I'd heard ads on the radio for a new barbecue place called When Pigs Fly with locations on Hacks Cross in Memphis and on Goodman Road in Horn Lake so I decided to look for the one on Goodman while I was down in DeSoto County Monday. I didn't see any signs for it but I did spot a place called Skipper's Catfish and BBQ so I decided to give it a try. When I stepped inside the menu's and shirts on the staff identified the place as When Pigs Fly.
I had inadvertently found the place I was looking for, the new owners just hadn't changed the exterior signage yet. I saw that a half-slab rib dinner was just $12.99 so I was curious to see how it would compare to the more expensive but ultra-impressive ribs served at the Memphis Barbecue Company, which is just three miles away on the same road.
The dinner was supposed to come with beans, slaw and fries but I subbed potato salad for the fries. As soon as I saw the ribs I was disappointed. They looked like overcooked grilled pork chops sprinkled with a little dry rub. The beans and slaw were both okay but the overly-creamy potato salad was full of hard, undercooked potato pieces. Things got worse from there as I began fighting my way through the serving of ribs.
While trying to pull the ribs apart I kept getting large portions of unrendered fat with little pieces of overcooked meat attached to them. Of the portion in my hand here that is a little piece of meat to the left while the big glob to the right is all fat. There was no smoke coloration or flavor in any of the meat.
The membrane had been left on the slab of ribs. Not all restaurants remove the membrane but if ribs are cooked correctly it peels off easily. On these ribs it was a tough, thick, fatty sheet clinging tightly to the meat.
I always stress that I like tender ribs that still maintain a nice, meaty texture. I don't expect them to be completely falling apart; removing the meat from the bone should ideally take a little bit of effort. But it shouldn't be an impossible task due to a layer of unrendered fat attached to the bones. Rendering the fat means using time and low heat to liquify it so that it flows out into the meat, infusing it with juiciness and flavor.
New restaurants always have some bugs to work out and When Pigs Fly also offers items like catfish and burgers so I'm not sure how good some of the other menu items may be. But the ribs I had there were like a textbook example of everything barbecue ribs shouldn't be. The combination of no smoke flavor, overcooked meat and unrendered fat means they were cooked way too fast over way too much heat. It is a new place so if someone visits later and finds that things have improved dramatically let me know so I can give it another shot since my first visit didn't leave me inclined to go back.