I have always categorized Memphis with barbecue. During my childhood, Memphis was one of our weekend getaways. I have memories of wondering how BBQ sauce could stay underneath my fingernails for so long while I roamed the aisles of the local bookstore. I remember enjoying the food and making a mess but I did not fully appreciate Memphis’ culinary gift until my teenager years. I knew a lot about BBQ and where the hotspots were: Rendezvous and Corky’s were our family favorites. But until this trip, I had never REALLY studied and analyzed the ‘cue. As captain, I knew Memphis was the perfect place to start.
The BBQ Boys left Birmingham with the mouthwatering anticipation of our first pulled pork sandwich. As we drove up US 78, we talked about how we would ask our questions, take pictures, and record our critiques. In Babe (our vehicle), the spacious leg room and rhymes of Lil Wayne set the perfect mood: a sigh of relief that we were finally on the road but antsy about what this journey would bring to our stomachs, our fans, and our friendship amongst each other.
Our first stop in Memphis was the Commissary. This hometown joint was an excellent stop for a great sandwich, sinful deviled eggs, and some of the best BBQ chips in the world. We finished our meal and headed to Wes George’ home to meet the family, shoot some hoops, and drop off our luggage. To our surprise, Wes’ dad had scored some Memphis Tigers basketball tickets for the night game against Marshall. To those lacking NCAA basketball knowledge, Memphis Tigers basketball is almost as big as BBQ and B.B. King in this river town. We were hyper about this great night: dinner at Rendezvous, a Memphis Tigers game, and a warm home to rest our heads. We headed downtown and began our quest for Rendezvous. Our pre-trip research confirmed that Rendezvous would be one of the best ribs joints on our journey. As we walked down the street, we talked about what each of us would get. Everyone wanted the ribs but Wes and I particularly wanted the sausage and cheese plate while Blinky confirmed that he would put his health over taste. Sad. 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 is 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”.
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 back to the game. We arrived at the FedEx Forum. We found out seats, which were five rows from the top, and took our seats. 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. My tastebuds perked up like a bird dog.
Ignoring the pre-game commentary, Wes and I headed to on our adventure of 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 working 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. I set down my Mountain Dew and dove in. What an interesting taste. The nacho and BBQ sauce mixture was a pleasant taste of creamy cheese and smoky flavor. 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. We gave us the golden tickets…fifth row. We made to our seats, where there were more suits and Rolexs 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 BBQ Boys.