Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Memphis Average" - Brad's

Several people had recommended Brad's Bar-B-Q in Bartlett to me so I gave it a try on Tuesday. Brad's sits next to the railroad tracks at Stage and Bartlett Road in Bartlett's historic area. All the the suburban areas around Memphis started life as small towns so they all have old historic areas, often next to train tracks, surrounded by new development. These historic areas are usually a good place to look for barbecue -- for a perfect example check out the que at the Germantown Commissary, a 19th century general store converted into a restaurant in the old part of Germantown.     

Brad's was slammed with lunch business on my visit, but they still got my order to me in a completely reasonable amount of time. For a little less than $8 I got a huge portion of good "Memphis average" pulled pork with topped with an excellent, well-balanced sauce. Good sauce is all about finding the right balance between the tomato, vinegar, mustard and other spices and seasonings that are always a closely guarded family secret. Some tomato flavor and sweetness is good, but God help you if you try serving “ketchupy” sauce to Memphians.

And calling pulled pork "Memphis average" isn't a dis. To me it means barbecue that is cooked as well as Tops, which sets the standard by having 14 stores spread all over the Memphis area. When you’re in Memphis there is almost always a Tops nearby, so if you want to open your own barbecue place you had better be able to compete with them. Tops pulled pork hits the right mix of tender but meaty, and it has the good smokey flavor that makes slow and low cooking worth all the effort. So our standard for grabbing barbecue from a drive-though is better than anything most people in other parts of the country have tasted.

That's why I'm not going out of my way to rate or judge any of the barbecue I try. For me this is about the experience of getting to try these place and I'm just sharing my general impressions. I don't want to waste time and energy trying to decide who has the 36th best barbecue in Memphis versus who ranks 37th out of some giant list. I just drive past barbecue shops all the time so it seemed like a good idea to start sampling and looking for hidden gems.

Brad's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon


  1. While I get the gist of your article and your desire not rate restaurants like NFL teams, I disagree with you that Brad's rises to the level of Memphis average. This was one of your earlier posts and I would be interested to know if you've changed your mind. I do agree with you that Top's is good Memphis average barbecue and a good jumping off point for comparison especially since so many of us have eaten at a Top's. I just don't think Brad's reaches the level of Top's. It compared to Baby Jack's in my opinion which means virtually no smoke flavor. While the service and atmosphere are good at Brad's it's scarcely even barbecue.

    1. I was the fourth post I did for this blog so I would be curious to try Brad's again and see what I think now.