While visiting Ken Neely's Hickory Bar-B-Que for lunch Wednesday I had the lady who took my order fill me in on the Neely family tree after looking over the paintings of assorted family members and their restaurants hanging on the walls. She told me that Ken is the son of Jim Neely. Jim is the owner of the legendary Interstate Bar-B-Q on S. Third Street and the uncle of Patrick Neely, of Down Home with the Neelys fame, who owns Neely’s Bar-B-Que.
So I wasn’t surprised when the ribs at the humble-looking restaurant were outstanding. Ken Neely was obviously born with barbecue wired into his DNA. His restaurant is a small place with just a handful of tables that seems to mostly focus on carry-out orders and catering. It sits on Winchester near 385 where Hickory Hill transitions into Germantown. You can even see the transition in the shopping center where Ken Neely’s is located. The restaurant’s neighbors are a real bank on one side and a check-cashing, payday advance place on the other.
I thought my order of ribs looked overcooked when I got them, but the texture ended up being perfect. They didn’t have a smokey flavor but the fat was perfectly rendered into the meat and and the dry rub was so good they would have been fine without any additional sauce. I had ordered spicy barbecue sauce on the side though and once I tasted it I couldn’t stop adding generous quantities to the meat. I had a definite kick, but you could still taste a great mix of barbecue seasonings as well. The baked beans were some of the best I’ve had on my quest. They had a thick, flavorful sauce that reminded me of the baked beans at Leonard's. The vinegar bite of the slaw also reminded me of Leonard’s, which means the sides at Ken Neely’s all measure up well against some of the best I’ve encountered.
The value for your money at Ken Neely’s is almost as impressive as the cooking. The place isn’t fancy. My ribs came in a styrofoam clamshell and all the barbecue sandwiches I saw people eat came wrapped in foil. If you want a soda it will come in a can and when I asked for water I got a styrofoam cup and directions to the water fountain. But for $10.99 the generous pile of ribs, beans and slaw I got was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had during my quest. The sandwiches I saw people eating looked enormous and were only $5.39. The menu also listed a Nathan’s hotdog for $2.99, a 16 oz serving of barbecue spaghetti for $3.05 and a full catfish dinner for $7.50. If you're looking for table service and atmosphere, this isn’t the place. But if you’re looking for one of the best bang for your buck food experiences in local barbecue Ken Neely's will be hard to beat.