Memphis Barbecue

I will be going on an extended road trip later this week and about halfway through, I will be passing through Memphis and hope to try some of the barbecue as I’ve never had any despite being born and raised in Tennessee. The thing is, I SUCK at directions and want to stick as close to the interstate so that I have as little chance of getting lost as possible. Can someone give some reccomendations on authentic places worth visiting that’re as close to I-40 as possible?

I don’t know how close any of these are to I-40, but when I went to Memphis, I had the best barbecue at Corky’s: baby back ribs, pulled pork shoulders, and wonderful sweet barbecue sauce. I know they have several locations around town, though. If you go, even if it’s a little out of your way, you’ll be in for a real treat.

This is a few miles from I-40, but it is worth it. The Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison has the best barbecue in Memphis, which makes it the best in the world. Granted, people around here have strong opinions about this stuff; discussions about the best barbecue in Memphis can occasionally lead to fistfights. But for my money, you can’t beat the Bar-B-Q Shop–it’s where I take out-of-town guests to let them try Memphis barbecue.

Of course, the Rendezvousis right downtown and certainly has the best ambience/atmosphere in town; it’s also the most famous. It’s not far from the interstate, but take a printed map; the entrance is rather inaccessible, hidden away in a small, dirty alley. The restaurant inside is enormous, but the entrance itself can be hard to find. Note that the Rendezvous is closed Sunday and Monday.

In my opinion, corky’s is touristy barbecue, it is ok but it has been toned down. They have fairly good ribs and not bad pulled pork sandwich. To get to them, you go I-40 to I 240 southbound, exit at Poplar west bound and it will be a mile or so west on the left hand side of the road.

The best place to get ribs is th Rendezvous in downtown Memphis and harder to find and are located at 52 s second st. “Take I-40 all the way around Memphis. Just before you get to the river, exit at Second Street/Third Street (Exit 1a). The ramp will merge you with Second Street. Go about nine blocks and turn left on Monroe Avenue. Turn right into Allright Central Parking, 153 Monroe at Third Street. Once you park, slip out the side gate into the alley alongside the parking garage. We’re just a few steps across the alley.”

I don’t really like the Rendezvous’ sandwiches which to me are the real barbecue. My favorite is “Three Little Pigs”, to get there you would get on I-240 southbound and exit on Mt. Moriah. You will be going north on Mt. Moriah, the second light is Quince, turn right on Quince Three little pigs is in a shopping center about 1/2 mile on the right. 5145 Quince Road.

I can’t think of anything right on I-40 but I-240 makes a big loop around the city, for the northern loop of I-240 it is the same as I-40 so no matter where you go in Memphis if you can get back to 240 you will be fine.

Is Charlie Vergos Rendevous still in business?
I’ve never been there but it is highly regarded in The Barbecue Bible in which Memphis barbecue is described as dry rub on pork.
There is also the North Carolina mustard, Kansas City sweet and the vinegar/pepper sauce of which the late “Shack” in Little Rock was famous.
Texas is smoky beef.
My point being that the “best” barbecue depends upon which style you like. There may be some Carolina and Kansas City style establishments in Memphis as well.

I’m not really looking for a “best” barbeque, just something good that’s indicative of the Memphis style that can be easily obtained.

It’d be odd to stop specifically to try BBQ and, having never had the homestyle, try Kansas City, Texas, or Carolina. Especially since, if I want to, I can try Texas beforehand and Carolina afterward. I’ll be travelling through the former and my hometown is pretty close to the North Carolina border.

Certainly that is true but since the OP asked about barbecue in Memphis, I assumed he wanted Memphis style barbecue. I live in Memphis, I was speaking of Memphis style barbecue when I gave my opinion of the best barbecue. I don’t know anything about how that book assigns different flavorings to different cities. Memphis barbecue is pork, we have dry pork ribs ala the Rendesvous and wet ribs which have a sweet spicy tomato based sauce. according to the website I referenced in my post the Rendezvous bastes the ribs in a vinegar based sauce. However that being said when “I” think of barbecue I think of a slow cooked, pulled pork shoulder barbecue sandwich served on a bun with sauce and slaw. I don’t like the Rendezvous’ sandwich because they put a spice in the slaw I don’t like in this concoction. I have eaten in most of the barbecue joints in Memphis and the Three Little Pigs is my current favorite. Barbecue is hotly debated by many in Memphis except for the Rendezvous being one of the best for dry rub ribs commercially available. Of course the best barbecue is not commercially available. My dad makes ribs so good that I just don’t eat them anywhere else. I have been to a country barbecue where some good ol’ boys roasted the pork in a pit that would make you swear you had died and gone to heaven, but you can’t get that in a restaurant.

As far as I know there aren’t any Carolina or Kansas city style barbecue restaurants in Memphis, not to say there isn’t any but I have never seen anyone advertise it.

That sounds pretty bad. Vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. :slight_smile:

There are several Gridley’s in town, and if I found them, you can, too. :slight_smile: I really, really liked their sauce.

I second, or third, or whatever Rendezvous for BBQ, then a quick trip to Platinum Plus. :smiley:

The Rendevous is without doubt the place to go. It is not the best barbecue in town (although it’s usually pretty great), but it is the best experience.

In my limited experience, the best food is at Central Barbecue, but I don’t really know how accessible it is. Of course, since you don’t want to venture too far off the Interstate, you could go to Interstate Barbecue, but frankly, their airport location is better than the actual restaurant.


It’s been a long time since I lived in Memphis, but I second all the kudos for the Rendezvous. I swear some of the waiters have been there since before time started.

I don’t know if it’s even still there, but I always thought the Public Eye had really good BBQ. Of course it’s in midtown, so it’s not really easily accessible from the interstate. (on a side note, does anyone know if it’s still there?)

I prefer Interstate Barbecue myself, which I’m lucky enough to get an offshoot at up here in Nashville at Neely’s. Same family.

It’s downtown as well. Interstate.


Sadly, The Public Eye was leveled by a fire a few years back, and I don’t think the ever rebuilt. :frowning:

I don’t get there nearly often enough anymore, but I wouldn’t dream of going to Memphis and not eating at Leonard’s and at Tops. Leonard’s isn’t quite the same since it changed hands, but it’s still the oldest barbecue business in town, and is still pretty close to what I would consider real Memphis barbecue. Tops is a close second. When I was growing up there, Loeb’s was THE barbecue, and Coleman’s was very popular also. But it was a different era, and there were barbecue places on every corner. Loeb’s is gone, and I think Coleman’s has maybe one store left.
I’ll agree with adhemar , though. I believe the best is to be found at a pig-pullin’, and not in any restaurant.

Correct: it was never rebuilt. I don’t think there’s anything at all on the site now, though I confess I can’t remember exactly where it was; on Cooper, I think, at Overton Square?

Never had the good fortune to visit Rendevous (too crowded whenever I’ve tried) but in my opinion, King’s Palace on Beale Street has the best ribs known to man.

I heartily second the Bar-B-Q Shoppe recommendation. It’s not very hard to find from I-40 (probably a 10-minute detour at the most) and the food is well worth it.

There is better BBQ than the Rendezvous in Memphis (the aforementioned Interstate and Neely’s), but if it comes down to Corky’s or Rendezvous, the latter is much, much better. And if you can find downtown Memphis and the Peabody, you can find the Rendezvous.

My expereience with Interstate/Neeley’s is limited, but IMO the Rendevous is much better.


**Jacob ** and Jackelope, thanks for the sad news. Man, that was a good place. I’m pretty sure it was on Cooper, but my memory is getting worse and worse (and it’s been about 8 years since I lived in Memphis).