The Memphis Barbecue Tour

Last summer, we hit the road to Memphis to see a friend get married, visit the King, and eat some ‘cue…  Lots o’ barbecue.  We did reviews of all our stops when we returned to NOLA, but haven’t had a chance to get them up.  Since our trip, the Cozy Corner suffered a tragic fire, but thanks to the support of the local community, it looks like they are about to reopen this Spring!  The other tradegy of our trip was Central BBQ, which was hopefully an isolated experience, but alas, our only experience.  If we have time on another swing through Memphis, we might give them another shot.

Other than that, please enjoy all the hard work we suffered through to research these joints…

 

A&R BBQ

 

We rolled into this ‘cue joint after visit with the King at his house down the road.  Honestly, we debated not reviewing this little bit of awesome, as we didn’t want this hidden gem to be found.

The place has all the makings of a classic joint – old and little bit worn out.  It also has that former service station feel that a lot of awesome barbecue places seem to have.  Someday, I’ll probably try to figure that one out.  The inside is clean, well worn, and bright.

The ‘hood probably isn’t the greatest, so avoid going there to eat in the middle of the night.  That and they’ll probably be closed anyway.  During the day, all was good in the ‘hood.

We wandered in at the start of lunch and ordered something small – and sadly it was not the ribs.  We got a hot chopped sandwich with coleslaw and a side of potato salad.  The potato salad was another rookie mistake – the beans are the way to go.  We also ordered two fountain drinks.  The total was under ten bucks.

Anyway, let’s get on with it!

THE MEAT!

Chopped Pork Sandwich – This was pretty clutch.  An excellent texture, not mushy, and it had the nice crunchy pieces of bark.  This with the lightly toasted bun was delicious.  The slaw appeared homemade, but was not mustard-based like a lot of them around town.  It worked great with the sandwich.  Anyway, back to the meat – it was smokey and ‘cued perfectly.  No complaints.  Since we ordered “hot” the sauce had a nice kick, but not enough to singe your tastebuds.

THE SIDE!

The potato salad was standard issue of the mayo/mustard variety.  We are guessing it was not homemade.  It did the job, and made us regret not ordering the beans.

THE VERDICT!

We leave with only regrets and a promise to return – the rest of the menu will be dominated soon!  What’s a six hour drive for good ‘cue?  The chop was awesome, the service was great, and the atmosphere was classic ‘cue joint.  The location is fine, and everyone was friendly.  Once again, we almost hate to preach about this joint – but the gospel of the ‘cue must be spread far and wide!

This place is ringing is just shy of the promised land, and will probably be there after our next visit – a very respectable FOUR STARS!

 

PAYNES BBQ

After visiting many, many ‘cue joints over the years, a pattern is beginning to emerge – if the joint is located in a former service station, it is probably going to be pretty awesome.  Payne’s Bar-B-Que on Lamar is another example of this.

This place is far from fancy – in fact my fellow ‘cue traveler was downright scared of bathroom.  If a knock is to be had at this joint, they need to do a little work on the restrooms.  As stated earlier, this place was a service station in a previous life.  It is spartan, and the main dining area is clean with a touch of worn.  Ms. Payne was working the counter when we arrived, along with a few other family members.  The counter area is small, containing a fryer, the pit door, a fridge, and a range.  Judging from some of the pictures, the flame shooting out of the back right burner is intentional – maybe even a nice eternal flame tribute.  I don’t have a clue, but it still stood out.

We ordered half a slab of hot ribs, beans, and coleslaw.  Here’s the rundown:

THE MEAT!

The ribs were excellent, and very saucy.  It appeared to be a St. Louis Cut as opposed to a whole slab.  The silver skin was still on the back, which is pretty much the rule with just about any ‘cue joint.  That said, it didn’t hinder the hickory smoke penetration into the meat, and it had a nice snap.  The ribs were moist and had excellent pull.  Due to the sauce, we couldn’t discern any noticeable dry rub on the meat.  Overall, a straight-up great rib.

THE SIDES!

The Beans – They were excellent!  They contained a nice amount of porky delicious, and were out favorite side (okay, so we only had two).  One word of warning – ours were served hot.  Like flashpoint of the room hot.  Took those suckers a while to cool down.  This was a problem because they were so good.  We may have left with burnt mouths.

The Slaw – It was accurately described in other reviews as a “neon” color.  It appears to be a creation native to Memphis – a Mustard Slaw.  The stuff at this ‘cue joint was a finely chopped slaw as opposed to shredded.  Either way, it was very tasty, and one of our favorite examples of this kind of coleslaw.  At some point, we’ll probably experiment with this recipe.  Good stuff.

THE VERDICT!

Good, cheap eats.  Strike that – Awesome, cheap eats.  Talking to some of the other patrons, the Chop Sandwich is awesome – and available in Huge as well.  While we did not have one, it looked and smelled amazing.  The bologna also looked good – while me fellow ‘cue explorer is not a bologna fan; this half could easily take one down.  Both of these are on the list to get next time.

Anyway, a bit off the subject…

The place is awesome, and in a former service station.  It is also cheap.  The only knocks being we didn’t try the entire menu and the restroom could use a good amount of work.  This being the case, and the overall greatness of this family ‘cue joint, we’re dealing out (with a hit for the facilities) FOUR STARS.

 

CENTRAL BBQ

 

While we appreciate the role of this joint in spreading the gospel of barbecue to the masses, it was not a pleasant experience.

Central Barbecue appears to be in an up-and-coming ‘hood of Memphis, with a pretty decent sized parking lot.  The building itself is relatively small, with half being the kitchen/service area and the other half an air conditioned dining room with a drink and sauce station.  Outside they have a large, covered patio, and an adjacent open dining area.  They appear to be building something around the pit – not sure if it is being enclosed, or if they are expanding the kitchen.  The space was pretty clean, and the staff was on top of the very busy dining room.

When we arrived, they had a line out the door, so it took about twenty minutes or so to order.  We ordered a quarter rack of ribs (dry) and a pulled pork sandwich (hot) with coleslaw.  The prices were reasonable, if a little on the high side.  We also ordered two fountain drinks.

Probably about time to get to the actual review…

THE MEAT!

Dry Ribs – Sadly, the ribs were way past their prime.  They were dry in about every way, with the meat overcooked and almost a jerky-like consistency.  The second issue with the ribs was a noticeable flavor from incomplete combustion of wood – very much like a creosote taste.  Probably one of the worst racks we’ve had in a long time.  On the flip side, they did have a nice smoke ring.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Coleslaw – First, the sandwich arrived sans coleslaw.  We went up to the counter and they gave us a generous side of slaw.  Second, it is actually a chop sandwich as opposed to pulled – not sure that technicality matters, but we’re throwing it out there.  The pulled pork was room temperature, and a bit mushy – a little more pronounced since it was cold.  The coleslaw had a very off flavor, which filled us with instant regret after eating some.

THE VERDICT!

This was one of the very, very few experiences where we left food on the plate at a ‘cue joint.  This was hopefully an experience that can be filed under “when it rains, it pours”, and hopefully was the definite exception to how this place is normally.  Hopefully we won’t use hopefully as much in the next sentence (hopefully).

While we were eating the dining room they hit one of my all-time pet peeves.  They refilled the ice in the soda dispenser, and set the lid on the ground for a couple minutes while they did.  The ice lid and the off tastes replayed constantly the next day while enduring some extreme system distress.

In summary, with all the issues compounded one on top of another, this ‘cue joint is headed into dark territory – ONE STAR.

COZY CORNER BBQ

   

This ‘cue joint represented from the moment you walk in the door.  To the left of door when you enter is an old photograph of a woman who looks exactly like the young lady behind the counter.  And two of the other women running around the dining room, counter, and kitchen look like progressively older versions of that young lady.  Four generations are represented, with three still working at the Cozy Corner.

The building is nothing to write home about, and falls into the category of well worn.  The exterior wouldn’t complain about a coat of paint, but is not falling down.  The inside is clean and high mileage.  The carpet has seen better days, and the wood panel walls are a bit dated.  Then again, dated and good ‘cue seem to go hand in hand.  We decided to go for a quarter slab of ribs and a couple wings, sauced hot.  More on this in a moment.  We also order a side of beans and coleslaw.

Time for exciting stuff and a few words of warning…

THE MEATS!

The Ribs – The ribs were tender and juicy, and definitely sauced.  They were cooked about perfect, with an excellent pull.  As far as the dry rub and smoke flavor, it was hard to tell.  This was because we ordered them hot, with mocking disregard of the rather substantial warning signs to the contrary.  We’ll go ahead and chalk that up to lessons learned.  Half of the ‘Cue Adventure Squad could (barely) handle the heat, the other half dove straight into the slaw.  Unless you like really, really hot stuff, stay away from ordering hot.  No shame in no pain, just order the mild.  The heat was in the realm of habanero.  That diatribe now complete, you should have a better understanding of the poor review of smokey flavor and dry rub.  Still pretty awesome stuff.

The Wings – They were excellent.  As a self-proclaimed Wing Authority, these were smoked to perfection.  The skin was bite-through, with the meat tender and juicy.  As stated above, they were also up there on the spicy scale.  They definitely inspired us to throw some wings on the pit in the next few weeks.

THE SIDES!

The Slaw – This was a pretty standard shredded slaw.  It was definitely on the very creamy side.  Most of it was used and abused for its fat content to help extinguish the fire in our mouths.  That being said, it seemed pretty awesome, but it would be safe to say we were biased due to the comfort provided.  We’ll need a return trip to give a complete review.

The Beans – We were not a huge fan of the beans.  This might be due to our taste buds being waylaid by the hot ‘cue sauce.  They had a taste to them we just didn’t enjoy (clove or some odd spice).  They just were not on the same level as the ‘cue or slaw.

THE VERDICT!

The intersection of insanely hot and barbecue is a very difficult place to find, let alone master as they have at the Cozy Corner.  The beans were the lowest point, and they were not half bad.  This is one place where you should heed the heat warming signs at the counter.  The meat was great, the sauce was excellent (and burny!), and the sides were run of the mill.  Taking the average, this ‘cue joint is a solid FOUR STARS.

How to go Low n’ Slow with Mr. Gobbles.

It is now less than a month from the Official Day of Eating Too Much Turkey (ODETMT for short), so it was decided that a Turkey shall be offered to the gods of the ‘cue. That and turkeys are on sale for $0.47/LB ’round these parts. This sounded like a pretty good idea.

First, this came as a frozen ball o’ ice, ready to shatter a toe with twelve pounds o’ solid at the soonest opportunity. This was overcome with a giant stockpot, a bunch of piping hot water, and a tasty brine of half sea salt and half molasses. I have been a big fan of brines in the past, although I try to keep them focused on poultry and occasionally a pork shoulder. I am getting downright cocky with briskets, and am preparing to take one down without foil, and just salt and pepper – but that’s a story for another day…

Back to the bird… The next morning, the bird (henceforth to be known as Mr. Gobbles) was injected with half butter and half apple cider vinegar, with a little bit of the ol’ Pork Rub dumped in there. All the leftover injection was poured in the “cavity” of the bird, because why not? Next, the plumped up Mr. Gobbles was rubbed down with the magic Pork Rub V2.01, which has a sweet heat, with a little twang on the end.

By this time, the pit was fired up with care, with hopes that some form of meat would soon be there – and, as luck would have it, Mr. Gobbles was ready! The bird was placed in a deep pan, and loosely draped in foil. He went on the pit for a nice nap at 235 F, with a tasty apple wood smoke.

All was going to plan – until it was time to remove the foil and pan after six hours. Mr. Gobbles was starting to fall apart at this point, but the skin need about an hour to crisp up. The pit was restoked, and the bird set back on… Then Shiznit went South.

During this process, the door opened (or I didn’t close it – prefer the door magically opening option), which allowed a boatload of oxygen (I believe that is the scientific unit of air measure) into the pit. The temperature then decided to spike to around 600+F. Fortunately, I caught this after about fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, the skin was definitely crisp. And black. And scorched.

While the skin was a loss, the meat was still very tender, with great flavor from the brine, injection, and rub. For the most part, Mr. Gobbles was a relative success (minus the part of the attempted incineration). Since his relatives are dirt cheap, another attempt at bird may happen soon, with a few nifty tweaks…

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After a short vacation from the Blogosphere, we’re bringin’ the Barbecue back to the Interwebs! The picture above is out first batch of Boudin, which was a fun (albeit pain in the keyster) experience to make. For the uninitiated, Boudin is a pork sausage made with Pork Shoulder, Pork Liver, Rice, and a magic blend o’ Spices.

Having never made sausage before, the first step was to get all the stuff together to hit the ground running. Kind of. I may have tripped a couple times. First – since it is sausage – casing was required. Where does someone find and procure slightly used pig intestine these days? Good question. I figured that people who enjoy killing stuff would probably also enjoy stuffing those dead things into tubes. To this end, my guess of Academy Sports and Outdoors was the first, and fortunately last stop. The casings were procured!

The next hurdle was finding liver. I can honestly say that I have never looked for pork liver. I knew what it looked, and I knew that the meat packer I worked for would box them up and sell them to somebody. To my chagrin, this somebody wasn’t a meat market or standard grocery or even a local supermarket. They only carry calf and beef liver. Maybe chicken livers if you wander into the hood (yes, I wandered into the hood in my pursuit). After canvasing the Interwebs, Friends, and Friends on the Interwebs, I found the House of Obscure Meats and Meat Parts – the glorious Hong Kong Market (which also happens to have the best produce in town). They pretty much sell everything here but the oink.

The adventure progressed to the kitchen. On that fateful day of August 26, 2012, the range was fired up, the scale was busted out, and the creation of twenty pounds of Boudin began. If you’re in the greater New Orleans area, you may remember this date as three days before Isaac. After starting the process, it was off to wrangle up plywood and a generator. After another ten hours went by, it was time again to keep playing with the Boudin. All was blended by the kitchen with care, and the sausage was stuffed in the casing in hopes that Isaac soon wouldn’t be there. Nothing quite says friend like helping another man stuff his sausage.

For a former Yankee, the Boudin turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (and I do). A few of the neighborhood coonasses even gave me props – sup with dat?!?! Twenty pounds of Boudin was made that day, and as of today, almost all has been consumed.

The next meat experiment? Bacon. The harnessing of ancient and magically tools and knowledge needed to change a humble Pork Belly into Deliciousness…

BBQ in the Blogosphere!

Here we go – kinda… Figured it was time to start trying to remember how to write. It’s been years and years since I’ve done anything more than Facebook posts and emails for work, so please bear with me…

The whole point of this blog is to ramble on about my super-awesome-delicious barbecue, my modesty, attempts at barbecue competitions, reviews, and other rambling that may or may be associated with anything else. Also, I’ll be looking for feedback from the world at large, especially when it comes to the ‘que.

Other than that, please tune in for further posts!

Crazy Jeff, Pitmaster