Memphis is synonymous with barbecue, often claiming that they are the BBQ capital of the world - and spawning a huge range of ‘Memphis BBQ’ restaurants in cities all over the world. However, to really get the good stuff, you have to forgo the knock-offs across the rest of the country and travel to the heart of it all, where pork is king and where pork can be barbecued wet (with sauce) or dry (with a rub). Whether you head there for the record-breaking World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest (WCBCC), or just to find the best restaurant BBQ that you can, there are dozens of options… and everyone has their own favorites.
Memphis is known for their pit-barbecue, and Leonard’s is the oldest surviving BBQ joints in the city. It's been open since 1922 when it was called Leonard’s Lunch. This is the ultimate place to get the classic BBQ pork sandwich, with a recipe that has been passed down since Leonard first started serving it. Leonard’s doesn’t have a wide-ranging menu, preferring to focus on the classics. However, it’s good old-fashioned food that will satisfy any meat lover looking for melt-in-your-mouth pork ribs and shoulder. They offer both wet and dry ribs. If you can manage it, it’s more than worthwhile sampling them both to really enjoy the seasoning combos that make this some of the best BBQ in Memphis.
While there are dozens of BBQ joints where you can find the traditional pork ribs and shoulder, Coletta’s has the honor of being the place where Memphis BBQ was first put on a pizza. Colette's is also where pizza was first introduced to Memphis – before it became a new American classic. Elvis Presley himself was a huge fan of their pizza topped with pork shoulder, and Coletta’s still has ‘his’ room in the restaurant decked out with Presley memorabilia. As well as the BBQ pizza, you can also sample another Italian/Memphis blend like spaghetti with BBQ sauce, which is surprisingly delicious. Coletta’s is definitely something for BBQ fans looking for a twist on the classic sandwiches and racks of ribs.
It’s impossible to cover all the amazing BBQ options in Memphis in just two entries, and any local will argue over which has the best pork sandwich or dry ribs. The Cozy Corning might look unassuming, but this is where you can find a Memphis BBQ Cornish hen (a must-try for fans of poultry). While the ‘Vous’, Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous, has a unique take on grilled, rather than smoked, BBQ and walls covered in BBQ memorabilia. Stick around Memphis for a while, and you’ll figure out which is your favorite… and start to understand why Tennessee loves to put barbecue on absolutely everything!
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