We took a tour of Memphis Barbeque and I consider Memphis to be the center of the universe of Wonderful Smoky BBQ. The hands down winner of the best ribs in Memphis is COZY CORNER!
Cozy Corner Restaurant
745 N. Parkway
901-527-9158 Cozy Corner is off the beaten path, up near St. Jude's Hospital, and is sort of in a no man's land. That is a good thing because there is more parking room for clients at this fabulous establishment. The service is friendly and competent time and time again, and that is a welcome change from the surly and non-helpful teenage waitstaff on Beale Street. I get the "dry ribs" meaning, only delicious smoky flavor and a secret dry spice rub on the outside. The meat is slowly cooked over smoldering charcoal and wood, and it is the most lovely, savory, moist, and soul-tingling sensation to eat these ribs. Because so much time and effort has been put into making a complex smoky rib, adding too much bbq sauce would just kill the delicate nature of this meat. I also took home a rack of ribs to enjoy for a couple of days. These ribs are so deeply smoked to the bone, that re-heating these gems in the over or microwave re-awakens the fabulous flavor. It is so worth bringing extra Cozy's home! Cozy Corner is a MUST VISIT everytime I am in Memphis. If you are in Memphis, remember, Cozy Corner is only open Tue-Sat 10:30am - 5pm
, and if you are late, you are S.O.L.
The 2nd runner up on my list is Central BBQ located in midtown Memphis. The dry ribs were good, service is fast, and they got a few unique dishes that are creative with bbq. 1st off, the dry rub tastes like a lay's bbq potato chip, and Cental puts the rub on everything. The ribs were not as meaty as Cozy Corner's, but are a good meal. One unique dish was the bbq nachos which were tortilla chips covered in pulled pork bbq and bbq sauce, cheese and jalpenos - surprisingly good. The other one are the handmade chips covered in the bbq rub, and these tasted like freshly made commercial bbq flavored potato chips.
The 3rd is TOPS Bar-B-Q. This location is also in Midtown Memphis, and is set up like a fast food chain. This bbq joint does not serve up ribs, but they do serve up a very moist, flavorful chopped pulled-pork sandwich with a spicy bbq sauce. I got some krinkle fries, strawberry soda, and a sandwich which I enjoyed quite a bit. This place is open on Sunday's unlike most other bbq places in Memphis. Tops was a good option when I was ready to roll out of town on Sunday, and I wanted to have one last fling with bbq.
Other places we ate at in Memphis were Blue's City Cafe, Interstate, King's Palace Cafe, Huey's, Automatic Slims, and Rendezvous. Blue's City is open until all hours of the morning, on the busiest corner of Beale Street, and perfect for a little midnight dry rib bbq snack after bar hopping. King's Palace isn't really a rib joint, but has a funky atmosphere, in-character waitstaff and is a nice A/C break from the hot humid weather of this Mississippi River town. Interstate can be found on the famous Mississippi Highway on the way out of town towards Mississippi. The ribs are good, but the unique dish at Interstate is the bbq spaghetti is a thing that is fun for about 3 bites, and then you need to share with your dinner mates.
The biggest disappointment was Rendezvous. It is a big tourist destination, and they sell their dry rub which is spicy and savory with paprika, mustard seed, and pepper. The rub is great, but the dry rib quality is lacking. It tasted like they boil the ribs first before grilling the ribs, there is a lack of deep smoky flavor, and the ribs were dry. This all indicates that they smoked the ribs quickly and over too high of heat for too long. I suggest people try Rendezvous if they must, due to all the hype, but there are better places like Cozy Corner, Interstate and Central.
We did take a break from all the bbq and we went to Huey's sport bar, a couple blocks off of Beale St, and discovered a kielbasa and cheddar dish. It is fried slices of kielbasa and chunks of chedder on a styrofoam plate. Actually everything is served on styrofoam with platicware. It was greasy but strangely delicious! We also went to Automatic Slims, right around the corner from Huey's. Automatic Slims has a sleek interior decor, a decent wine bar, and artsy American food with a caribbean edge. It seems that Automatic Slims is completely the opposite of a down home bbq joint, and I am sure the suburban "trying to be cool" crowd eats here.
At anyrate, go to Cozy Corner if you want the best smoky rich flavor of dry ribs (gotta order "dry ribs" not just ribs). If you do not try the ribs, then you will leave, always wondering what the best Memphis bbq is like, and you really don't want to have that question hanging over your head.