Monday, June 11, 2012

A Step Back in Time - Bozo's

Bozo's Hot Pit Bar-B-Q has been around since 1923. The Mason, TN restaurant is practically across the street from the original location of Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken on U.S. Highway 70. While Gus's now has additional locations around the Memphis area, the little Mason fried chicken shack was the only one around in 2001 when GQ magazine named it one of the top five restaurants in the U.S. worth flying to just to eat a meal.

If you're going to fly in to sample some Gus's you should definitely stick around for some pulled pork from Bozo's while you're there. I don't know if I'd take a flight just to eat at Bozo's, but it was definitely a worthwhile destination for a group of classic hot rod owners on a pleasant Saturday afternoon in June.

Most of my barbecue journeys occur during the week while I'm making my rounds in my work vehicle. But my personal car is a white '69 Mustang I bought last summer and fixed up to drive while I am in the middle of a complete ground-up rebuild* of the 1955 Ford Sedan I've had since high school. With classic cars and barbecue being two of my lifelong passions I naturally jumped at the opportunity when I heard about a group cruise from Bartlett to Mason for the express purpose of eating at Bozo's.

We ended up packing over 25 cars into the Bozo's parking lot. Locals were getting on cell phones and calling their friends to tell them to come out and look.

We had called ahead to warn the restaurant we were coming and they did a good job handling the chaos of about 50 people showing up at the exact same time wanting to sit together and order at the same time. According to the menu Bozo's also does catering and I'm sure that experience helped the friendly staff deal with us. All together it took less than two hours from the time we arrived until everyone had eaten and paid up, which is impressive for a group that size packed into a little roadside family restaurant. 

I ordered the pulled pork and rib combo. Everything at Bozo's is served dry with bottled sauce available at the table in mild, medium and hot. The mild was too sweet and syrupy while the hot was simply hot without a lot of other flavor. The medium ended up being the one that perfectly hit the spot. It had a nice spicy kick to it but it the heat was just one element in a great overall mix of flavors. the beans and slaw were both pretty standard. The slaw was the sweet and creamy variety that isn't my personal preference.

Between the two types of barbecue the pulled pork was great while the ribs failed to impress me. What little meat there was on the ribs was very dry and tough. Meanwhile the pulled pork was extremely juicy with a great mix of flavors from the inner and outer shoulder meat. The serving of it on my plate was also deceptively huge. I was surprised by how much of it I ate before I finally put a visible dent in it. When we were waiting on our food to come out my friends and I had joked about hitting Gus's for a second dinner after we finished our barbecue since we were all extremely hungry when we arrived at Bozo's. By the time I actually did finish my serving of pulled pork I knew there was no way I was eating anything else for the rest of the night.

 Bozo's is such a visual time capsule that portions of the Johny Cash biopic Walk the Line were filmed there. A framed poster for the film now hangs on one of the walls surrounded by prints from scenes where the interior of the restaurant is visible around stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

* Last summer the front end of my '55 was smashed in by another driver who pulled out in front of me in traffic. I built a garage in my backyard over the winter and I'm currently tearing down my old car and another '55 body I purchased recently to make one car out of the best parts from both of them.  

Bozo's Hot Pit Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon


  1. they have a vinegar based slaw. I ask for it every time we stop by

    1. Thanks for the tip. During our visit the place was totally packed to capacity with people who all showed up at the same time, so I can't fault the servers for not telling me that. They did a fantastic job given the chaos they were dealing with.

  2. Shame none of the BBQ places in Memphis have Brunswick Stew. One place we went into told us we must be from up north. Since Brunswick stew is a southern food I told them they must be from up north if they don't know what it is.

  3. My understanding is that Brunswick Stew can be found mainly in the Atlantic Coast states of the South, from Southside VA through GA. I live in TN now, and have only found it at a few places here.