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