It turns out that those are Marlowe's winter hours. During the warm months of the main tourist season the restaurant opens at noon since, unsurprisingly, a lot of the customers are tourists visiting Graceland just a few blocks to the north. In fact, when I asked my server about the pink limousines in front of the restaurant she said they offer free rides to and from any hotel around Graceland or the airport to anyone who wants to come to eat and drink.
Beyond the Elvis-related decorations, you also encounter a fairly large collection of trophies from barbecue competitions when you enter the building. It was a welcome sight, since the actual food is frequently an afterthought at a lot of restaurants with tourist-heavy customer bases. Also, the bar was crowded with local regulars stopping by on their way home from work who all seemed to know each other. It was like Cheers, except the guy at the end of the bar in a mailman's outfit was black and had a long gray beard. My server said that most of the customers are locals during the off-season, and that a lot of the regulars come by less frequently during the spring and summer when the place starts to get crowded with tourists.
I ordered a Miller Lite and a rib dinner. They offered a choice between wet and dry ribs so I got my standard of dry with sauce on the side. The ribs were ultra tender and had a solid pink layer indicating smoke penetration, but I couldn't taste any smoke. The thick and hearty sauce had a good tang to it, which helped make up for the lack of flavor in the meat itself. The slaw was solidly good, but a little more mayo-heavy than I prefer. The beans were great; meaty, well-seasoned and the thick barbecue sauce worked well with them.
I was intrigued by the little piece of bread that came with the meal. It appeared to be deep fried like the bread at Jack's Bar-B-Q Rib Shack. I tried a few bites and it was delicious. When I asked my server she confirmed that it was a fried sourdough roll. Most barbecue places just toast some hamburger buns or give you a few slices of white bread straight from the bag with their dinners. I usually avoid the bread since it is processed junk food, but a serving that small of something that tastes so good is the best way to get me to make an exception.
On my way out I did a quick walk through the gift shop, which was full of Elvis-themed gear. My dinner at Marlowe's was pleasant, but as a Memphian with plenty of great barbecue near my house there was nothing about it that would make me make a special trip there. However, if you are an Elvis fan from out of town, staying at a hotel near Graceland or the airport and craving barbecue along with some liquor or beer; don't hesitate to pick up the phone, call
This looked like some top-notch journalism, and the price had been slashed down to $2.99 from the original $9.99, but I still passed. "Featuring the special relationship between Elvis and President Nixon."