Memphis Barbecue

The Heart of Barbecue
Gary D. Ford / Photography by Charles Walton IV

It beats in this city of 1.1 million, where more than 100 restaurants specialize in pork and ribs traditionally slow cooked over coals.

Bill Scudder, a cabinet builder and amateur cook who competes in the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, doesn't hesitate when asked where good barbecue is prepared elsewhere in Tennessee. "Nowhere," he states. "Our worst is better than the best anywhere else."

Bill dines where the ribs are wet (Corky's BBQ) or dry (Rendezvous). Best in the city, he believes, is Interstate Bar-B-Que, owned by the legendary Jim Neely, whose nephews now run Neely's Bar-B-Que.

Jay Papasan, a Memphian living in Austin, yearns for Cozy Corner BBQ, which he calls "the most authentic place you may not have heard of." Our Richard Banks, Editorial Director of Custom Publishing, grew up near The Bar-B-Q Shop, which serves the specialty of barbecue spaghetti (noodles in sauce and a little pork). He praises the restaurant's consistency.

"That's my one-word mantra when it comes to barbecue," Richard says. "Just about anybody can cook good barbecue on a given day, but who can do it consistently day after day? The Bar-B-Q Shop can."

Love barbecue? You'll find dozens of delicious recipes in our Bar-B-Que special issue, on newsstands now!