Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Worth the Price - Memphis Barbecue Company

I was a little skeptical pulling up to the Memphis Barbecue Company on Monday. The large restaurant sits in between an Applebee's and a Cracker Barrel on Goodman Road* next to I-55 in Horn Lake, MS. But while the competition around it is a testament to the depressing mediocrity that comes from large chains using bulk-purchased and prepared food as a commodity, the Memphis Barbecue Company is an oasis of quality and locally-owned attention to detail.

I could smell the wonderful barbecue aroma as soon as I stepped out onto the parking lot where there were a couple men unloading a large trailer of wood next to a giant commercial barbecue pit. My server inside later told me that the pit can cook 200 butts at the same time, so the owners have obviously been willing to invest the money necessary to produce the volume of slowly smoked pork is takes to feed such a large restaurant without cutting corners.

It threw me off for a second when I first entered the building and the hostess asked me if I wanted smoking or non. Tennessee has limited smoking to 21-and-up establishments for years now, and since DeSoto County, MS, is a suburb of Memphis it is easy to forget it is in another state with its on separate laws. Once I was seated in the nonsmoking section an extremely friendly server took my drink order and gave me a menu. When he came back with my ice water he also had an order of hot, freshly made pork rinds dusted with dry rub barbecue seasoning.

The pork rinds are a standard free starter at Memphis Barbecue Company, similar but vastly superior to the rolls that are common at other restaurants. I love pork rinds and I love dry rub, so I didn't waste any time tearing into them. I tried splashing them with a little of the regular barbecue sauce that was on the table and the result was great. Then I tried them with the flavor-packed hot barbecue sauce and it was even better. When my server came back to take my food order he saw me enjoying the pork rinds and started to suggest trying them with the spicy sauce before laughing when he realized that was already exactly what I was doing.

I ordered the half-slab rib dinner with beans and slaw. The ribs are offered wet or dry in both loin (baby back) rib and spare (St. Louis) rib cuts. Since the restaurant boasts about its amazing food and world champion pitmaster owners I decided to put them to the test with the leaner loin ribs. At $15.99, the price tag for a half-slab dinner certainly indicated that they were proud of their food.

The ribs had a coating of dry rub, but it wasn't the heavy dusting you see at places like the Bar-B-Q Shop in Midtown. Instead, there was just enough rub to mix with the rendered fat that seeped out of the meat while I was eating to create a sauce-like coating that was literally finger-licking good. As much as I enjoyed the hot barbecue sauce on my pork rinds, I thought that the ribs were better without it. The outer smoke line on them was a dark red color that faded to pink towards the interior of the meat. As good as the sauce was, it was an unnecessary distraction from the wonderfully complex flavor of the ribs in their natural state.

The beans and slaw were both solidly better than average compared to other barbecue places around town, although neither stood out as truly amazing. I usually avoid bread on my barbecue quest but I did nibble a few small bites of the cornbread that came with my dinner to verify that it was as good as it looked. I don't find it hard to pass on bread made from ordinary wheat flour, but I was a straight-up cornbread junkie in my heavier days and a good-looking sample will still temptingly beckon to me.

After tax and tip I ended up paying $21 for my meal at the Memphis Barbecue Company, which is pretty steep for a lunch stop. But for someone looking to enjoy great traditional Memphis dry rub ribs, I'd put it alongside the Bar-B-Q Shop, Leonard's, Jack's Bar-B-Q Rib Shack, and the newly-opened Double J Smokehouse in my current, totally unofficial and subject to change, in no particular order, top five**.

* There is a traffic light to help you get out of the Memphis Barbecue Company parking lot. I digressed into a long-winded rant about Goodman Road and its traffic in my post about Boss Hog B-B-Q. There was a report in the Sunday Commercial Appeal that the city of Memphis is bringing in a planning expert to tell them many of the same things I said in that blog post. Hopefully I can make it to his public presentation tomorrow evening to hear him speak in more detail. I am fascinated by the way cities, particularly mine, change over time. That's why this blog is frequently a discussion of the city disguised as a food blog. [UPDATE: I attended the presentation and wrote an outrageously long post about it here]

** I haven't posted about the Rendezvous yet, but keep in mind they aren't traditional Memphis ribs. They are a Greek take on traditional Memphis ribs. I have a lot less experience with the wet ribs around Memphis, since I order dry whenever I have the option, but if you do prefer wet, the ones at Cozy Corner would be hard to beat. Just don't ask them for hot unless you mean it.

Memphis BBQ Company on Urbanspoon


  1. That cornbread looks like it was cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Just like my Mom used to make.

  2. This place is great. The ribs are just the tip of the iceburg. Please return back and post on the rest of their beef and other pork offerings! Very solid, well informed and educated blogging and I enjoy reading.

    1. I definitely want to try their pulled pork now.

  3. I really enjoy your Blog. Not just this post but all of them.
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Partners in this venture are both Memphis in May winners. If you want to stray from traditional BBQ fare, they have a wonderful smoked salmon, great steaks and a BLT with in house smoked bacon.
    Deserts are also very good, especially the bread pudding.
    For the unusual, I've heard the sandwich with Doughnuts as the bread is very good. But hey, why waste the calories on a doughnut?
    I am a MBN and KCBS certified barbecue judge. This is as close to competition BBQ as you can get without being a judge.

  5. Their fried green tomatoes are excellent as well.

  6. just saw the cheese fritters she made would love to have the recipe do you know where i could find it?

    1. I don't know. You would definitely have to severely reduce all the quantities she uses unless you were planning to feed a small army. She told what is in it. If anyway figures out the ratios for making them at home in family-sized batches I'd love to hear the recipe as well.

    2. Cheese Fritters with Sweet Honey Mustard Sauce

      Prep Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
      Cook Time: 5 minutes
      Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
      Yield: 30 large fritters


      Cheese Fritters
      •2 1/2 cups flour, (self rising helps them to puff more)
      •3/4 cup sour cream
      •4 eggs, whisked slightly
      •3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
      •2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
      •1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
      •1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
      •1/2 cup green onions, diced
      •2 tablespoon parsley, dried
      •1 tablespoon garlic powder
      •1 teaspoon salt
      •1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      •3 teaspoons garlic, minced

      Sweet Honey Mustard Sauce
      •3 tablespoons honey
      •3 tablespoons dijon mustard
      •2 tablespoons spicy mustard
      •2 tablespoons sugar
      •dash hot sauce


      1.Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix well.
      2.Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This will help with the texture when frying.
      3.Heat oil to 350 F. Scoop balls of batter and fry until golden. About the size of a golf ball.
      4.Drain and cool.

      5.Combine all ingredients and enjoy.
      6.Visit SouthernFATTY.com for more.


  7. Food great but waitress who obvioisly high on something. U can tell. Little girl brunette elisa something. Should really check staff serving food to families

  8. I always have hard times with meals when i am abroad. Because the meat always comes in thick slices and fairly cooked. But this dish looks fine but i agree that the price is high for a lunch.

  9. My wife & I decided, based on this review (you didn't let me down with the Double-J) and Triple-D's visit here, that we would try the Memphis Barbecue Co. on our recent annual Spring Break trip to Memphis. I have to say - I was a little disappointed. We tried both cuts of ribs & our niece ordered the pulled-pork. And while I enjoyed the smokiness & texture of the ribs, I felt like the rub was a bit too plentiful & seasoned-salt heavy. They weren't terrible or anything, they were good enough that I would try it again sometime, I was just expecting better. The beans were okay, and the slaw was way too creamy/not vinegary enough for my taste. Fortunately the pulled pork & pork rinds were delicious. You were right about the sauce - the spicy is pretty good, but the regular was entirely too sweet.

    1. Sorry the ribs disappointed. I haven't tried the pulled pork there yet but I'm curios to try it and the burger with the pork rind on it they showed on Triple-D. Try any other new places this time around?

  10. We went to the always satisfying Bar-B-Q Shop, and we went back to Pig on Beale for the first time in a few years. It was actually much better than I remembered! The most disappointing part of our trip was that we had tickets to the Redbirds home opener, which ended up being rained-out - so I didn't get to partake of the ballpark Rendezvous BBQ nachos either. That said, it just opens up the opportunity for another quick trip down to go to a make-up game & eat more barbecue! Can't complain too much.

  11. I just found your blog - via a recommendation from a KCBS CBJ - and I love it!

    I am a KCBS certified barbecue judge and finally got the opportunity to stop here back in July. Every judge I know on the circuit had been raving about it last year, so I was really looking forward to it. I ordered a combo platter of ribs (I got spares because they are my favorite), pulled pork and brisket. Unfortunately, I think the quality of the fare here has slipped because I found everything to be below the "Memphis average" you have established.

    The ribs were overdone and the brisket was "pot roasty." Both a product of being held in a warmer too long. The pulled pork was quite good, however. I thought their sauces and sides were quite good, though.

    I measure all resaurant ribs against the Bar-B-Q Shop, which is my favorite in town. I wish someone in town could get brisket right, though. I found a pretty good sampling at Corky's once, but not on repeat visits.

    All of that said, I'm willing to give Memphis Barbecue Company another shot, but I will not go out of my way to do so.

  12. LOVE THIS PLACE. Always too full to get dessert BUT our guest loved the bread pudding... and she is a expert on bread pudding she says. Does anyone know if she has posted the recipe for it anywhere.