Monday, May 24, 2010

Smoked Out Bar-B-Que

The building where Smoked Out Bar-B-Que (official name, Smoked Out Championship Bar-B-Que and Deli) lives has been at least three different barbecue places over the years. Tango & Murfs, and Wild Wes's both occupied the space before Smoked Out moved in, which might make it bad luck for a barbecue place (Tango & Murf's wasn't great, but Wild Wes's was actually pretty good).

The owner had previously set up shop using a trailer-type barbecue rig outside the convenience store down the road, and while I never stopped to visit (bad barbecue exploring, I know), I did notice that they did a pretty brisk business from their outdoor location--moving into a restaurant space allows them to have a pretty varied menu, with tamales, po boy sandwiches, catfish, and assorted bar appetizers, including Barbecue Bologna Sliders.

The standard of comparison isn't a barbecue bologna slider, however (I might give it a try, though, just to say I did before I leave), it's the sandwich, which is a little on the small side compared to some of the "regular" sandwiches in town. Compare it to the onion ring in the photo for an idea: I suggest ordering the large sandwich if you're looking for more than a snack. It is powerfully smoky, however--there's no noticable trace of pink in the meat to give away a slow smoking process, so there's the possibility that there's a heavy dose of liquid smoke in the sauce. The bun shows signs of being toasted, but is still room-temperature, and the slaw appears to be made in-house--all in all, it's a pretty good sandwich, but the smoked flavor can be a little overwhelming compared to some others.

After I was done with my sandwich, the owner walked out of the kitchen with a sample of ribs for me to try--three bones, half dry, half wet. He explained that since he had just opened (there's not an urbanspoon listing for this place yet, but there should be, soon) he liked to give folks a sample of things they didn't try as a reason to come back. Bear in mind that these were free samples, and that the owner may have cherry-picked them to show off his best material, but the ribs were excellent. Meaty, moist, they came off the bone easily, but were still firm to chew on--the dry rub had a little cayenne pepper kick to it (I'm not a huge fan of dry ribs), and the wet ribs were very tasty.

The stretch of Austin Peay (don't let the Covington Pike address fool you--it's on Austin Peay) where Smoked Out lies is a bit of a culinary wasteland, and residents of the area really should give it their patronage, as it's a wonderful, friendly neighborhood place, and deserves success.

Smoked Out Championship Bar-B-Que and Deli
4731 Covington Pike
Memphis, TN  38135
Phone: 901-791-2277
Fax: 901-791-2274

Monday, May 17, 2010

Heading out (soonish)

Some of you may have noticed a little write up on either The Commercial Appeal's or The Memphis Flyer's food blogs regarding my imminent departure to a more central part of the state. As such, I'd like to leave this map/blog in the hands of someone with a more vested interest in keeping things accurate (with respect to what's still around) and interesting (opinions vary, and Memphis is full of opinions on barbecue, but discussion's always good).

The nature of internet things means that I could leave open this up to several folks, and have five or six people contributing opinions and keeping an eye on the map--that would really be my ideal solution, really--while my own opinion on barbecue is clearly the right one, perhaps differing viewpoints would give readers a better chance of deciding whether a place was right for them if their tastes didn't match mine exactly.

Which is to say, if you'd like to contribute here, and try your hand at barbecue cartography, it would certainly be my fondest wish that the barbecue map outlive my brief but delicious tenure in Memphis. Drop me a comment, or send an email to randal dot cooper at the gmail thing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Barb A Rosa's Real Pit Bar BQ‎

Barb A Rosa's has been in the queue (no pun intended) for a while now--I visited it last August and just now got around to unloading the pictures from my phone.

North of Memphis lies the sleepy military town of Millington--home of a naval base so located because (I guess) the powers that be at the Pentagon figured that the Commies would NEVER think of finding a naval base 400 miles from the nearest ocean. It's a clever move, although the ships look pretty sad sitting there in the parking lot.

I'm not here to talk about the naval base, though, I'm here to talk about barbecue. And Millington has a pretty good barbecue place in Barb A Rosa's, which is a little irritating to write because of all the capital letters and punctuation. Then again, half the barbecue places in town use some sort of weird spelling or funny name, so I shouldn't complain.

The sandwich is okay--the meat doesn't have a discernible smokiness, but the sauce isn't cloyingly sweet, and the sides (with the exception of the kinda soggy fries) are nice, and the bun is toasted. Order at the counter, and after a bit they'll call out your number so you can go get it, and in the meantime you can amuse yourself by watching The Dukes of Hazzard on their big screen TV. While we were there, there were some oil barons (in cahoots with Boss Hogg) involved in a land grab that also involved kidnapping Uncle Jesse, and could only be resolved by jumping automobiles over some empty gulches and firing explosive arrows.

If all our problems could be solved by jumping automobiles over empty gulches and firing explosive arrows, the world wouldn't be a better place, but it would certainly be a more entertaining one.

7822 US Highway 51 N
Millington, TN 38053-2269
(901) 872-4030‎

Barb a Rosa's Real Pit Bar Bq on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 9, 2010

The proprietor (let's call him "Sam") of Sam's Down South Barbecue and Hot Wings knew me as a stranger the moment I drove up and took a picture of the exterior. I guess he doesn't get many folks hopping out of their cars and whipping out phones, so I explained that I kept a map of all the barbecue restaurants in Memphis. Which immediately got me labelled as a "reviewer," and treated to samples of lots of different things. Getting treated to samples of lots of different things is nice, but weighs on the objectivity a bit, so keep that in mind.

Sam apparently cooks meat all day long on a smoker-grill that he keeps out in front of his establisment, enjoying the nice weather, and whipping together ribs and brisket and pork shoulder to be re-heated later--a necessity given that he's a one-man operation and he doesn't get much traffic in the location. We chatted for a bit, and he tried to get me to order the rib tips. When I told him they weren't good for my diet (which is true) and that I'd just have a shoulder sandwich (because that's what I'm comparing from restaurant to restaurant), he suggested that perhaps a brisket sandwich would be a better choice. I stuck to my guns, though, and he pulled out a couple of solid hunks of pre-cooked pork shoulder and set them on the indoor grill in the kitchen to reheat.

Then he escorted me outside, and pulled a piece off of the brisket he had cooking on the grill to try (he made a note of saying he was cooking with wood, not charcoal or gas, and that's apparent in the meat). The brisket was delicious and fall-apart tender, with a consistency like a good pot roast, minus the aromatic vegetables. It wasn't particularly smoky, however, but it WOULD make for a nice sandwich.

We went inside, and he offered me a sample of a rib tip, which was charred on the outside, and similarly tender and succulent. We talked a bit about rib tips in town and when I said that my go-to for them was Cozy Corner, he bragged about his being better than theirs. I'm still a fan of Cozy Corner's hot sauce, but Sam makes a pretty good case for himself, considering I found myself sucking on what was left of the tip after I'd pulled the meat from the outside.

Finally, the sandwich, which I took with me, because eating with someone expectantly watching you is weird. It was a pretty stout sandwich (for a "regular" size), and I don't know how much of that comes from his knowing I'd write about it or how much is just how he does things, but it was full to overflowing with smoky, meat, pink and charred and very good. The sauce was a little sweeter than I normally like, but it had some heat to it, and the slaw seemed to have been homemade, and had a nice bitterness and crunch to it. It may not have been the best sandwich in town, but it was an excellent sandwich. If you're in the neighborhood, and Down South is open, definitely give it a try.

p.s. I snagged a menu that I'll photograph and upload to UrbanSpoon so you can get an idea of what they serve. It seems to be a one-man show, so illness or exceptionally nice weather might cause problems, so perhaps a pre-visit phone call would be a good idea.

Down South BBQ & Hot Wing
902 East Raines Road
Memphis, TN 38116-6303
(901) 398-1108

Down South BBQ & Hot Wing on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 3, 2010

For the traveller: The Shed--Mobile AL (and Ocean Springs, MS)

I spent a couple of days in Mobile visiting family, and they suggested we do dinner at The Shed, the fashioned barbecue shack from Ocean Springs which has recently opened a location in Mobile next to the University of South Alabama.

I'm generally not a fan of places that go to great lengths to look ratty and old, especially when I know that they're BRAND SPANKIN' NEW, but I understand the desire to give a place atmosphere. It's just odd to look at the license plates nailed to the wall, as if the restaurant had been collecting license plates for years, to notice that many of them are in sequential order, like leftovers from a license plate switchover. I'm willing to overlook these attempts, however, if the food's good--and at the shed, it's pretty good.

The sandwich comes in 1/4 lb and 1/2 lb varieties--with pulled pork, no slaw as the standard (slaw's an extra seventy-five cents). Both are served on the same bun, so I think they probably fudge a bit on the meat for the 1/4 lb version, and it's probably ample for all but the heartiest appetites. The 1/2 lb version is pictured here, incidentally.

The meat is tender, a little smoky, with sections of deeply flavored exterior included. It's not heavily sauced, and the sauce is fairly sweet, but not cloyingly so. Ribs are also served, and I'd wager that they're similarly good. Weekend nights feature a blues or roots band, and draft and bottled beers are available--so if you're passing through Mobile or Ocean Springs (or taking in some casino time in Biloxi), it's definitely worth a barbecue stop. There's not much else in that part of the Gulf Coast to compare for getting a decent barbecue fix (although I've heard good things about Brick Pit, just down the street).

The Shed
5753 Old Shell Rd
Mobile, AL 36608

7501 Highway 57
Ocean Springs, MS 39565-8405
(228) 875-9590

The Shed - BBQ & Blues Joint on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Big Bill's Barbecue

I don't know if Big Bill has opened a second location on Elvis Presley, or is moving his shop down from Raleigh, but it's a welcome addition to a neighborhood that has a half dozen Chinese buffets and one barbecue restaurant where you can go for lunch (Arnold's--down the road. Marlowe's is only open for lunch during the summer, and even then they open too late for many lunch hours). They're located in the end of a strip mall that once housed a Gridiron restaurant (known for its pimeinto cheeseburgers), and they've held on to some of the pictures on the wall from that location, but removed the lunch counter seats which would have kept a neat retro feel. There are still a handful of tables, booths, and window seats, so you can watch the traffic on Elvis Presley go by while you have your sandwich or rip tips.

The hot sandwich was both spicy, smoky, and fairly heavily sauced--like the original, it's reminiscent of A&R (the families are related), but the year or so between my visits has make the two sandwiches somewhat more distinct. Like, A&R, it's sloppy, so it's definitely not for eating while in motion, but pretty good for eating either in the restaurant or taking home. When I visited, it was their opening weekend, and it took almost a half hour between walking in the door and getting my food. Hopefully they'll be able to provide better service once the excitement of a new place dies down.

4101 Elvis Presley Blvd
Memphis, TN 38116

Big Bill's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Arlington Barbeque Company

Since I had a few hours free, I stopped by Arlington Barbeque Co early this evening to give their sandwich a try. The jumbo (pictured) was a monster of a sandwich, filled with lightly smoky, pulled pork, slaw that was a little too watery (water from the cabbage can get into the dressing) and soaked the bun, and a little light on the sauce for my taste (but probably spot on for others--it's easier to add it than to take it off, of course).

The baked beans had a heavy dose of garlic added to them--so much so that I mentioned it to the waitress, who asked the cook if she'd added garlic to the beans (yes), and I had to clarify that they were tasty, but you don't normally expect such a healthy dose of it in a side dish.

The total bill came up to over $11, which is a bit steep for a sandwich and a coke, but there WAS enough sandwich there to be two sandwiches elsewhere. Beer is available, and they have ribs and barbecued potato skins, which sounded tasty but weren't what I'd come out for. Definitely worth a visit, and different enough to be worth the drive to see if maybe it could be your favorite place.

Arlington Barbeque Company
11875 Highway 70
Arlington, TN 38002-5364
(901) 867-2250

Arlington Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Captain John's Barbecue

I ought to give apologies for the lack of posting, but between dieting and having hit a good portion of the places on the map posts will naturally be appearing less frequently. I DO have two posts in the queue, this one and one on Bar-Ba-Rosa's in Millington, which I'll post when I finally figure out where I put the pictures (but the short version is that it's okay).

Captain John's Barbecue is located close to the roller skating rink in Collierville, where the Memphis Roller Derby will be practicing and competing if they don't find somewhere that isn't as inconvenient is humanly possible to relocate to in the interim. As barbecue places go, it's not bad--think Tops with an extra $2 surcharge. Clearly, one could just go to Tops, save the $2 and the gas, but if, say, you were to be out practicing or competing with roller derby, you could do a lot worse. Then again, the food at the roller rink might be FANTASTIC. Although I doubt it.

Should anyone reading this be unfamiliar with Tops, it's the baseline for quality barbecue in Memphis. A good, solid, satisfying sandwich, but nothing that's gonna make you pound the table in ecstasy, unless you're coming off some sort of fast. Captain John's meets those qualifications--slight smokiness, well assembled, unremarkable sides. Better than you'll find in other parts of the country, definitely, but pretty much run-of-the-mill for Memphis. Not worth a special trip, but if you live in Collierville or are visiting for some reason, definitely someplace that should be in your available options.

Captain John's Barbecue
106 US Highway 72 East
Collierville, TN 38017-2994
(901) 853-8004

Captain John's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon