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.
1404 Airways Blvd
Memphis, TN 38114