“There’s the rub:” a guide to Memphis BBQ


Sloan Huebner

A barbecue sandwich, mac and cheese, home-cooked chips, and baked beans at Central. Central was the most popular choice of White Station students, getting 45. 2 percent of the vote out of 215 students.

Every region has its own claim to fame. For Memphis, Tenn., delicious pulled pork and quality stacks of ribs are not hard to find. Each barbecue establishment has their own specialty, but this month I asked White Station students the heavily debated question: Which local barbecue restaurant takes the crown?

According to a survey taken by (215) students, Central BBQ was the favorite, taking 45.2 percent of the vote out of eight other restaurants.

“Some of the other restaurants have one thing that they make really well, but I think nearly everything is good at Central. It just seems much more well rounded than the others,” Gordon Brode (10) said.

At Central BBQ, what stands out is their masterfully smoked pork, topped by a tomato-based sauce with an afterthought of heat.

It was not hard to find other quality BBQ joints within the confines of East Memphis, so I paid a stop to Corky’s BBQ. Where Central excels in their smoky flavor, Corky’s matches it with the tenderness and melt-in-your-mouth quality of the pork. On top of it all is the famous Corky’s BBQ Sauce that is sweet and tangy, less like the tomato-based sauce at Central. While my usual order is a pulled-pork sandwich, Corky’s also specializes in a Memphis classic.

“Corky’s wet ribs are done right. I’ve had some with a wonderful wood-smoked flavor at Corky’s,” Cullen Jones (10) said.

In the heart of Downtown Memphis stands Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, famous for their dry-rub spices since 1948. Their signature is not the quality of the meat or the originality of the sauce but the spices and seasoning that are infused into the meat during the smoking process. Also mentionable is their eclectic atmosphere and loyal, courteous wait staff.

“[I like] the Rendezvous because the seasoning on their barbecue is better than anywhere else, and I like the ambience of the restaurant,” Annie Wilford (9) said.

Though these three restaurants are often the most commonly known, other BBQ joints contribute their own signature specialties to the variety.

“I always look forward to going to One and Only BBQ and getting their BBQ Quesadilla,” Breyanne Billy (12) said. “The way they season and smoke their pulled pork makes your mouth water while you’re waiting for your food.”

It is truly unfair to judge that any one barbeque restaurant is better than the others because they all contribute something unique and valuable to the Memphis BBQ culture.