We spent the past weekend in Memphis for the Memphis in May BBQ contest, for which my boyfriend was a judge. While we ate plenty at the festival, we also made time to check out a few other local establishments.
On our way into town on Thursday, we stopped for lunch at Memphis BBQ Co. This restaurant is owned by award-winning Melissa Cookston, who won the Whole Hog division on Saturday.
We started with an order of the Smokin' Wings, jumbo whole wings that were smoked and then fried and tossed in BBQ sauce. I can't even describe how incredible these were. I'm a big fan of buffalo-style wings, but these blew me away.
We then shared the Pitmasters Sampler, which had a half slab of baby back ribs, sliced brisket, and pulled pork...with sides of baked beans, turnip greens, and cornbread. I was surprised that my favorite thing on the plate was the brisket, of which I don't consider myself a fan...but I guess I haven't had it cooked right until now!
After judging was over on Friday, we started walking from the riverside over to South Main, a cute area of town described as "original shops, restaurants, art, events, architecture, history, characters and innovation."
We stopped in at S.O.B. - South of Beale for a beverage and a snack.
On recommendation, we had a pint of Honey Wheat Reserve from Ghost River, a local brewery. It is described as a "play on a traditional American style wheat ale, enhanced with locally sourced honey and sweet orange peel." It was so light and refreshing!
As a bourbon fan, Pat couldn't resist ordering the chicken and waffle sliders with Maker's Mark glaze as "syrup." I had never had chicken and waffles before, and I loved the combination. Plus, I loved that the syrup wasn't overly sweet.
We are always quick to ask locals where to get the best food, and everyone we talked to (from the guy at the liquor store to a festival policeman) said we had to go to Central BBQ for ribs. Their tagline is even "Go Where the Locals Go." Done!
We shared a half slab of ribs, half wet/half dry. My dad does his ribs with a dry rub, and I'm always more of a fan of these than sauced ribs. The locals didn't steer us wrong...perfection!
Pat completed his judging on Saturday and was desperate for a burger. He was BBQ'ed out! He had done a little research, and it led us to Earnestine & Hazel's.
This hole-in-the-wall is known for two things: its Soul Burger and haunted jukebox. It's "driven by ghosts." You don't operate it...it just will go from silent to playing "tunes that eerily sync to the moment."
Back to the food...there is one thing on the menu. One thing. The Soul Burger.
"The Soul Burger began as an experiment. In its infancy, it was plastered with every topping under the sun – lettuce, gourmet cheese, and other items we’re not allowed to mention. But, after trying to keep up with the countless combinations, we soon remembered the old adage - “Keep it simple, stupid” – and never looked back. A bun, patty, onions, cheese, pickle, and “Soul Sauce” are all that's needed to make our delicious burger. And if you don’t think that’s enough, pay $30 bucks for a fancy burger somewhere else. Then come back to Earnestine and Hazel’s, repent for your sins, and munch on the Soul Burger's delicious simplicity."
Y'all. It was ridiculous.
We sat at the bar and watched the cook create this masterpiece. He cleaned the flat top grill after each order with pickle juice. He was a character!
That wraps up our eating and drinking adventures in Memphis. Stay tuned for my festival roundup post!