Monday, November 7, 2011

A Little Overpriced, A Little Overrated - Blues City Cafe


Today was an absolutely beautiful day and I was working downtown so I decided to park East of Fourth on Beale and walk to the Blues City Cafe at Beale and Second. People familiar with Beale know that the official Historic District between Second and Fourth is closed to traffic. Walking down a quiet, uncrowded Beale Street on a sunny, lazy Monday afternoon is a relaxing experience that is very different than being there at night or on a weekend day.


I’ve eaten at the Blues City Cafe, but I’d never tried their ribs. Unfortunately, the restaurant’s food seems to be a victim of it’s great location and history. The list of musicians, politicians and other celebrities who have been to the restaurant, both to eat and to perform, is long and impressive. But when you’re primarily serving food to tourists, a large portion of whom have been drinking in the many bars that line Beale, there’s a tendency just shoot for good-enough with your food. In fact, astute readers will notice that I’ve also been in no hurry to include the Rendezvous on my barbecue quest. There is a reason for that.


The ribs I ate at Blues City were certainly good enough. They definitely weren’t bad. But they were only offered with a wet glaze of blandly sweet sauce, and the meat lacked the smokey flavor and charred-outside, melt-in-you-mouth-inside texture of the best ribs I’ve encountered. On top of that, at $14.95 before tax and tip, the half slab I ordered was one of the more expensive half slabs I’ve seen so far despite its puny size.  Granted it came with a huge order of steak fries along with the beans, slaw and bread. But with my lunch routine the fries are mostly  just 'carbage’ to be left behind with the bread and the rib bones.















As a local who has tried the ribs at places like Jack's, Bar-B-Q Shop, Cozy CornerReggi's and Leonard's and who was stone-cold sober in the middle of a working Monday I realize I wasn’t the Blues City Cafe’s target customer. There are signs throughout the restaurant reminding you that the kitchen is open late. If I had less experience with true Memphis-style ribs and had been roaming around Beale Street for hours working up a serious buzz and a serious hunger I’m sure I would have devoured the ribs like they were the best thing I’d ever eaten. So if you're bar hopping on Beale and find yourself inside Blues City and hungry, go ahead and order some ribs if that’s what you’re craving. But if you’re looking for examples of the best Memphis has to offer, there are definitely better places to go.

Blues City Cafe on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. So if you're bar hopping on Beale and find yourself inside Blues City and hungry, go ahead and order some ribs if that’s what you’re craving. But if you’re looking for examples of the best Memphis has to offer, there are definitely better places to go.

    I'd argue that if you're bar hopping on Beale, by definition you're not looking for the best food Memphis has to offer. Ideally, you've taken care of that quest before you hit Beale, or you save it for the following day (and passage of the hangover)... :)

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  2. I agree with your take about the late night bar hopping food grab. At 2am, just about anything is good, including a Dyer's burger. In fact, I never had a Dyer's burger sober until after I read a review of it on the blog Best Memphis Burger. After it was panned for being a greasy, unseasoned burger, I went to Dyer's to confirm that. I subsequently corfirmed it via a review of my own. I guess food is like women (or men, depending on perspective): at 2am, you can't expect to meet Miss America (yes, I'm paraphrasing Joe Namath). I guess that logic also applies to food on Beale Street.
    As for the barbecue ribs at Blues City Cafe, your review is dead-on accurate. However, when I'm working at the FedExForum Box Office and a tourist asks where to find great barbecue, I direct them to Blues City. I should tell them that my favorites are Cozy Corner ("wet") and Jack's Bar-B-Que Rib Shack (dry rub), but most tourists are too lazy to make the effort to find those places. Because of that, Beale Street will always be a "tourist trap" for mediocre barbecue.

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