Memphis claims to be the barbecue capital of the world, and with more than 100 barbecue restaurants and the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, it's hard to argue the point. The standard barbecue here comes in two basic types -- hand-pulled pork shoulder (pulled off the bone rather than cut off) and pork ribs. The latter can be served wet or dry (that is, with or without sauce). The best pulled pork shoulder in town is at Corky's Ribs & BBQ, and the best ribs are served at the Rendezvous.
However, it isn't just pork shoulder and ribs that get barbecued here in Memphis. You can get barbecued spaghetti, barbecued pizza, and even barbecued bologna! Everyone in town seems to have his or her own favorite barbecue joint. My personal preference is Blues City Café, 138 Beale St. (tel. 901/526-3637), far and away the best and most authentic restaurant on Beale Street. Thick steaks, shrimp and grits, and delicious tamales are also on the menu, along with their signature barbecued ribs.
If you're unsure about all the fuss, or if you're new to 'que, graze the chaffing dishes at Leonard's Pit Barbecue, downtown at 103 N. Main St. (tel. 901/528-0882). At their daily buffet, you can have an absolute pork pig-out while sampling soul foods including pulled pork shoulder, fried catfish, barbecued beans, hush puppies, and coleslaw. They have an East Memphis location too, at 5465 Fox Plaza Dr. (tel. 901/360-1963).
Looks can be deceiving, as in this case of the foreboding hole-in-the-wall known as Cozy Corner, 745 N. Parkway (tel. 901/527-9158). Step inside, and make yourself at home. The friendly little barbecue spot is a Midtown landmark. Even before the Food Network brought fame and fortune to its "down-home," lovey-dovey husband-and-wife owners, Neely's B-B-Q, 670 Jefferson Ave. in downtown (tel. 901/521-9798), and at 5700 Mt. Moriah Rd. in East Memphis (tel. 901/795-4177), was a local favorite. They do it all, including barbecued spaghetti and barbecued bologna. Down near Graceland, there is an abundance of time-worn, no-frills barbecue joints and bona fide dives. Try Payne's, 1393 Elvis Presley Blvd. (tel. 901/942-7433), Interstate Bar-B-Que, and A&R Bar-B-Q, 1802 Elvis Presley Blvd. (tel. 901/774-7444), all of which draw universal raves for barbecue authenticity.
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