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.

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.

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.

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.

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.