In other parts of the country people have careers and people have hobbies. In Memphis people have hustles, and true Memphians generally have more than one. When I'm not riding around town wholesaling automotive parts I sometimes sell comic books on ebay. And of course there is the barbecue blog and my work building custom classic cars, although I haven't quite figured out how to make a profitable hustle out of either of those yet.
While peddling parts a few weeks ago I noticed a grill in front of Goldie's Hand Car Wash on S. Third just north of Shelby Drive. So I swung by to ask if there was any barbecue for sale. Asking someone if they are selling barbecue just because you see a barrel cooker set up in front of a business is probably uniquely Memphis as well. I've had some good barbecue doing that around here, and never had anyone act surprised I was asking. But Goldie told me he didn't have any barbecue that day. Besides cooking and detailing cars he has another side hustle selling and installing carpet, and that hustle had kept him busy all morning so he didn't get any food on the grill.
He told me to stop back by the next time I was in the neighborhood and sure enough, a couple weeks later I noticed him standing in a cloud of smoke tending the cooker.
He had chicken wings, steaks, spare ribs and baby back ribs all cooking in a cloud of smoke.
Grilled over direct heat, the ribs weren't technically barbecue. They were flavorfully seasoned, tender and juicy, so they were skillfully grilled and I happily devoured half a slab while Goldie and a friend sat at a table next to mine chatting with me while playing dominoes.
I know I've been pretty harsh towards the Rendezvous for serving chargrilled ribs. At the Rendezvous there is usually a long wait for relatively pricey ribs that are frequently touted as the best Memphis has to offer. So I feel perfectly fine with criticizing the ribs I had there while saying I enjoyed the $7 grilled half-slab I ate in a lawn chair next to a card table at Goldie's car detail place while sitting in the shade next to his front bay door.
The next day I was in Raleigh when I noticed a man in an American flag apron posted up across the street from the Raleigh Springs Mall listening to soul music and enjoying a tallboy of beer while hawking hot tamales from under a tent in the middle of a rainstorm. So naturally I immediately turned around to buy some. They ended up being appropriately spicy, packed with Angus beef and delicious.
Being a Memphian means having a hustle. The term hustle in Memphis doesn't automatically imply anything shady or underhanded the way it does in other areas. Here your hustle is what you do when you are out on your grind. And if you want to make it, you grind hard while you hustle. Hustle and grind are both nouns. Hustle and grind are both verbs. And hustle and grind are as much of a part of our way of life as ribs and Delta-style hot tamales.