Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Overpriced Beale Street Que - Superior

On Monday I tried yet another place on Beale claiming to serve "the best" barbecue. Superior Restaurant is on the western side of the Entertainment District near Second Street in a building that use to house Beale Street's police substation.

There wasn't a hostess and a lot of the tables were already occupied by groups of people having lunch so I just took a seat at the bar where I was able to chat with the two friendly bartenders while I ordered and waited for my food. There was a musician on stage playing an acoustic guitar and singing. He sounded pretty good although I heard more Prince covers than old blues songs. Still, Beale has reached a point where any live music is a welcome site. 

I ordered the rib and pulled pork combo. At $18.95 before tax and tip it was near the price range of an absolute feast from somewhere like Central BBQ or the Bar-B-Q Shop. Instead of a feast I got a few ribs, a small serving of mushy pulled pork, and a few bites of beans and slaw. Like the Blues City Cafe nearby, Superior piles on the cheap Sysco fries to try to make the plate of food look less paltry than it is.

I noticed that Superior sells sauces and rubs with both its logo and the logo for 10 Bones BBQ in Southaven, MS. I'd be willing to guess that the two restaurants share some owners, since both seem to specialize in overpriced barbecue with sauces that are waaay too sweet. People who think that barbecue can never be too tender have never experienced mushy pulled pork like I had at Superior. The ribs had a better texture but there was no evidence of smoke in them and even the dry rub tasted like sugar.

Overly sweet, lacking smoke and claims of competition success seem to be the unifying features of most Beale Street barbecue. With all the claims of competition success keep in mind that Garden & Gun magazine has explored the Memphis in May Barbecue Contest and made note of the judges' growing ignorant preference for sugar over the flavors of spice, smoke and rendered fat. As odd as it may sound, the two biggest threats to the reputation of Memphis barbecue right now are Beale Street and our annual World Barbecue Cooking Competition at Tom Lee Park. As many wonderful barbecue places as Memphis has, if I visited from Texas, Kansas City, the Carolinas, etc., and just tried "award-winning" barbecue on Beale I'd leave thinking that Memphis was an impostor on the barbecue scene.

I mentioned that the building where Superior is located used to be a police substation. Rowdy weekend crowds have become an increasing problem since the station moved, so the city is now setting up a Memphis Police Department Entertainment District Unit on the eastern side of the Entertainment District, where most of the problems occur, in a building that has been home to numerous failed bars and restaurants.

Superior Bar on Urbanspoon

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