‘Southern BBQ Boys: Almost Heartbroken and Hungry in Memphis
by Art Richey – Pork Barrel BBQ Media & ‘Cue-mmunications Contributor
Memphis is known for many things: amazing barbecue, the blues, Memphis Tigers basketball and Sun Records, just to name a few. We were well aware of these Memphis staples and wanted to experience as much of the culture as possible during our short stay.
After our amazing meal at The Germantown Commissary, we headed to our fraternity brother Wes George’s house to drop off our luggage, get some rest and do some work before we ventured onto our next BBQ joint. As we chatted about Tim Tebow’s chances in the upcoming National Championship game, Wes’ dad arrived and told us that he had picked up Memphis Tigers tickets for the whole crew. While an evening of adventure was already planned for the BBQ boys, this news was a great surprise. But first, we had BBQ to devour…
While I personally had never heard of The Germantown Commissary before our trip, our next planned stop was always included on the Richey itinerary when we took a trip to the land of the blues. Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous is a place that is easier to locate by smell than by the location as it is located in a basement in downtown Memphis. But this unique restaurant placement doesn’t detract anyone as Rendezvous is one of Memphis’ best spots for barbecue. During the morning drive, I shared my passion for the delicious dry rub ribs and the classic sausage and cheese plate that is a must for any beloved BBQ aficionado. As we hopped in the car and headed downtown, my saliva glands were firing up for what was sure be an amazing meal. Once we found our parking spot and started walking toward Rendezvous, a strange feeling came over me. We were still 4 blocks away but I sensed that something wasn’t right. As we discussed what each of us would get, we turned the corner and saw the Rendezvous sign. It was 6:30 on a Wednesday night. No one was outside the restaurant and the alley it is located in was strangely desolate. Something was wrong. We walked to the door and the huge black bars were over the door. The lights were off. The sign said it was closed until January 16. We felt like little kids on Christmas without any presents underneath the tree. We were devastated. I had to bring Billy out of shock like a boxing manager, “Cmon, Kid, get back in the game”.
With our tails between our legs, we made our way over to Beale Street. We organized ourselves and decided to walk Beale Street. We walked into B.B.King’s bar. It was mediocre. Imagine the corporate feel of a Hard Rock Café but with B.B. King’s name slapped on everything. The charismatic host suggested the ribs but we knew better. We grabbed a quick drink and headed to the game. We arrived at the FedEx Forum. We found out seats, which were five rows from the top, and sat down. We looked at each other and confirmed that we were living the good life. Still craving ‘Cue, Wes suggested that we try the barbecue nachos that are offered throughout the arena. My tastebuds perked up like a bird dog.
Ignoring the pre-game commentary, Wes and I began our trek to find BBQ nachos. Pushing through the ocean blue of the Memphis faithful, we found it. It was a simple stand with a simple meal: stadium nachos, pulled pork, barbecue sauce, nacho cheese, and a dry-rub seasoning garnish. While walking back to our seats, it was torture to smell the devilish concoction without getting a bite. I felt like Rocky running up to my seats. Once we reached what seemed like the top of the Memphis Mountain, I put down my Mountain Dew and dove in. What an interesting taste. The nacho and BBQ sauce mixture was a pleasant taste of velvety and creamy cheese with a smoky punch. The pork was what I expected: slightly greasy but good enough to please the palate. I finished the nachos, used my tenth napkin, and threw my platter down like a champion. This ‘Cue was not Rendezvous but it was a worthy substitute. Back to the game, we found Mitchell Dean and he claimed to have better tickets for us. Matt and I headed down from our nose-bleed section and meet with Mitchell. He gave us the golden tickets…fifth row. We made it to our seats, where there were more suits and Rolexes than Memphis hats and Miller Lites. We were wide-eyed college kids in a world of big money. The game was lackluster but it was such a memorable experience. From the disappointment of Rendezvous, the pleasant surprise of BBQ nachos, and the upgraded seats, it was a successful night for the ‘Southern BBQ Boys.
ART’S RECOMMENDATION FOR RENDEZEVOUS BARBEQUE & MEMPHIS TIGERS GAMES: Try the dry rub ribs with the cheese and sausage plate at Rendezcvous…but beware, the restaurant is closed for the first two weeks in January to give their employees a little break. So if you head to Memphis anytime soon and want some Rendezvous ribs, don’t make plans for early January. However, I strongly encourage anyone to check out a Memphis Tigers game and grab a tray of BBQ nachos while you’re there. Tell’em the BBQ Boys sent ya.
Art Richey is a “Southern BBQ Boy who grew up in Northwest Alabama and as kid was able to eat a half slab of ribs before he could talk. In his spare time he is a member of the Pork Barrel BBQ Competition BBQ Team and a Media & ‘Cue-mmunications Contributor to Pork Barrel BBQ.