I ultimately decided to stop at the Pig, since it is the only place that actually primarily identifies itself as a barbecue restaurant, I remember having good food there on a previous visit years ago and I've heard good things about it since. There were empty outdoor tables in front of the restaurant so I just waved to the host as I sat down in one and he immediately ducked inside and sent a server my way.
I complained about overpriced food in my post about Blues City Cafe, but the reality is that there is no such thing as a good deal on barbecue in Beale's Historic District. At the Pig I paid $13.50 for a "regular rack" that ended up being about a third of a slab. When I mentioned my underwhelming experience at Blues City Cafe to a friend who works at the Pig, he dismissively said, "they boil their ribs." I took that as another good sign that the folks at the Pig know what they are doing.
I got my ribs dry, but all the ribs at the Pig are glazed with sauce while they cook so they still had a very sweet taste to them. An old newspaper review posted on the window referred to them as a "dessert rib," and it seemed appropriate. They were cooked perfectly, and didn't need any sauce since they'd already been infused with some during the cooking process. I still tried a bit of the spicy sauce, and it was so sweet and mild that I assumed someone had mislabeled a bottle of regular sauce. It got the same results when I grabbed a bottle of "spicy" from an empty nearby table, so I can only imagine how sweet the actual sweet sauce is. Both the beans and the slaw were completely generic examples.
When you include the fact that I don't eat the bread with my barbecue meals, this is a very small quantity of food for $13.50 before tip. But it is a pretty standard deal by Beale Street standards.
I should have ordered a larger serving I ribs since I wasn't full after the regular order. Instead of the half and full slabs found around the rest of the city, Beale Street restaurants all seem to offer a confusing mix of small, regular, large and full-slab orders of ribs. After my meal at the Pig, I ended up strolling by Gus's Fried Chicken to drop $4 on a two-piece dark meat snack before heading on to the Blind Bear, just to feel like I'd really eaten. Gus's is so delicious and such a great value that you always have room for some.
If you like sweet sauces check out the Pig, but if you are after real Memphis-style ribs they can't compete with the recently-opened Double J Smokehouse over on South Main. I doubt anywhere on Beale can, since the Double J genuinely understands how to prepare good barbecue while most places on Beale are counting a constantly rotating supply of undiscriminating customers.
Besides the Pig and Blues City Cafe, I counted an additional 11 places serving barbecue on the two blocks of Beale between Second and Fourth; if you are willing to count chain places like the Hard Rock Cafe and the Coyote Ugly Bar. I'm not just looking for the best barbecue in town; my quest is try all the barbecue places around Memphis. So I guess I'll have to hit the tourist-trap chain places at some point.But if you are determined to eat barbecue on Beale, I'd definitely stick to somewhere like the Pig that is locally-owned and where you know the barbecue is being slow-cooked on-site with smoke.