On the northern fringe of downtown Memphis is one of the city’s most famous and well-loved barbecue joints: Cozy Corner (745 N. Parkway, 901/527-9158, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., $4–14). Cozy Corner is tucked into a storefront in an otherwise-abandoned strip mall; you’ll smell it before you see it. Step inside to order barbecue pork, sausage, or bologna sandwiches. Or get a 2-bone, 4-bone, or 6-bone rib dinner plate, which comes with your choice of baked beans, coleslaw, or barbecue spaghetti, plus slices of Wonder bread to sop up the juices. One of Cozy Corner’s specialties is its barbecued Cornish hens—a preparation that is surprising but delicious. Sweet tea goes perfectly with the tangy and spicy barbecue.
Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que (2265 S. 3rd St., 901/775-1045, Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight, $5–20) was once ranked the second best barbecue in the nation, but the proprietors have not let it get to their heads; this is still a down-to-earth, no-frills eatery. Large appetites can order a whole slab of pork or beef ribs, but most people will be satisfied with a chopped pork sandwich, which comes topped with coleslaw and smothered with barbecue sauce. Families can get the fixings for six, eight, or ten sandwiches sent out family-style. For an adventure, try the barbecue spaghetti or barbecue bologna sandwich. If you’re in a hurry, the Interstate has a drive-up window too, and if you are really smitten, you can order pork, sauce, and seasoning in bulk to be frozen and shipped to your home.
Although aficionados will remind you that the ribs served at the Rendezvous (52 S. 2nd St., 901/523-2746, Tues.–Thurs. 4:30–10:30 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., $8–17) are not technically barbecue, they are one of the biggest barbecue stories in town. Covered in a dry rub of spices and broiled until the meat falls off the bones, these ribs will knock your socks off. If you prefer, you can choose Charlie Vergos’s dry-rub chicken or boneless pork loin. Orders come with baked beans and coleslaw, but beer is really the essential accompaniment to any Vergos meal. The door to Rendezvous is tucked in an alley off Monroe Avenue. The smoky interior, decorated with antiques and yellowing business cards, is low-key, noisy, and lots of fun.
A Memphis chain, Gridley’s (6842 Stage Rd., 901/377-8055, Sun.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.,, $4–20) serves wet-style barbecue ribs, pork shoulder plates and sandwiches, plus spicy grilled shrimp. The shrimp is served with a buttery and delicious dipping sauce. Try the half-pork, half-shrimp plate for a real treat. Meals here come with baked beans, coleslaw, and hot fresh bread.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition