people at wooden booths. (4.5 points)

Bar-B-Q Shop oozes atmosphere. It’s dark and crowded and bustling. During peak mealtimes, it’s packed with locals and tourists alike. Hint for tourists: if you want to do Bar-B-Q shop like a local, come in through the back door. (8 points)


My burger, crinkle-cut fries and drink from Tops came out to $5.84. Not bad, not bad. (8 points)

The full order of barbecue spaghetti at Bar-B-Q shop and a drink totaled at about $11. I should have stuck with the smaller side portion of the spaghetti, as it probably would have been enough food. (7 points)

The Winner:

Bar-B-Q Shop, with 29 points. Tops came in second with 25.5 points. The barbecue spaghetti will face Central’s barbecue nachos in the second round.

Go There:

Tops Barbecue

3353 Summer Ave
Memphis, TN 38122
(901) 452-5616

Tops Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon




Bar-B-Q Shop

1782 Madison Avenue

Memphis, TN 38104

(901) 272-1277

Bar-B-Q Shop on Urbanspoon

Show Comments


  1. Amy says:

    once when i was young my dad told me about bbq spaghetti so i asked him how they kept it from falling through the grill. ah, sweet memories.

  2. shaneofmemphis says:

    Given the choice, my last meal would be the BBQ spaghetti from the BBQ Shop. No doubt.

  3. Ron says:

    I’d like to see you have a round between Central BBQ Nachos vs. Chuck’s BBQ Nachos. The problem with Chuck’s is, the only time I can get them, is at Roller Derby events, at the Pipkin Building, where Chuck has a concession stand.

  4. Brett says:

    I’ve been a vegetarian for a bit over five years now, and one of the only things I still miss is a Tops Double Cheese Burger. Drooooooool…

  5. Sven says:

    In reading this series, I’ve noticed that you weight all elements equally. What bothers me about even the best BBQ places is that they generally have crummy side items…beans that seem to come out of a can, fries that seem to come out of a Sysco freezer bag, etc. I would have rated Commissary much higher because they offer more and better sides than many of the other BBQ places, while the only thing worth having at Topps is the actual BBQ sandwhich…the rest of the menu seems generic and cheap.

  6. MemphisClaire says:

    Not only do I love the food at the Bar-B-Q Shop, but I love the people who own it and work there. This Boston girl is not accustomed to such friendliness!

  7. susan williams says:

    TOPS is the BEST!!! my Dad designed the new store on Poplar before he passed in November…so Im a loyal customer:) wish the shipped like Corkys!

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