Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Catching a Game in the Tiger Room - Central

I’d never been to the Central BBQ location on Summer Avenue before today, but I’ve heard their radio ads promoting their “Tiger Room” with big screen TVs, a bar and University of Memphis memorabilia on the walls. So as a Memphis alum, when the Tigers ended up playing in-state rival Tennessee in the Maui Invitational Tournament at 1 p.m. today while I was working near Summer it seemed like a great time to take an extended lunch there. I had no way of knowing I was sitting down for an excruciating three-hour, double-overtime nail-biter that Memphis eventually won 99-97.

Central is a fairly new addition to the Memphis barbecue scene. I’ve eaten at the original Midtown location near my house multiple times over the ten years it has been in business and have found the pulled pork there to be very hit or miss. Sometimes it is really good but it has also been dried-out, rubbery garbage on several occasions. I’ve heard several people praise Central’s ribs, but I’d never tried them so that’s what I ordered today.

The Summer Avenue location opened five years ago is in a huge former Red Lobster. Besides the dedicated Tiger Room, every other one of the building’s multiple dining rooms also had at least one big TV turned to the game. I ended up watching it on a large projection screen in the front dining area. When I first walked in I spent a minute waiting on a hostess before realizing that you are supposed to order your food at the cash register where you receive a number. Then you sit down and wait for someone to find you with your food order. The Midtown location also uses an order counter, but it seems natural at a small store where the staff can call out order numbers. The Red Lobster building was obviously designed to use to hostess and table service so it seems odd for Central to avoid using them there, especially with a $15.25 pre-tax price tag for a half slab of ribs.

The ribs themselves were excellent. They had a tastily-charred outer surface, a delicious, smoke-flavored pink interior and a good dry rub that went well with the wet sauce I had on the side. The sides were disappointing. The beans were topped with a generous portion of pulled pork, but both the beans and the pork were relatively flavorless. I avoid bread on the quest and there was never any temptation with the cold, straight-from-the-package brown-and-serve roll that accompanied my meal. The extremely dry cole slaw was almost laughably bad. It was like someone just roughly chopped some cabbage and stirred in a minute amount of mayonnaise with no additional seasoning of any kind.

When the game went into overtime and it became obvious I was going to miss more work than I intended I decided to order a beer. Being able to make decisions like that is a definite benefit of owning your own business. I got up and went back to the cashier to order my beer. After she took my money and I gave her a tip, she told me I needed to pick up my beer from the bar in the Tiger Room. When I got my beer there the bartender looked at me expectantly, but I’d already given my tip to the lady who took my drink order so I just awkwardly returned to my table in the front room. The $5 price for a pint of Fat Tire was reasonable by most bar standards, but combined with the high cost of the rib dinner it made Central a far worse deal than Jack's Bar-B-Q Rib Shack right up the street, which I drove past to get to there.

Central BBQ (East Memphis) on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. lol they still have the same red lobster tables there, did they even do anything to the interior