My Memphis BBQ Tour

This week, I headed back south on a little road trip to Memphis. We toured Graceland and the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, visited a few music clubs, but mostly, we ate barbecue.

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Our first stop was 17th Street BBQ in Marion, Illinois. It’s one of several locations owned by champion barbecue pitmaster Mike Mills. We tried their famous ribs, the pimento cheese & hot links plate and a trio of sliders (chicken, pork and brisket). I’ve never been to a barbecue competition, but I imagine these are the kind of ribs that would win - they were perfectly smoked. The space feels a bit like a big chain restaurant, but the food is legit. Definitely worth the stop.

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Once we arrived in Memphis, we headed to Central BBQ. Two Memphis barbecue specialties are ribs and pork shoulder sandwiches (pulled or chopped) served “Memphis-style” with mild sauce and coleslaw. Pulled pork sandwiches are my favorite barbecue item, so I ordered one at every stop. This one was mighty good and paired nicely with a pint of Schlafly APA.

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After reading Serious Eats’ ode to the chopped pork sandwich at Payne’s BBQ, I had to have one. They were closed when we first arrived, so we went back the second day. It did not disappoint. This is straight up meat candy on a bun, and the tangy, mustardy slaw is fantastic.

I have to agree - this sandwich is perfection. The baked beans, too, are probably the best I’ve ever had.

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Our last stop was Germantown Commissary, located just outside of Memphis. We had a late breakfast of pulled pork and ribs, you know, just to squeeze in one more barbecued bite before we headed home. Here the meat is piled high with a rich barbecue sauce and slightly creamy coleslaw. By the time I finished this (very tasty) sandwich, I had hit my barbecue wall. But I’d definitely do it all over again.