Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Final (Barbecue) Pit Stops

Realizing that our list of restaurants yet to be sampled exceeds the number of days left for sampling, we needed to refine our list to the “must go to” places.

Our final two choices included one full service sit down and one joint and both are reputed to have the best dry ribs in the city. The Bar-B-Q Shop near the medical corridor of Madison Avenue was the full service restaurant and was once known as Brady & Lil’s. The new owners use Brady and Lil’s smoking techniques and the fifty-year-old sauce recipe.

No surprises here--Chuck had the pulled pork platter and I the regular order of dry ribs. Each came with slaw and beans. Great slaw—-shredded, crisp, and creamy. Good beans.

Chuck’s serving of pork was interesting. The pork itself had a small measure of bark and was of the more finely shredded variety. But the sauce that covered the pork was a more tangy (vinegary) style than we have seen at other Memphis restaurants. But the contents of the mild (sweet) sauce container sitting on the table were much sweeter, and after applying a copious amount of this sweet sauce to the pork, Chuck had the taste he wanted.

How were my ribs? THE BEST RIBS EVER!!! To me, this is what ribs are meant to be—a crusty exterior that tastes of a mildly spicy rub that covers lean, tender, moist, smoky meat. With these ribs, you wanted to suck the bones. I tried a little of both sauces on small morsels of meat, but, while both sauces were excellent, I didn’t want anything to change the taste of the smoky meat.

The final stop in the Pork-a-ree was A & R Bar-B-Que on Elvis Presley Boulevard. There we were, a few blocks from Graceland. If you are wondering—no we didn’t.

You place your order with a woman at the counter who would put a Marine drill sergeant to shame. She appeared to run this place with an iron fist—chastising fellow employees and customers alike.

Guess what we ordered. How did you know that Chuck has the pulled pork shoulder with beans and potato salad, and I had the dry ribs with slaw and fried okra? To summarize the sides: very good southern (mustard and pickle) potato salad; good beans; only mustard-based slaw I’ve liked; basic, but good, corn meal-battered okra.
Chuck was really pleased with his very large serving of pulled pork that came covered in a sweet sauce. We both kept trying to identify the taste in the sauce that was also present in the beans. We suspect that both were made from sorghum molasses and that is what gave them this unique but delicious flavor.

My mostly fat-free dry ribs were very lightly rubbed and had the most intense smoked flavor of any ribs I’d had. They had the crusty exterior that I enjoy and moist and juicy meat. But I did miss the taste imparted by a spicy rub. These have been described as ribs for purists—I guess my taste is still bourgeois.

We thought the sign in A & R's dining area pretty well summed up the select company in which barbecue pitmasters find themselves.

Coming tomorrow—our final rankings of the barbecue joints.

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