The pit was going strong at the Tops Bar-B-Q in Olive Branch, MS, when I pulled up on Thursday. The aroma of ribs and pork shoulder filling the parking lot made me instantly crave some good barbecue. But I was already going Downtown for the annual Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest as soon as I got off work. Since I was about to have a couple evenings completely dominated by slow-cooked pork I decided to stick to my original plan of ordering a double cheeseburger.
I've eaten at 12 of the locations now. Just two more to go.
The Olive Branch Tops is located just off of U.S. Highway 78 on Bethel Road. It shares the modern Tops look of the Millington and Jackson Avenue locations. Bethel Road changes names to Hacks Cross just a few miles north of the restaurant, while Highway 78 goes by both Lamar Avenue and EH Crump Boulevard in Memphis before it merges with I-55 headed in Arkansas. I frequently wonder if visitors to the Mid-South think the constant changes our street names go through is some kind of trick we are playing to keep them on their toes.
Like always, the double cheeseburger was a grease-dripping bundle of perfection On a whim I got an order of fries to go with my double cheeseburger on this trip. The fries are one of the only menu items left that I haven't mentioned in a post. I've sampled them plenty of times. My wife frequently has me get her an order with her food when I make a run to our neighborhood Tops. And I always eat a couple on the way home because who doesn't eat a few of the fries on the way home from a food run like that?
They are just standard crinkle cut fries out of a freezer bag. I was curious to see if they'd be salted, since the ones we get next to our house never seem to be. It appears to be a company-wide thing because these desperately needed salt too. They were better after I hit them with the salt shaker at my table, but for the best taste fries need to be salted straight out of the fryer while they still have a nice coating of hot liquid grease for the salt to soak in to. I normally just order the burger by itself, since the double is usually plenty filling and I prefer to avoid the rancid vegetable oils that restaurants typically use. But I know burgers and French fries are inherently linked in a lot of people's minds so I can see how the mediocre fries hurt the experience for people like the Best Memphis Burger blogger who want a perfect burger and fry combo. With such an exceptional burger it seems strange that the folks at Tops don't take their game to the next level with some good seasoned fries.