Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Whitehaven - Pollard's

I have been intrigued by the trailer that looks like a giant pig in front of Marlowe’s Ribs on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Whitehaven for quite a while now. So I pulled in on Monday ready to give the place a try, only to find that they were closed and that their business hours are 4 p.m. until 3 a.m. I am now very curious to make a midnight rib run and see what kind of late-night crowd it draws. It is only a few blocks south of Graceland, so I’m not sure if the customer base is mostly locals or tourists.

Whitehaven, once a wealthy suburb of Memphis, is unfairly characterized as a “ghetto” by a lot of the people who live in the outer suburbs. Jim Crow-era race-restrictive covenants were used to keep black families from buying homes in the area until the 1960s when the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. Unsurprisingly, many of the residents who had chosen to live in a segregated community moved in response to desegregation, setting off an ongoing cycle of “white flight” as suburban sprawl steadily overtakes the small farming towns that once surrounded the city.

The Memphis area is now defined by a growing ring of sprawl surrounding an also-expanding gentrifying urban core. And Whitehaven is now a predominately-black, fairly-stable middle-class community that is home to the hospitals, banks, grocery stores, restaurants and shopping malls you’d expect to find in any suburb.

Since I was in Whitehaven and Marlowe’s was closed I traveled further south down Elvis Presley Boulevard until I came across Pollard’s Bar-B-Q. Apparently until very recently the building had been home to a restaurant named Arnold’s BBQ while Pollard’s had been further east, but still in Whitehaven, near Shelby Drive and Airways. With the closing of Arnold’s*, Pollard’s had moved into the building on Elvis Presley.

Whatever the name on the building, I ordered a rib plate and was rewarded with amazingly juicy ribs so tender they fell apart when I picked them up so that I end up pulling off bite-size pieces and shamelessly licking my fingers. It was good barbecue in all its messy glory, even if the sauce was too sweet for my taste. The ribs also lacked some of the meaty, smokey flavor that you get from the best ribs. I’ve heard that this comes from restaurants boiling their ribs before cooking to make them more tender. Basically, some flavor is sacrificed in the name of guaranteed tenderness and a shortened cooking time. I’m not sure if that’s what Pollard’s had done, but taking a short-cut that gives you tender, juicy ribs that lack a little in flavor and texture is definitely better than spending 12 hours to create the tough, dry ribs you can get slow-cooking without a skilled pitmaster.

* Actually, Arnold's just moved further east on Shelby Drive.

UPDATE: I made a return trip to Pollard's after the restaurant was featured on Restaurant Impossible.

Pollard's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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