Memphis BBQ .........34 Joints In 3 Days........................

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Littleman
Double Cheeseburger
2010/05/25 18:29:08

Ultimate Barbecue Challenge: Friends hit 34 spots in 3 days

By Jennifer Biggs
Friday, May 14, 2010

You might think you like Memphis barbecue — and, hey, who's going to question you on that — but just how much you like it is what separates the men from the boys.
Here's a two-part question:
Could you tackle 34 barbecue joints in three days?
If yes, go to the second part:
Why?
"One factor was the absurdity of it," said Bill Naids of Germantown. "We wanted to see if we could do it. Why do you climb the mountain? Because it's there."
Bill and six of his buddies, mostly childhood friends from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., spent a weekend in April eating and rating ribs, sandwiches, beans, slaw and sauce. And, yes, they went to 34 places. With six Sonic stops in between.
The quest for the best Memphis has to offer started simply enough.
Naids invited friends Howard Cohen and Jason "Tippy" Laing to visit a few years ago.
"We ended up going to several barbecue places. I think the Rendezvous, Cozy Corner, maybe a couple of others," Naids said.
In 2008, they added two to the crew — Michael Cohen and Vince Schindeler — and made it to 13 barbecue joints over a weekend.
Child's play.
This year was for real. Michael had just won first place on Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown" for his burger, and Naids was selected to compete in the National Cornbread Festival. Everyone came together to celebrate — and to eat. Two more guys, Dave Cohen (yep, all the Cohen brothers were there) and Dan Goldberg, joined in.
Naids did his research. He consulted Randal Cooper's barbecue map, GoMemphis, Yelp and Urbanspoon. But then he did what any good researcher would do and asked around.
Many of the usual suspects were omitted from this tour because most of the group had already eaten at those places. One big name that stayed on the list was the Bar-B-Q Shop, as it came in first in the 13-joint tasting.
"So we'd have something to compare to," Michael said.
The Bar-B-Q Shop made a nice showing this time around, too, but for ribs, the top choice was completely unexpected:
Alex's Tavern.
"Well, I'll be damned," said Rocky Kasaftes, who on most weekends just buys slabs of ribs at Charlie's Meat Market and cooks them over a big smoker behind the bar.
"They tasted of smoke," said Michael, the acknowledged cook and foodie of the group. "Maybe there was even a little too much smoke, but at a lot of places, I can't taste any smoke at all, and that's the point of it."
Michael gave the ribs a 10, as did his brother Howard and Laing. Everyone else went with a 9, but those big scores crowned the only non-barbecue restaurant on their list the king of ribs.
"But would we send someone there for a barbecue experience? Probably not," Michael said.
(As an aside, remember that he won the burger competition on Food Network's "Ultimate Recipe Showdown," and he gave the burger at Alex's, which Michael Donahue and I named our favorite in town last month, a 10.)
Now to the sandwich. Morris Grocery in Eads took top place.
"Incredible," Naids said. "He pulled a piece right off the shoulder and cut and pulled it right when we ordered."
Sides were best at the Bar-B-Q Shop, which tied with Roadside BBQ as the overall winner.
"This place was the whole package," Naids said.
And tucked away like it is, a few exits past West Memphis, it was also just the sort of place the guys wanted.
"We wanted to discover a few diamonds in the rough," Bill said. "We did."
He's got a few words of advice for anyone who wants to give an ambitious tour a try:
"It's all about moderation. Some people don't appreciate this right at first," he said.
At each stop, the crew ordered a half slab of ribs, beans, slaw and a sandwich.
"We're seven big guys. When you think about it, it's not that much," Bill said.
Still ...
"By Sunday, I was done. If you go for the absurdity tour, plan on it being your last tour," Bill said. "The guys will come back to visit, but we have no plans to do this again."
Friends' barbecue tour top choices
Overall
Bar-B-Q Shop, 1782 Madison, Memphis; 272-1277 (tie with Roadside BBQ)
Roadside BBQ, 196 State Hwy. 147, Proctor, Ark.; 870-733-9208 (tie with Bar-B-Q Shop)
Alex's Tavern, 1445 Jackson, Memphis; 278-9086
One & Only Barbecue and More, 1779 Kirby Pkwy.; 751-3615
Payne's Bar-B-Que, 1762 Lamar; 272-1523
Ribs
Alex's Tavern
Roadside BBQ
Bar-B-Q Shop
One & Only Barbecue and More
Whole Hog Cafe, 5727 Quince; 682-8744 (location visited)
Sandwich
Morris Grocery, 10601 Macon, Eads, Tenn.; 755-5804
Roadside BBQ
Bar-B-Q Shop
Payne's Bar-B-Que
One & Only Barbecue and More
Sides
Bar-B-Que Shop
Payne's Bar-B-Que
Pig Out Barbeque & Smokehouse, 3001 Hwy. 51 N., Nesbit, Miss.; (662) 470-4285
One & Only Barbecue and More
Roadside BBQ
Character
Roadside BBQ
Bar-B-Q Shop
Pig Out Barbeque & Smokehouse
Corky's, 5259 Poplar; 685-9744 (location visited)
Alex's Tavern