Real barbecue joints are places that smoke their meat — almost always a whole hog — slowly over real wood. Traditional Tennessee Q generally falls closer to the vinegary Eastern North Carolina type than the sticky-sweet Kansas City style. But you’ll find plenty of both.
Truly good barbecue will usually come “dry” with sauce available on the side. Meat that has been smoked for hours over wood coals will be smoky, tender, and moist. Some Memphis eateries serve barbecue spaghetti — a plate of soft spaghetti noodles dressed with sweet barbecue sauce. Wow!
For the best barbecue, try:
This west Tennessee specialty is irresistible: spicy, seasoned chicken pan-fried in batches in a cast-iron skillet until it is the color of mahogany. The meat is juicy and the flavor out-of-this-world spicy. Each hot chicken establishment carefully guards its recipe, and each delivers a slightly different combination of flavors.
Hot chicken is served piping hot on a bed of white bread. Coleslaw and potato salad are optional, but an ice-cold drink is not.
For the best hot chicken, try:
Meat-and-three, also called plate lunch, is a style of restaurant that implies a style of food. Traditionally, patrons choose one “meat,” or main dish, from a selection of daily specials, plus three (or two, or four) “vegetables,” or side dishes, plus a serving of fresh rolls, biscuits, or cornbread (or all three!).
The food is invariably home-style Southern cooking: meatloaf, fried chicken, chipped beef, chicken and dumplings for the meats; turnip greens, mashed potatoes, fried okra, green beans, fried apples for the vegetables. Dessert, which is usually included, may be a fruit cobbler or cream pie. Meat-and-threes are lunchtime eateries.
For the best meat-and-threes, try: