Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boss Hogg Barbecue

(Phone problems prevent me from uploading a picture at the moment, so imagine a sandwich here.)

How does one make an entry about a boring lunch interesting to read?

I thought today would be a good day to add some more information to the map, and I remembered that there was a barbecue place in Southaven that I hadn't tried yet. Boss Hogg is located in a strip mall on the north side of Goodman Road. with signs on the windows advertising that they'd been voted #1 Barbecue (according to their website, they've been voted the "Best Barbecue in Southaven" three years running).

This has, in my experience, always been a bad sign to see in a window.

The restaurant was fairly crowded--I ordered at the register, but it looked as if table service was available, based on folks paying afterward. The sandwich was unremarkable--the pork had no noticeable smokiness (I would have thought it roasted had I not noticed a tiny bit of pink, charred meat that fell onto my plate), the slaw added nothing in terms of flavor or texture. And the sandwich could have benefited from some additional texture--while the meat was fall-apart tender, it also had the mushiness that comes from being "white meat," or "inside meat," or whatever is ordinary. Fries were similarly plain. It looked as if the beans had been gussied up somewhat, but I would be hard-pressed to distinguish them from the beans at, say, Tops in a blind tasting.

All in all, a singularly plain experience, certainly not worth a special trip and probably worth a pass unless you're starving for barbecue immediately. Mind you, it's not bad at all, but there are three more interesting barbecue restaurants in Southaven alone much less all of the greater Memphis area.

1092 Goodman Rd E
Southaven, MS 38671
(662) 349-6573

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bynum's Barbecue: OPEN! Just not always.

I had an errand to run in Midtown at lunch today, and driving up Airways I noticed that, unlike the past ten times I'd driven past, the "OPEN" light was on in the window of Bynum's Barbecue. I took that as a sign from the Barbecue Gods that it was time for a visit on the way back to work.

You park in a fenced-in, potholed lot in the back of the restaurant and enter through a windowless door, which leads to another locked door. The signs were looking good already. The proprietor (Anthony Terrell this afternoon, not Claude Bynum) let me in, and explained that they'd had some staffing problems and were closed on Mondays (a normal restaurant closing day) and Tuesdays, when he catered lunches for the Kellogg's cereal plant just down the road--so it had just been bad luck that I hadn't seen a light on in the place for the past several months. I ordered a small hot sandwich with a side of potato salad and lemonade, so I'm writing this on a starch and sugar high.

Terrell and I made some small talk about their barbecued and deep-fried turkeys that had been featured in the Commercial Appeal last Thanksgiving as he assembled the sandwich--I noted the distinct sound of a microwave--I'm not sure precisely whether a bun was being warmed from being stored in the cooler, or if the barbecue gets reheated in it. It's cooked in a pit on the back wall, however, and was larger than what I expected to find in a "small" sandwich.

The meat has just a little little smokiness, but is fairly tender, and has the distinct flavor (in the sections from the outer part of the shoulder) of having been exposed to a little more direct heat than you normally find around town. The sauce is thin, vinegary, and not exceptionally hot--I'm not certain if the mild sauce might have been sweeter and less vinegar-based. Cole slaw and potato salad were both made there; the slaw didn't contribute much in terms of flavor, but the potato salad was excellent. All in all, a very good sandwich, but I expect that the ribs and other items that can hold up to more direct heat are probably finer examples of Bynum's art--that little bit of crust ("bark" in barbecue parlance, although if I wanted to eat bark I would have been born a beaver) and the thin sauce would are a delicious combination in my head.

Speaking of art, there's a website called Bad Paintings of Barack Obama, where various homegrown artwork dedicated to our 44th President can be found--if you'd like to see an actual real-life bad painting of Barack Obama, there's one on the wall at Bynum's (also on my Flickr page). I should note here that "bad" is a subjective term--it's actually a quite good folk-art representation of the Commander-in-Chief.

Bynum's Barbecue
1404 Airways Blvd
Memphis, TN 38114
(901) 323-8227‎

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The psycology and subjectivity of barbecue.

There's the traditional "Here Comes Barbecue Contest Weekend" debate going on over at The Commercial Appeal's Whining & Dining blog--but there's a particular note about Memphis being represented by Leonard's in a list of the best barbecue in the nation by one Paul Kirk, the self-appointed "KC Baron of Barbecue." I thought I'd take a moment to make some notes and help you understand where my tastes run, so you can compare and contrast your own.

Barbecue is a quintessential comfort food--it's borne out of poverty, generally using the cheapest cuts of the most available animal and cooking it in a method that would make otherwise inedible (too much gristle, too many bones) parts of the pig or cow or sheep succulent and delicious. As such, your tastes will run to where you were raised, and a sample of barbecue that tastes like childhood will trigger an emotional response (several readers will be having Rattatouille flashbacks at this point. That film actually did an admirable job of conveying precisely the visceral reaction to comfort food, as prepared by vermin). If you were raised in Texas or Kansas City (as I presume Paul Kirk was), you are hard-wired to love brisket, which I generally like, but won't make a special trip to sample.

Good barbecue will transport you to your grandparents' backyard, sitting in a lawn chair with the rest of your family, watching a pit cooking on a warm summer night while people told stories, or to a family reunion having that certain variety of creamed corn that you can really only find at family reunions and church potlucks (although the corn pudding at The Cupboard comes close). I get the same reaction from a certain brand of sausage, or italian-style green beans cooked to death, or proper fried chicken. Done properly, it will trigger memories of when times were easier; because in theory the grown-ups took care of everything bad in life.

Naturally, this means that "Certified Barbecue Judges" and "Barbecue Judging Schools" are pure hokum, because they base their "objective" criteria about what makes good barbecue on one person's subjective set of memories--and that person probably died of coronary failure some time ago. Barbecue is good because it tastes good--because it takes the smoke from that backyard fire and the sweet & sour of pickle vinegar and a bottle of Kraft barbecue sauce, if that was the combination that did it for you and your family. A robot can cook barbecue to proper "judging" specifications, but only a precious few of us were raised by a family of barbecue-cooking robots--for the rest of us, it's ribs over charcoal, or brisket over mesquite, or saffron-infused coffee-glazed shoulder, if your family didn't get the memo--BUT THAT'S STILL RIGHT FOR YOU.

For me, there will be wood smoke--hickory, pecan, oak--because that's what grew in my grandparents' back yard. The sauce will likely be doctored supermarket sauce, and there's a good chance that some of the tougher cuts of meat will have been braised after their initial searing. Translating that into a sandwich, I look for something that's a little (but not overwhelmingly) smoky, with a bit of sweet and a lot of sour to the sauce. Since I wasn't raised in Memphis, slaw on the sandwich has been an acquired taste, but in most places around town it's a necessity to balance out either the sweetness or the hotness (or, on some less-auspicious occasions, the blandness) of the remaining components. I try to compensate in my descriptions to account for other tastes, 'cause we all got different mammas, but ultimately things are gonna trend toward the subjective.

Naturally, anyone's welcome to make their own judgements, and map, even--especially the folks who are shilling for their personal restaurants on the Commercial Appeal site. And Paul Kirk (as Calvin Trillin before him) can make his own special briskophilic selections over in Kansas City. And the Texans can rate their beef ribs as magnificent, and the North Carolinians can wax poetic about the virtues of hush puppies with theirs, and we'll all be right.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Arnold's Barbecue

Since the neighbor- hood where I work isn't in the classiest part of town, a lot of the more "authentic" barbecue places use the collapsed commercial real-estate market to set up shop. Google Maps lists no fewer than four barbecue places within a ten-minute drive of my workplace that have appeared within the past six months. I thought today would be a good day to give Arnold's on Elvis Presley a try.

Arnold's may have been there for longer than the past six months, mind you--I rarely pass its location. Still, I doubt it's been there long, if only based on the fact that the ubiquitous television in the corner is a flatscreen model. It did seem pretty busy, however, so it's been there long enough to generate a clientele. And for good reason.

The sandwich at Arnold's is powerfully smoky; the meat's 75% pink from smoke exposure, but not dried out. It's chopped a little fine for my tastes--it looks like it would do well just being pulled, which would be a little less labor intensive. It's not doused in sauce, and looks to be assembled with some care. The slaw's made somewhere else, I'm pretty sure, and adds only a little to the sandwich. Still, a good-to-great lunch, depending on how your tastes run.

Ribs, rib tips, and burgers are all available on the menu. Definitely worth a visit.

Arnold's BBQ
4560 Elvis Presley Blvd
Memphis, TN 38116
(901) 345-5992

(If you check the map, you can see that Arnold's is yellow--if my tastes ran just a little differently, it would easily be green--the finely chopped meat and the Sysco slaw really are the only caveats.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Scooter's Barbecue

Scooter's Barbecue was once located at Poplar and Kirby, in the location that's presently occupied by Mosa, and which was formerly a KFC. They didn't last long in that location, though based on memories of my one visit years ago it wasn't due to lack of quality in the food as much as the fact that you couldn't see them from the road.

They've rectified the "seeing them from the road" problem in their new location in Southaven, by slapping their sign on a Greyhound bus that they keep parked out front. I assume that's for their catering business, and probably how they manage to get around any sign ordinances.

The food isn't as good as I remembered it--when I visited them in their old home, I'd had the rip tips, which were pretty good. The sandwich I had on this visit was overflowing with meat that had been nicely smoked, perhaps a little dry, but it was difficult to determine that because it was drenched in a cloyingly sweet sauce that pretty much overwhelmed anything else on the sandwich. The slaw and sides (potato salad and baked beans) were similarly unremarkable; they could have easily come straight outta Sysco.

All things being equal, it's probably worth checking out the ribs, chicken, or other items on the menu, or asking them to go easy on the sauce, because it looks like there's a decent sandwich hiding in there somewhere, but at the default settings it needs a little help to rank with some of the other places around town. That said, if you have no great love for Interstate (which has a location one exit up or down, depending on how you're coming) or Tops (same exit as Interstate, but closer to the highway), or if you're in the mood for ribs or chicken, Scooter's may be the way to go.

Scooter's Barbecue
7065 Airways Blvd
Southaven, MS

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Barbecue Factory

Hey! Someplace new!

My visit the The Barbecue Factory was notable for the fact that they locked the door behind me, because they didn't have enough money in the register to make change. Fortunately, I had correct change available, but they'll have to work out those kinks if they're gonna be successful. Also, having to repeat my order (hot regular sandwich--not particularly complicated) four times could use work, but I understand the manager (I guess) was distracted by the lack of change. The place was clean, well-lit, but a little chaotic--don't know how long they've been open.

The sandwich itself was tender and flavorful, although not particularly smoky (there was a small bit of visible pink in the meat). The hot sauce was milder than several others in town, but had a bit of a bite to it. Their wall menu has ribs, rib tips, etc, which appear to be cooked in a cast iron pit behind the counter, but they didn't have a visible carry-out menu.

All in all, a well-done assembly of pork, slaw, and bread, but when you have to have someone come let you out, you have second thoughts about a second visit. I'll give it another go soon, however, hopefully they'll have the kinks worked out.

Barbecue Factory
3711 Lamar Ave
Memphis, TN 38118
(901) 797-8195

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I haven't been to visit anything new in the past couple of months (lousy diet), but I wanted to update the map to indicate that Memphis Smokehouse on Stage has definitely closed, and Bynum's Barbecue on Airways (which I never got to visit) has been shuttered at lunchtime each time I've passed it in the past couple of weeks. Uncle Sam's Barbecue inside Rangemasters off of Kirby Whitten @ Summer (which was arguably the most entertaining barbecue in town) is listed as closed on its website, but mentions a catering business to be announced in the future.

The economy's taking its victims, although some of these are probably as much victims of poor location and poor marketing as a downturn in the stock market.

Barbecue was born out of poverty, taking the difficult cuts of the pig and--with the proper application of heat, time, smoke, and spice--turning it into something delicious. In theory, it ought to thrive during a recession, assuming you're not in the mood to charge $9 for a $3 sandwich.

In the hopes that better times might bring these places back (Dan's Barbecue on Austin Peay has re-opened as something else I can't recall at the moment Wild Wes'), I'm temporarily changing the colors for shuttered places to purple rather than immediately taking 'em off the map.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A&R Downtown

Based on news from Paul Ryburn, I've gone ahead and added A&R Barbecue downtown, in the former Roma Pizza location. Rumor has it that they'll sell beer, but no news about fried pies (the location in Bartlett told me they didn't carry them there the last time I visited, some two years ago. Which is why my last visit was two years ago.)