Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where There's Smoke Downtown - More A&R

People keep telling me how great the soul food is at Alcenia's on Main Street near the Pyramid in Downtown's Pinch District. On Monday I finally had a chance to swing by there at lunchtime, but first I checked the restaurant's Urbanspoon page to see if it would be opened since so many soul food places around town are closed on Mondays. The Urbanspoon page said Alcenia's is open on Mondays. In reality, Alcenia's is closed on Mondays.

Once I arrived at the closed restaurant I was already Downtown and hungry at lunchtime so I just travelled a few blocks over to Third Street to try A&R Bar-B-Que's Downtown location. While the A&R on Elvis Presley, with its real cinderblock smokehouse behind the restaurant, is my favorite location, all of them boast real barbecue pits. I've actually run into overly-smoked ribs at the now-closed Wolfchase location. That certainly isn't a problem you need to worry about at most of the places selling barbecue a few blocks over on Beale Street, where real barbecue smoke is in depressingly short supply.

I've found the pulled pork to be far more consistently good at A&R than the ribs. In fact, I've never had a bad serving of pulled pork from any A&R location. So, somewhat counter-intuitively, I decided to order a rib plate at the Downtown location since I'd never eaten there before and wanted to compare its ribs to other locations.

When my order came out it was a rib tip plate, not a rib plate. I mentioned that to my server and she immediately apologized and offered to switch it for me. But I had already seen and smelled the rib tip plate sitting in front of me. They were obviously juicy, with plenty of pink color from smoke penetration and a nice, light dusting of dry rub. I decided fate had sent them to me and told the server I was going to keep them, although she reassured me it would be no problem to swap them out. 

Once food has been served to a customer restaurants are required to throw it away if it is sent back, even if it hasn't been touched. In my world view it would be a crime to cause such good-looking rib tips to get tossed in the trash. And speaking of good-looking food; during my visit I also noticed some mouth-wateringly delicious looking smoked sausages coming out of the kitchen. I'll definitely be trying one of them soon.

Since I eat Memphis-area barbecue several times a week at minimum it is easy for me to get a little bit jaded. The rib tips, sauce, beans and slaw on my plate were all fairly average to me in the sense that they were all satisfyingly good but nothing blew me away. While I was eating a family of obvious-tourists sat down at the table beside me. The teenage son in the group was already proclaiming his hunger based on the aroma of the restaurant by itself. They ordered an assortment of ribs and pulled pork and when it came out they dove in with the joy reserved for people who only get Memphis barbecue as an occasional treat. It made me realize just how lucky I am to get to explore the world of barbecue here so thoroughly.

A&R Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon


  1. at Alcenia's on Main Street food items are some costly but very tasty

  2. I pretty much agree with your assessment of A&R. The barbecue is mediocre, and there's a lot better in Memphis. That includes many overrated places on Beale Street.

  3. can you make a "best of" tag or category? I am surfing the archive and looking for the "best of" off the beaton path dry ribs. haha. To be overly specific.

    1. If you check my Rendezvous post it has links to my posts on my favorite ribs spots. Dry ribs are my personal favorite form of barbecue.