Diamonds in the Pork: 4 Memphis Barbeque Spots You Need To Try
Ed. Note: I’m happy to share this post from Blake Marcum, our resident beer and BBQ expert. Blake is a Memphis in May Barbecue Contest Grand Champion and he has tried a lot of bbq, so he knows his stuff.
If we’re honest, Memphis locals are pretty used to hearing about the same local posts over and over. You know the ones. Therefore, Blake had the idea to explore some of the BBQ restaurants that get no love, or are newer, or are just not in the conversation as much. Expect a Part 2 in the future, and in the meantime, vote for Blake’s next post topic here.
Instead of trying to convince you which barbeque restaurant is the best (we’re smarter than to attempt that futile mission), I’ve gone on a quest to find the best lesser-known (or at least, less celebrated) Memphis BBQ. At each restaurant, my friends and I tried nearly Every. Single. Meat. Menu. Item.
Whew. Now it’s your turn.
Alex’s Tavern (1445 Jackson Avenue)
We all know (or at least should know) all of the joy that Alex’s Tavern brings to Memphians on a nightly basis, but many don’t know that they also that they also serve up delicious ribs and wings.
They are smoked on the Tucker smoker that Rocky has out back and cooked to BBQ perfection. I ordered them dry with sauce on the side which is definitely the way to go here. Rocky served them up on a double-strengthened plate, rib meat piled on for maximum enjoyment.
I couldn’t actually see a smoke ring because of the pink hue light that was illuminating my plate and PBR, but my taste buds were fully aware of the great flavor. The tenderness was a perfect bite-through tender. The highlight of the ribs is the greek seasoning that Rocky puts on the famous Greek burger. Now, I mentioned they serve wings, and I’ve had them before and they are fantastic.
I didn’t order them this time, but I did watch the gentleman next to us have a religious experience while eating them. You can order the ribs and wings even late at night, until they run out.
Best item on the menu: Ribs
2. One & Only BBQ (3 locations: Kirby Pkwy, Perkins Extd., Timber Creek Dr.)
When the server at One & Only BBQ asked if we wanted to start with any appetizers, I went straight for the good stuff and ordered the four-meat platter: ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, and brisket.
Their ribs were tender, smoky, and you can order them half dry and half wet, which I love. Their brisket was disappointing to me, as it was thinly sliced (like deli meat) and served up in a way that removed any chance of me having a classic BBQ brisket experience that I was hoping for, but my friend loved it.
Best item on the menu: Smoked Chicken
The chicken was tender, flavorful and needed no sauce to enhance it. I ordered the pulled smoked chicken, but you can get it served in quarters also if you like pulling it off the bones. The chicken with a side of their amazing twice-baked potato salad is a can’t-miss experience.
(Ed. Note: I, too, like One & Only BBQ quite a bit and especially that they have two options for potato salad. The twice-baked with sour cream that Blake mentioned and another more mustard-y one.)
3. Payne’s Bar-B-Que (1762 Lamar Ave)
Looking into the smoky kitchen at Payne’s and seeing the very reasonable prices on the menu board, I quickly realized why it was so popular. We ordered the ribs, smoked sausage, bologna, pulled pork, and tamales.
The ribs were meaty and had a distinctive crunch to the outside bark, unlike any I’ve had before. They were also over sauced, as was almost everything we ordered. Payne’s has an incredible BBQ sauce and a wonderful sweet slaw, but they apply it too heavily and don’t let their meat speak for itself. Next time I go, I’m asking for sauce and slaw on the side.
Best item on the menu: Smoked Sausage
For $3.50, this has to be the best thing in the universe. The smoked sausage has a lot of flavor to it, and the sauce and slaw just drove home deliciousness into my stomach.
4. A&R Bar-B-Que (3721 Hickory Hill Rd.; 1802 Elvis Presley Blvd.)
My friends and I walked into A&R, staff greeted us warmly. After looking at the menu, we proceeded to order…everything. We got ribs, hot link, smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, and bologna.
The tender ribs had a great smoky flavor from A&R’s onsite charcoal smokehouse. The pulled pork was also very flavorful, whereas the brisket’s flavor was overwhelmed by the sauce. I’ll be ordering the hot link every time due to its great flavor with a kick.
Best item on the menu: BBQ Bologna
Most BBQ restaurants heat up a bologna chub, slice it up, and serve it with a lot of sauce on it. A&R fully smokes, slices and then fries the bologna, which brings out all these wonderful flavors and is complemented by the sauce, while being able to be served by itself and still steal the show.
About the Author
Blake Marcum was born and raised in the 901 and now lives in Midtown, helping people vicariously live out their dreams on social media, if those dreams involve beer and barbecue. He’s a contributor to I Love Memphis,Memphis Travel, and MemphisCraftBeer.com. A Grand Champion of BBQ Fest (2013) and BBQ judge, he really knows BBQ. Pairing that with his love of craft beer, he’s a great representative of the fun side of the Bluff City. Blake loves the investment going into Memphis and believes the best is yet to come. Follow him on Twitter at@blakeandbrew.