Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Essence of Traditional Memphis Barbecue - more Leonard's

Leonard's Pit Barbecue has been serving slow-cooked pork in Memphis since 1922. Our most famous resident, Elvis Presley, was a regular who liked to treat his friend’s to after-hours parties there. That was at a different location than the current sprawling, retro cool-looking building located on Fox Plaza, but the restaurant has still certainly earned a place in local barbecue history.  And after trying the pulled pork on a recent visit I was determined to return for some traditional Memphis-style ribs.

The dry ribs are everything excellent dry ribs are supposed to be. They have a charred, deliciously seasoned, outer surface covering rich, smokey meat so good that you have to be careful not to grunt like a caveman while you eat. And there is a tremendous amount of meat on these ribs. A half-slab was one of the most filling lunches I've had on my quest. The sides of beans and slaw were just as bold-tasting as they were on my previous visit. The food, history and atmosphere at Leonard’s combine to make it one of the best barbecue-eating experiences in the city, and it would be one of my top recommendations for anyone wanting to see what traditional Memphis barbecue is all about. 

UPDATE: While talking to people about barbecue and mentioning how much I've enjoyed eating at Leonard's I've had several people mention being unimpressed by the barbecue served on the all-you-can-eat buffet. So I want to stress that I have always ordered off the menu on my visits.

Leonard's Pit Barbecue on Urbanspoon


  1. I ordered off the menu at 11:30 am and got a leftover rack from the day before, not going back

  2. I've been in Memphis for about 10 months, and also wanted to try real Memphis BBQ, so I've tried a lot of the recommended places: Corky's, Germantown Commisary, Central BBQ, Tops, One & Only, A&R, Neelys, Rendevous, Leonards, Ken Neelys, and The Barbeque Shop. And at all these places I had the same thing: ribs, with beans and slaw, in order to make a fair comparison. I must admit that Leonard's is right near the top of my favorites. Ken Neely's used to be one of my favorites, but they've gone out of business. I have to say Leonard's is my number two, right behind The Barbeque Shop. But I'll have to try it a second time, to see how it does on a revisit. In the meantime, I agree with this review. Leonards is highly recommended.

  3. For anyone new to Memphis I would suggest that, at minimum, you try Interstate Barbecue and Cozy Corner. These routinely earn the highest marks in local polls. If you're not afraid to go into a rough part of town and aren't concerned about ambience you might also try Payne's BBQ on Lamar. It's WAY west on Lamar and is completely no-frills. Another place I love that is off the beaten path is Tom's BBQ on New Getwell.

    I was really sorry to see Ken Neely's shop close it's doors. Not only was it close to where I work, it was truly good stuff. His Dad is the owner of Interstate BBQ which may be the best example of great Memphis BBQ in the city.