Monday, May 16, 2011

Central BBQ

2249 Central Ave

Memphis, TN 38104


Open Daily 11-9

A line out the door greeted us as we pulled into the small parking lot at Central BBQ. This place was popular, and it's no wonder given the good BBQ and the great atmosphere. While standing in line, it was easy to spot the Ole Hickory smoker on display. Yet another of the many gas-fired smokers in the city. While so many places in town require an order of at least a half slab just to get a taste of ribs, Central BBQ has a 3 bone add-on to any sandwich. JJ, a friend of mine along for the day's tour suggested the dry spiced wings, so we added them to the order.

In a rookie mistake, I opted for the wet ribs when given the option. I quickly learned from JJ that generally if an option is presented when ordering, then the joint probably regards the dry rubbed ribs as their specialty. If they think sauced is their top option, then they won't ask and your ribs will arrive sauced. Saucy or not, these were some very good ribs. Tender and moist baby backs needed the slightest tug to release from the bone, and the flavor was a bit smoky from the hickory wood, and the flavor profile was more than just the sauce. A mound of pulled pork was topped with a thick and sweet sauce and plenty of crunchy mayo-based slaw. The flavors in the sandwich were an excellent combination, but it the meat could have been more moist. With plenty of crusty and fatty bits, this was some of best tasting pork on the tour.

Smoked chicken wings always sound great until you realize how limp the skin is when a fryer is not in the house. None of those issues afflict Central BBQ as their wings were nicely crisp and bursting with flavor from a generous dusting of the sugar-heavy dry rub. Adding the rub to the piping hot wings created a layer of caramelized crispiness that was addictive. I can see why JJ rarely leaves here without an order. With the great BBQ, nice patio, cold beer and great BBQ, I'll be sure to be back next time I'm in town.

Rating ****
Central BBQ (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.