The Best BBQ in Memphis Tennessee (15 Joints You Must Try)

Post updated on January 28th, 2020 at 07:01 am

Best BBQ in Memphis Tennessee

There’s no list of the best places to find delicious BBQ in the US that does not include Memphis restaurants. The city is one of the culinary capitals in the country. I consider it as one of the best locations to eat BBQ before you die. Grillers and real BBQ fans know that restaurants in this city know how to cook, with the unique Memphis-styled BBQ drawing tourists and visitors to its numerous joints.

Memphis is popular for its exquisite BBQ, and like every other BBQ-inclined state, it has a specific type of meat it’s known for. At Memphis’ BBQ restaurants, you’ll find lots of chicken staples, sausage, and beef. But you’ll see more of big rib racks and pulled pork in their menus. Every year, these restaurants come together and battle it out in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest that takes place during the Memphis in May festival. Talk about real beef!

Memphis is not just known for large BBQ cuts. It has evolved over the years, as a port town, to include lots of spices and has different ingredients to make each BBQ a meal to remember. Thanks to the numerous cooking technologies that were added to the mix, Memphis now has a BBQ tradition that makes it stand out in the South.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the journey of the best places where you can find the best BBQ in Memphis.

The Best BBQ in Memphis – Top 10

Don’t want to read the breakdown of each of these best bbq joints in Memphis? Here are my picks or the top 10 and a link through to each bbq joints restaurant. Some of these joints allow you to call ahead or order online – and some even do deliveries! So if you are not much of a line dweller this is well worth checking out!

  1. Charlie Vergos Rendezvous

  2. Central BBQ

  3. Corky’s BBQ

  4. Payne’s Bar-B-Que

  5. Cozy Corner

  6. A & R BBQ

  7. Commissary BBQ

  8. Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q

  9. Leonard’s Pit Barbecue

  10. The bar-b-q shop Memphis
The Best BBQ in Memphis Tennessee

The Best BBQ in Memphis Tennessee – Restaurant Breakdowns

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous

Going by this spot’s saying, eating at Charlie Vergos Rendezvous is a one-of-a-kind BBQ experience. The joint was established in 1948 when the owner, Charlie Vergos, decided to break out from his previous partnership with his brother-in-law to start Rendezvous. Several years later, John, Nick, and Tina, Mr. Charlie’s children, are still serving the signature ribs the restaurant is known for.

Known as Vous by locals in Memphis, Charlier Vergo’s joint has a whole lot of visitors every day waiting on long lines. In the joint, there’s a simple bar and a waiting area if you have the time to stay for your meal to get ready. I am not much of a patient person, so I order the famous ribs and have them delivered to my doorstep.

A look at the menu shows that you can find almost anything on it. Rendezvous has a restaurant and catering menu, and on both of them, you’ll find everything from appetizer plates, salad, sandwiches, and what they call ‘Main Things.’

The restaurant has members of staff from different races that offer first-class services to customers. The joint also serves a couple of featured products like the mild sauce, two-slab rib dinner, and its famous seasoning that’ll make you come back for more. It’s a restaurant you should try out to experience Memphis-styled BBQ.

Must Eat: Charbroiled pork ribs and chicken breasts.

Central BBQ

One of my favorite spots to eat quality BBQ in Memphis is Central BBQ. The restaurant has four locations in Summer, Poplar, Midtown, and Downtown, but the original joint at Central Avenue is by far the most visited because of its huge patio. With a band in a corner and the exciting atmosphere that fills the air, you’ll experience the best BBQ meal you’ve ever tasted in this Memphis joint.

Meat is cooked for 14 hours at Central BBQ, and the pork is always tender. The joint’s rib racks have the right balance of Mr. Brown, Miss White, and crust. My favorite dish is the pork barbecue nachos, which has lots of shredded cheese. All the food served as this spot is rubbed with spices and marinated before they are slowly smoked over pecan and hickory wood. Just the way I like it.

The menu at Central BBQ includes snacks, sandwiches, sides, desserts, gluten-free meals, and everything something for kids. You can have all these shipped to any location in the US.

The restaurant has really done well over the past years and has featured in a number of shows like Pitmasters and The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Must Eat: Don’t go to Central BBQ without trying out the chips and bleu cheese.

Corky’s BBQ

One joint that has stood the test of time is Corky’s BBQ. Established in 1984 by Don Pelts, the restaurant is my go-to spot for delicious and spicy BBQ in Memphis. It has a good number of years of experience to its name, little wonder why you’ll only get quality BBQ from the joint.

As a classic BBQ restaurant, Corky’s BBQ maintains its American 1950 décor with lots of polished brass, 50s music, and waiters in bow ties. The joint has five locations across Tennessee, but the original spot in East Memphis is where I like to go to. In all Corky’s locations, you can mail-order your meals directly or pick them up in select days. The lines there are not so frightening, but I always prefer a take out.

Corky’s BBQ specialized in ribs, both the dry and wet versions. When basted with the house’s special sauced and sprinkled spices, Corky’s ribs are the mouth-watering experience you’ll wish you had every day. But there’s also beef, chicken, pork and lots of seasonings to try out. Everything on the menu is cooked on hickory wood and charcoal.

Must Eat: The Delta fish is definitely one you should try out. But the beef brisket is my favorite.

Payne’s Bar-B-Que

A family-run business that makes this list of the best places to eat BBQ in Memphis is Payne’s Bar-B-Que. Established in 1972, Payne’s keeps its old-school tradition not just in its BBQ process but also in its means of communication. It doesn’t have an official website but is known to produce one of the best BBQ meals you’ll taste in Memphis.

Mrs. Payne and her son man the counters at Payne’s Bar-B-Q. I like to eat the Spicy Jumbo, which is an intense barbecue sandwich from this joint. It has generous servings of neon-yellow slaw and bright red sauce to give your taste buds all kinds of feelings. Payne’s Bar-B-Que is known to have the best pulled-pork sandwich in Memphis, with very few restaurants coming close to how juicy and spicy they taste.

Located at Lamar Avenue close to Glenview Park in Memphis, this joint is a cash-only restaurant, so be ready to wait on long lines. Its menu includes smoked ribs, bologna, and sausages, so don’t think its only pulled-pork you can get here. The spot still reserves the 70s décor, which I find a go atmosphere for the best BBQ meals.

Must Eat: You have got to try out the Spicy Jumbo.

Cozy Corner

On the corner of Manassas Street and North Parkway, almost three decades ago, Raymond Robinson set up a restaurant to sell BBQ meals. Long after his death, the joint is still attracting many customers every day, with many publications and awards to its name. But why has it stood the test of time?

For starters, Cozy Corner has perfected the art of making classics like smoked sausages, tips wings, and ribs. But the meal that causes those long lines you’ll always see is the smoked Cornish hen that’s so succulent with crispy skin and tangy sauce. You can also get all types of BBQ sandwiches, meat-only meals, side orders, desserts, and all types of spicy sauce with your meal. Food in this restaurant is served on paper plates and placed on plastic tablecloths, which I find fascinating and unique.

Long lines are not my thing, so I’m grateful that I can order food online from the store. The prices of BBQ here are quite affordable, to play it down, so Cozy Corner is where I eat quite a number of my BBQ meals.

Must Eat: Don’t take my word for it. Try out the Cornish hen. One will definitely not be enough for you.

A & R BBQ

For an intense BBQ experience that you’ll not forget in a hurry, A & R Bar-B-Que is your go-to source. The joint offers a traditional barbecue experience at the heart of the city and is not shy to flaunt the many celebrities that visit every year for one delicious meal or the other. Located at Hickory Hill Road, A & R Bar-B-Que is open every day of the week except on Saturdays.

Like every BBQ restaurant that I’ve eaten at, A & R Bar-B-Que has a house special that attracts people to the restaurant, and it is its pork ribs. These ribs are cooked until they are tender and enhanced to get a pitch-perfect seasoning. The menu also features different rib sandwiches, burgers, sides, extras, desserts, and meals for kids. And if you can’t wait for your meal to get ready, you can always order it and have the BBQ delivered to your doorstep.

The members of staff and managers at A &R Bar-B-Que are very friendly, and that’s something I always look out for when I step into a spot I haven’t tried out before. There’s a detached smokehouse, just behind the restaurant, and this is where all the meat is cooked.

Must Eat: You can’t go wrong with dry-rub tips and a pork sandwich.

Commissary BBQ

Having a chat will locals will have you think that this joint is called Germantown Commissary, but it’s just one of the two locations of Commissary (the actual name of the restaurant) in Tennessee. For almost two and a half decades, this restaurant has uplifted Memphis-styled cuisine and has been the dining place of many celebrities that love a bite of BBQ. With an eye-catching website, and a choice to order food online, lots of customer troop into the spot every day to have a taste of BBQ from pit masters.

Food served at Commissary is slow-cooked and when they are hot. The menu features loads of appetizers, BBQ shoulder, Hot smoked sausages, burgers, salads, Pig Tracks, Hickory Smoked ribs, and desserts. But nothing beats my love for the BBQ combos this restaurant servers. The Big Hog Special that allows four choices of meat is my perfect meal to keep me satisfied all through the day.

Commissary offers catering servers, and you’ll also have the option to ship BBQ to any location in the US. The décor suits the BBQ feeling you’ll experience in Commissary, and it’s one place even pit masters go to learn a thing or two.

Must Eat: Because I love briskets, I’ll advise you try its sandwich plate with the house’s tangy sauce.

Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q

The interstate Bar-B-Q is another restaurant that connoisseurs of beef and chopped pork come to get tasty BBQ in Memphis. To locals, it is the perfect example of hard work and consistency. Although this joint is considered one of the small-scale businesses, it pulls a crowd any day it opens. If you need a place that you can have several options to select from, then Interstate Bar-B-Q is the place for you.

Eating spicy meals at Interstate Bar-B-Q will bring back memories of the first time you tried Bar-B-Q. Service at the spot is super-fast, and the cooking skills are out of this world. I always find myself eating either pork and beef ribs, or chicken with spaghetti. And you can bet that they get the crunchy crust, just the way I like it.

Whatever you do at Interstate Bar-B-Q, do not forget to try out the house’s secret sauce. At Interstate Bar-B-Q, you can also make overnight orders, and there’s a special menu for such delivery.

Must Eat: For a night snack, I’ll recommend you try out the ½ BBQ chicken. However, you must try out the chopped or sliced pork whenever you get the chance.

Leonard’s Pit Barbecue

In 1922, a little 5-stand joint was opened. Coincidentally, this was the year that is widely believed to be the beginning of Memphis’ affair with BBQ. So, with the rave of the newly introduced pit-smoked BBQ, Leonard’s spot became popular. It is an amazing place to eat delicious, tasty, and juicy BBQ meals, and definitely one I’ll try out every time I am in Memphis.

The restaurant has a Southern or soul cuisine together with its many BBQ features. Meals are served as lunch on large tables, but you can’t have a group of more than 75 people at a time in the restaurant. I love that there are two menus to select from, and the option of having a BBQ buffet in the spot just blows my mind.

From BBQ sandwiches, side orders, appetizer to menus for children, you name it. Leonard’s Pit Barbecue has got it all. I love the three-sauce option, that is, the BBQ sauce, hot sauce, and dry spice, that’ll give the right flavor to your meal. But that’s not all; you can get packs containing combinations of BBQ pork, sauce, and slaw at affordable prices.

The managers and members of staff at Leonard’s Pit Barbecue are very friendly and welcoming.

Must Eat: BBQ Pork

The bar-b-q shop memphis

Trademarking a name like ‘The Bar-B-Q shop’ is a chance that many restaurants will kill for, and this restaurant is making good use of its attractive name. Voted the number one spot for ribs in America by ‘Top Five Restaurants’, you know you are in for a treat whenever you step into this joint. It is located in the heart of Midtown and known for pit barbecued made the traditional way.

The store’s unique sauces have always been something Bar-B-Q has not been afraid to flaunt. With over fifty years of using them to make delicious BBQ meals, they are one of my favorites in Memphis.

The vinegar sauce, which has come in mild and hot, fulfils the balance of a smoky flavor and thickness that many pitmasters look for. Most of the meals made in Bar-B-Q shop are served with BBQ spaghetti, so you’ll have enough to take you through the whole day. You find everything from BBQ sandwiches to side order, ribs, and even special additions.

The service at Bar-B-Q shop is top-notch, and one of the reasons people keep coming back for more BBQ.

Must Eat: The dry-rubbed ribs are my favorite, but you should definitely try out the pork sandwich on Texas Toast.

Tops Bar-B-Q

Well, what do you expect rather than top-shelf BBQ? This restaurant was established over six decades ago and has maintained its tradition of slow-cooking real pit BBQ. It is one of those joints that leave you in awe with 15 locations in Summer, Macon, Union Ave, Poplar, Thomas St, Berclair, Winchester, Lamar, Rhodes, Frayser, Millington, Jackson, Olive Branch, Marion, and Southaven. There’s really no reason why you should not try their BBQ meals out whenever you get the chance to.

In all locations, the same menu and pricing are offered to loyal customers. However, quite a number of them are small, with only a few tables and benches. The 10-hour cooked meals over hickory wood, charcoal and hardwood are what you’ll expect from a pitmaster and its amazing how a relatively small staff can pull off excellent meals all the time. The menu includes sandwiches and sandwich combinations, full plates, ribs, and quite a number of side orders. As locals say, Top’s Bar-B-Q doesn’t serve fast foods, but BBQ fast.

Long lines are not my thing, and I try to avoid them as often as I can. In Top’s Bar-B-Q, you’ll often see much of them, thanks to their delicious BBQ meals.

Must Eat: Pulled pork sandwich

Blues City Cafe

Located at Beale St in Memphis, Blues City Café doesn’t strike as a BBQ restaurant if you’ve not been there before. From its name, it sounds more like a coffee house but is one of the homes of BBQ and southern food in the city. Founded in 1991, Blues City Café has evolved, thanks to the input of many BBQ investors.

A quick look at the menu shows this joint can cook up BBQ real good. You can have hand-cut and oven broiled steaks, Beale Street BBQ ribs, and tamales to satisfy your hunger for juicy BBQ meals. In each of these categories, there are several options to pick from, and something for everyone. I find that most of the items on the menu like large catfish fillets, tangy pork ribs, and tartar sauce are quite affordable.

Blues City Café plays host to several musicians, and I love that feeling of listening to a live band while I satisfy my hunger for large BBQ meals. With great services and excellent night-life music, this Memphis joint will take you a thousand miles away to BBQ dreamland.

Must Eat: Make sure you try out the Cowboy cut ribeye. The Memphis strip steak is also not a bad idea.

One & Only

A more recently established BBQ joint that makes this list of my favorites in Memphis is One and Only BBQ. The restaurant has four locations in Kirby Parkway, Perkins Ext, Germantown Parkway, and Southaven. In all these places, Memphis-styled slow cooking BBQ at 225 degrees is practiced with hickory wood.

Serving great BBQ is hard work, and I like that One and Only BBQ puts in 15 hours to get moist, fresh, marinated and lightly seasoned chicken, and meat. The house’s pork ribs, which are very popular in Memphis, is usually finished off on the grill to produce that crunchy bark that real BBQ lovers like. Many of these dishes have been voted for awards like the ‘top 100 dishes in Memphis you must eat before you die’, so you can tell how good they are.

One and Only BBQ’s keen attention to detail has made the place even more popular in the city. There’s an option to order your meals and have them delivered to you. In either case, you’ll not have to wait for quite a while before you get your food.

Must Eat: You must try out the Brunswick stew for starters, and the smoke chicken drummie as your main course.

Alex’s Tavern

When I hear Alex’s Tavern, what readily comes to my mind is classic menus, delicious BBQ meals, and great services. Established in 1953, don’t let this restaurant fool you to thinking that it’s a small business. Alex’s Tavern likes to keep a low profile while attracting lots of customers.

Alex’s Tavern stays open till 3 am, and serves one of the best beers you’ll ever take with a spicy BBQ snack. But that’s not why people rush in there every day. The joint has arguably the best BBQ burgers in Memphis. With Cavendars Greek Seasoning and sauces to make your mouth water, the joint’s burger is always cooked to perfection. I like to have them with fries, which are also very tasty.

Alex’s Tavern holds a special place in my heart, because I know I am in for a treat with every new BBQ meal I try out.

Must Eat: You need to try out Alex’s Tavern’s pulled pork. Just don’t get hooked on it!

Arnolds BBQ

The first time I heard that Arnold BBQ and grill was opening in Monroe alley, words couldn’t describe how excited I was. The restaurant is owned by Mike Arnold, a pitmaster with lots of experience in the game. From the outside, the joint looks like a regular restaurant, but the moment you step in, you’ll realize that this is no ordinary BBQ joint.

I like that Arnold’s BBQ menu features so many BBQ meals that even if you’ve eaten in dozens of Memphis restaurants, you still have a few new options to try out. Trust me, even if you didn’t have the appetite before, the smoky smell of perfectly made BBQ with just the right amount of charred lines and Miss White will make you hungry for more. One of my favorites is the dry rib ends, which is served while finely covered in any sauce you like.

If you are looking for a place to get delicious, large portion BBQ meals, then Arnolds BBQ and grill can do no wrong. Arnold is still trying out a couple of things like live music on the weekends and large patios just for its downtown crowd.

Must Eat: Tips, ribs, meat by pounds, and sandwiches.

Elwoods Shack Memphis

You’ll not find a lot of restaurants in Memphis that are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but Elwoods Shack is one of such. Its smoked deli meats, die-hard BBQ fans, and dedicated team have made Elwood’s Shack a success since it was established.

Most of the restaurant’s specials came from a bit of luck and consistent practice. The dry rubs that makes Eldwoods Shack’s car park to be filled with customers is one of such house specials. When eaten with the not-too-sweet BBQ sauce that Eldwoods servrs, it almost feels like you’re in heaven. The menu in this joint has four popular categories, namely; salad, subs smokehouse, and the controversial ‘Doggy style.’ There’s also a special breakfast menu, sides, and extras to eat with the meals.

You can’t say you’ve gone around Memphis’ BBQ joints without having a bite at Elwoods Shack. The great services, inviting environment, and well-cooked meals will make you come back for more.

Must Eat: I’ll recommend the Texas Beef Brisket any day.

Pig On Beale

Another spot to eat different delicacies in Memphis is Pig on Beale. The restaurant is located at Beale Street and serves Memphis-style BBQ the correct way. If you are a meat lover, then this place should excite you with the numerous options in its menu.

By asking questions from the welcoming staff in the joint, Pig On Beale’s most popular items are its pulled pork and BBQ beans. For appetizers, the restaurant has delicious pork rinds, chicken fingers, BBQ chicken nacho, and smoking hot legs. You’ll also have quite a lot of options in the sandwiches category with the BBQ Bologna, hamburger, cheeseburger, and smoked chicken. All these delicious meals are slow-cooked for 14 hours by Pig On Beale.

I love that the restaurant has a number of sauces to go with these meals. Sorry beer-lovers, this joint only serves soft drinks and Luzianne tea.

Must Eat: I recommend you go for any BBQ plate that comes with BBQ beans, potato chips, and coleslaw.

Pollards BBQ

From humble beginnings of being a mobile catering business in the early 90s, Pollard’s BBQ has become one of the most sought-after BBQ joints in Memphis. The spot, which opens every day of the week, has, over the years, preserved the southern style of Memphis BBQ. Little wonder why it has so many customers and long queues all the time.

The menu in this unique restaurant is all I can ask for. There are desserts which include a pork duo or a sandwich, beef sandwiches and burgers, chicken wings and tenders, family packs, and BBQ by the pound.

The ‘This and That’ category is my favorite, and it contains BBQ Nachos, Bologna, Hot Dog, Tamales, and red smoked sausages; all the food that made me fall in love with BBQ. Located at Shelby Drive in Memphis, you can dine in the Pollards BBQ’s restaurant or bypass those long lines and order a carryout. The spot also has a catering service if you want to have a big BBQ party.

Must Eat: Pollards BBQ rib tips are worth trying out.

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