Central BBQ – Memphis, TN


Central BBQ – Central Avenue Location
2249 Central Ave.
Memphis,TN 38104
(901) 272-9377

Every Southern State (and sorry purists, I include Texas in the South – well, when it comes to BBQ anyway) believes their version of BBQ is the best. In travelling from State to State, I’ve come to recognize that the differences are not as great as they would have you believe. Yes, there are very fine differences in flavours, sauces, and ingredients, but most people would have a difficult time discerning these. These days, there has been so much cross-pollination of ideas and accessibility of ingredients, that i find BBQ is more about style, skill, and choice.

The greatest differences in BBQ come down to two key things: wet or dry, and choice of ingredient. While many people claim that Memphis-style BBQ is about wet (sauce) BBQ and pork, I found wet and dry preparations of ribs in most establishments. And while they also  serve mostly pork, there was some beef, and  there was a lot of  poultry (chicken, turkey) as well. Choice of wood, temperature, time, rub, I don’t feel there is  “regional” exclusivity any longer. I’ve even seen mesquite, traditional Texas smoking wood,  used in Memphis BBQ preparations.

So the question meat lovers need to ask is not “which state has the best BBQ”, but which establishment serves the best BBQ that they prefer.  Central BBQ is one place in Memphis trying to stake their claim.

Central BBQ has two locations in Memphis, but I was reassured by locals that the original location on Central Ave was the one to go to. As we pull up, we see a smoke shack in the back, billowing smoke into the atmosphere, a fragrant, delicious smell. Our appetites are immediately whetted.

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Arcade Restaurant – Memphis, TN


Arcade Restaurant
540 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 526-5757

Food Network. Tourist destination. Foodies declare a “must visit”. It seems every town has one or two of these. Either featured on “Diner’s, Drive-In’s, and Dive’s”, or some other equally “Middle America” kind of show, it is usually an old institution that is still “doing it the old way”, and everyone loves the nostalgia. In Memphis, you have the Peabody Hotel, and you have Arcade Restaurant.

The claim to fame for Arcade Restaurant is that they are the oldest restaurant in Memphis. Located in downtown Memphis, a neighbourhood currently undergoing some “gentrification”, they even claim Elvis as a former regular customer. Considering some of the stories you hear about downtown, Arcade Restaurant resides in a fairly nice part of downtown.

The interior is all old school – I half expected to see Elvis sitting somewhere eating deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches after walking inside. This preserved interior has been the set for many Hollywood films. And they proudly state it. I actually kind of like it. While it doesn’t match my usual preferences for decor, it has character. LOTS of character.

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Black Diamond – Memphis, TN


Black Diamond
153 Beale Street
Memphis, TN 38103
(901) 521-0800

When you think Beale Street, most people think Blues. BB King. Smoky dive bars, neon lights. In actual fact, it is crowded with tourist bars, clubs, and a lot of tourists. Except for the Black Diamond.

We didn’t plan on coming here. Our plan was to go to Dyer’s for some fried burgers. But they were closed. And an impromptu torrential downpour meant we had to seek shelter, especially when caught without an umbrella – a bad decision in Memphis in general. We found a place that was close, and not overly crowded. “Black Diamond” written in neon. Sure, why not.

Plastic chairs and dirty tables. Locals who didn’t appreciate their space being invaded. Smoking indoors (ack!). There were no blues, but there was football. And beer. Cold beer.

People would expect places like the Black Diamond to have bad service – well surprisingly enough, it was quite good. The server was friendly, and efficient. And he brought beer, menus, and took our orders. No complaints.

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Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken – Memphis, TN


Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
310 S Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103-4112
(901) 527-4877

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (Downtown) on Urbanspoon

Fried Chicken. In my travels, I’ve come across fried chicken in almost every culture. This was definitely surprising to me. Just as surprising, is that it often was really good fried chicken.

By the estimation of my fanatical, fried chicken loving sibling, Korean’s do the best fried chicken. But neither of us have explored a lot of the southern United States, and that’s somewhere that really appreciates their fried chicken.

The Front Street location of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is the downtown Memphis location of the original Mason, Tennessee shop. And from the lineups and the crowds, it really is world famous.
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Not much to look at, the place is completely full at all hours of the day. Clean, and tidy, the focus is really on one thing – the chicken. As has been accurately reported in thousands of reviews, this is not fast food. As the saying goes, good food takes time to prepare. And Gus’s serves good chicken!

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