Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not my Kind of Place - Club 152

On Monday I took a walk down Beale Street to find some new barbecue to try and to people watch among the crowds of people in town for Elvis Week. Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. Every year there is a week worth of Elvis-related events surrounding the anniversary. The biggest event of the week is always the candlelight vigil that starts at Graceland every August 15 and continues on to the 16th.

Naturally, the majority of the out-of-town fans who come to Memphis for Elvis week make sure to visit Beale Street at some point during their visit. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis's death so the event planners are expecting even larger crowds than usual.


While walking down the street I stopped in at Club 152 to check out the menu. I tend to just think of 152 as a large, multi-story dance club, not a restaurant, but there was barbecue listed on the menu. I started to turn around and leave when I saw the menu's, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," ribs. Apparently 152 just serves ribs from the Blues City Cafe next door. I wasn't impressed by the ribs from Blues City when I tried them there so I wasn't going to pay $16 plus tax and tip to eat them under a different roof. The menu said that 152 does cook its own pork shoulder though, so I decided to sit at the bar and give it a try.

According to the menu the pulled pork dinner comes with  slaw and French fries. I asked about getting baked beans instead of fries and the bartender told me, "We don't have beans. If you want something else we have steamed vegetables." At this point I realized I was getting a barbecue plate from a Beale Street place that doesn't offer baked beans and doesn't even bother to cook its own ribs. I wasn't very optimistic about the pulled pork I was about to try but I went ahead and told her I'd take a plate with steamed vegetables subbed for the fries since I was sure they'd be the same Sysco steak fries served at Blues City. Hey, my quest was to try as many places serving barbecue as possible, right?

I was just drinking water since it was the middle of a work day, but while I was waiting for my food I was horrified by the provisions the bar was stocked with. In the three big shelves for liquor behind the bar, the one to the left contained a small assortment of whiskeys, scotches and such. The one in the middle had a fairly large selection of clear rums while the top shelf was stocked with cans of Red Bull. The one to the right was packed with an overflowing selection of vodkas stacked three deep.

In the beer cooler in the corner there was a decent selection of respectable options like Ghost River, Newcastle and Heineken. But fully half the cooler was loaded with stuff like Smirnoff Ice, Bud Light Lime and Michelob Ultra. Looking at the alcohol selection made me envision packs of guys sporting popped collars, Affliction gear and fauxhawks prowling for the drunkest specimens of shrill, scantily-clad women falling off of their high heels in the type of hell on earth amateur hour usually reserved for the Vegas Strip. It made me glad we have Club 152. These people exist, they want to drink and I don't want them anywhere near any of the Madison Avenue dives I frequent.

My bartender was friendly and my food came out fast so I have no complaints about the service. Like most of the barbecue I've had on Beale the pulled pork at 152 was fairly tender but it didn't have any smoke flavor. I'm pretty sure its just cooked in a standard commercial oven. The sauce was the same blandly-sweet sauce served at Blues City Cafe. The slaw was pretty good but the vegetables looked and tasted like they were straight out of a frozen bag from the Sysco truck. 

In a recent post about B.B. King's Blues Club I bemoaned Beale Street's continuing loss of character and historical identity. Some people might consider Club 152 a fun place to drink and dance to canned modern pop music, but it epitomizes the disregard for Memphis's musical and culinary heritage that has plagued Beale Street over the course of the past decade.

Club 152 on Urbanspoon


  1. You got sucked into nothing but the tourist trap type restaurant that are all up and down Beale. You should ask people where the best bbq places are at in Memphis. -A Memphian

    1. The whole point of this blog is that I am a lifelong Memphian trying to eat at every barbecue place in the greater Memphis area, both good and bad.

  2. CLUB 152 is just that... It's a CLUB. It's not a BBQ joint... it's not even really a restaurant. I used to work at Blues City... CLUB 152 is a CLUB and a BAR.