Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Barbecue on Beale - The Pig

I didn't intend to have barbecue on Wednesday night. I was supposed to meet an out-of-town friend at Local Gastropub on Main before heading to the Blind Bear for drinks. But when he called to say he was running late, I decided to take a walk down Beale Street and find some ribs, since I was already Downtown. the Beale Street Historic District is full of restaurants claiming to offer "world famous" and "award winning" barbecue that is "the best on Beale Street." In fact, signs proclaiming great barbecue are as common as signs announcing "home of the big-ass beer."

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.

Pig on Beale on Urbanspoon


  1. First of all - I love your blog. It's very helpful in fulfilling my own similar mission. I am a barbecue junkie too, and my wife & I take an annual "spring-break" trip to Memphis which is approximately 240 miles south of our home. Our time there is limited - usually only 3 or 4 days - but we always try to search out new bbq places to try. I also try to keep track of them on my blog.

    So this year, we have 4 days beginning this Thursday. We haven't been since this time last year. So could you give us one or two "can't miss" 'cue joint suggestions? Preferably not too far from downtown? (We try to stay near Autozone park, because we also love our Cardinal/Redbird baseball.)

    1. Definitely try the Double J Salon if you like dry rub. It is only about 10 blocks south of Autozone Park. It is right off Main, so you can use the trolley to get there.

      For wet ribs, the Cozy Corner is near Downtown on North Parkway. I love the hot barbecue sauce there, but don't order it unless you like truly spicy food. The Cozy Corner also does good pulled pork and the Cornish hens are great if you want to try something a little different.

      If you venture out to Midtown, the Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison is one of my favorite places for barbecue. They have excellent dry rub and wet sauce, so they can take care of you whatever your preference is. It's also right around the corner from the Memphis Zoo, which was recently rated the best zoo in the country by And there are plenty of bars nearby on, both in Overton Square on Madison Avenue and around the intersection of Cooper and Young, if you want to get away from Beale and go where the locals hang out.

      And if you love visiting Autozone Park, I'm sure you are already well aware that it sells barbecue nachos made with rib meat from the Rendezvous. The Rendezvous sausage and cheese plate is my personal favorite thing at our ballpark to eat while enjoying a game.

    2. Thanks for your recommendations. We had an excellent trip to your fair city last week; which is documented over on my blog;
      (you also got a shout-out for helping us decide where to go.)
      Also, if you click on the "BBQ HEAVEN" tab at the top of the blog, I keep a page just for reference of my own BBQ mission.

      Thanks again. I really enjoy reading your blog now & am glad I found it.

    3. Glad you enjoyed the Double J so much. I've been really impressed with them.

      Which Tops did you visit? I like the food but the women who work behind the counters can be a little intimidating. Normally they are somewhat nice to the customers while arguing nonstop amongst themselves.

    4. Yeah, Double J was awesome - it's one we will probably visit again.

      The Tops we stopped at was the one on Union - not far from downtown. The lady that took our order was more impatient than rude. She didn't seem to like the fact that we were first timers & didn't know the menu. Which is a huge contrast to the people at Cozy Corner or Leonard's who I'm pretty sure would just sit down with you and have a whole conversation if they didn't have other customers.

  2. The real star of the burger though is the jalapeno fried onions. Best Food Truck In LA