Thursday, May 10, 2012

Barbecue for Working People - Tastee

After four days in Knoxville I was ready to get my hands on some real Memphis barbecue on Monday. Since I was on Brooks Road around lunchtime I decided it was time to visit Tastee Bar-B-Q, which sits in front of the giant Bellbrook Industrial Park just west of Elvis Presley Boulevard. I've driven past the place countless times over the years and always wanted to give it a try.

When I posted about Down South Bar-B-Que back in January I noted that it was just a few doors down from Tastee. Over the past month or two Down South has been empty with a closed sign in the window every time I've driven by. I'm not sure if it is out of business, but I'm assume so since I normally pass by in the middle of the day and lunch is when a diner-type restaurant in front of an industrial park makes its money. I was seriously impressed with the food at Down South so if it wasn't able to make it next to Tastee that meant Tastee had to be doing something right. [EDIT: Down South was open the last time I drove by.]

Besides barbecue, Tastee also has a selection of Southern plate lunch standards like meatloaf and country-fried steak in a glass case next to the front door. I came in the side door so I didn't even notice until I'd already ordered my barbecue dinner plate, but I'll have to stop back by in the future to sample some of the other choices. When I ordered my meal the guy at the counter asked if I wanted it with a roll, Texas Toast, regular cornbread or spicy cornbread. I might routinely toss my bread without touching it but there was no way I was going to pass up trying the spicy cornbread.

The barbecue, beans and slaw were all the very definition of "Memphis average". There was nothing spectacular about it, but I enjoyed every bit of it. The spicy corn muffin was steaming hot when I tore into it and loaded with little jalapeno pieces. After one bite I was glad the dinner only came with one. I could hurt myself with a larger quantity of them in front of me.

Tastee has a full crew working behind the counter; taking orders, plating food and calling out customers' numbers with minimal waiting time. Pulled pork and rib tips were the only barbecue items on the menu, which helps to keep things moving along quickly, and there is plenty of seating. The barbecue I had at Down South was a little better and the guy there had a full selection of pulled pork, ribs, rib tips and brisket. He was friendly, outgoing and took obvious pride in his food, but he was trying to do everything himself. I visited during an off time in the afternoon, when I mostly had his full attention, and still waited a while for my food. I was at Tastee during the brunt of the lunch rush and still made it in and out much quicker.

Having a successful restaurant isn't just a matter of having good food. You have to know who your customers are and give them what they want. If you are a dinner-time destination people probably won't mind kicking back and enjoying a beer for 15 minutes or so while they wait on their food as long as everything is good. But when you have a barbecue joint in front of an industrial park you are going to get a lot of lunchtime customers who have a time card waiting to be punched as soon as they get back to work. Tastee knows how to put a heaping plate of good food on their table in plenty of time for them to get back to work on time. It is filling an important niche in the area, which is what a successful restaurant does.

Tastee Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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