Memphis is a city with many things to offer, but music and barbecue are its best-known attractions. Those two truly go hand in hand in Memphis.
As a musician, Elvis Presley started off in Memphis, a place where he enjoyed barbecue to the degree that he owned a restaurant for a time. Rock and roll was born in Memphis and today, it is known for shrimp and grits and other musical greats like BB King.
The state is also a booming barbecue mecca – the only place in the country where you can taste the sweet ribs you crave and that’s why I’ll guide you through the best BBQ in Memphis in this article.
There are seemingly endless options for barbecue in the Memphis area, from Tennessee to Texas-style.
Basically—you name it, and it’s yours! You want pulled pork? Do they have ribs? My mission is to let you in on 10 of the best barbecue joints where you can satisfy your cravings for mouth-watering baby back ribs, moist pulled pork, and spicy sausage on a bed of tender pulled pork, with sides of baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Delicious!
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The Best BBQ In Memphis
1802 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis // +19017747444
A&R Bar-B-Q specializes in hot links, making it a local favorite. Among their offerings are pork ribs, pulled pork sandwiches and their hot links—a personal favorite.
As a result, the meat from A&R BBQ is cooked to perfection, and it’s tender and juicy enough to fall off the bone.
To taste all the flavors of the meat without the sauce masking them, order the dry-rubbed rib. You’ll be able to taste the smokiness of the meat and understand why I have been eating at A&R Barbecue so frequently during my visit in Memphis.
1782 Madison Ave, Memphis // +19012721277
The Vernon family owns a Memphis landmark Bar-B-Q Shop, renowned for Dancing Pigs Bar-B-Q sauce and rub.
With over five decades of experience in serving up first-rate barbecue cuisine, the sauces serve ideally as marinades and basting sauces for meats, ranging from pork and beef to chicken and turkey.
In addition to being stocked in more than 100 grocery stores in five states in the Southeast, Vernon family sauces have won prizes at the Fiery Food Challenge National Contest, beating 800 competitors nationwide.
At the Bar-B-Q shop, you can order plates of smoked sausage, pork shoulder or beef with the restaurant’s trademark sauce. Definitely one of the best BBQ in Memphis.
2249 Central Ave, Memphis // +19012729377
There are three places in the Memphis area where Central BBQ is available—in East Memphis, Downtown, and Midtown.
The first Central BBQ opened in 2002 and is frequently ranked as the best BBQ in Memphis in the Memphis Flyer and the Memphis magazine.
While it’s known for its slow-smoked Memphis-style ribs, the barbecue nachos are the top-seller. They are really hard to beat. Served with tortilla chips or house-made barbecue chips, two kinds of cheese, sauce, and your choice of pulled pork, smoked chicken, or smoked portabella mushroom… You just can’t go wrong.
When the doors are open in the dining rooms, you can self-serve a variety of sauces: mild, hot, vinegar, and mustard.
52 S 2nd St, Memphis // +19015232746
It’s no surprise that Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous has become a Memphis institution, as their ribs were favorites of both President Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore.
The barbecue side of things began when Charlie Vergos dug out a coal chute in his diner’s basement. It’s just across from the famous Peabody Hotel.
Then he came up with the idea of using a chute over a barbecue grill—gone are the days when diners served sandwiches.
It’s no longer uncommon for thousands of people to come to the Rendezvous to try the Memphis-style ribs, which are made with dry rub seasoning instead of sauce. You can choose pork ribs and shoulders or ribs with brisket, according to your taste preferences. Highly recommended as the best BBQ in Memphis.
5259 Poplar Ave, Memphis // +19016859744
The first Corky’s opened in 1984 by Don Pelts after he had worked in other Memphis barbeque restaurants for over a decade.
At Corky’s, the food is slow-cooked over hickory wood and charcoal. Corky’s was originally located in East Memphis, but there are now three additional locations throughout Tennessee.
This is a classic 1950s American diner, with lots of neon, polished brass and music from the ’50s playing from the stereo. The waiters wear bow ties as they serve their meals.
Ribs are the house specialty—either dry with a basting of special sauce and spices or wet with a slow-baked sauce. Ribs can be combined with pulled pork, fried catfish or beef brisket.
735 North Pkwy, Memphis // +19015279158
There is no place like Cozy Corner in the hood, a hole-in-the-wall barbecue restaurant. It is a true blessing, something you don’t want to miss.
You’ll feel the presence of the BBQ God while eating the brisket, as the flavors dance around in your mouth like slow love ballads. This is why Cozy made the list of the best BBQ in Memphis.
Currently run by Desiree, Cozy Corner remains a firm favorite among barbecue fans in Memphis and has appeared in publications such as Saveur.
The restaurant offers a variety of exciting specialties and classic Memphis pork ribs—you can order a whole Cornish hen or turkey in advance.
You can choose two, four or six ribs paired with chicken wings as an alternative. For dessert, try the decadent Memphis Mud cake; it’s fan-tas-tic!
567 Perkins Extd, Memphis // +19012494227
Instead of being a barbecue joint, One & Only feels more like a charming boutique restaurant. But don’t be fooled by the lush appearances—wrought iron tables outside, a beautiful chalkboard menu inside full of tantalizing possibilities, and a well-heeled clientele.
BBQ here is a real deal, since the meat is marinated for 24 hours before slow cooking at 225 degrees. Pork shoulder can be pulled or chopped—your preference—while ribs are offered dry or wet.
In addition to the smoked meats, there are also chicken, bacon, sausage, and a variety of sides, including sweet potato fries, a mustard potato salad, and even fresh fruit.
There is nothing better than homemade desserts, such as a banana pudding topped with meringue made by the host’s wife.
2265 S 3rd St, Memphis // +19017752304
Interstate features a big menu—and this long-time favorite does brisk business whether you dine in or take it out.
There’s nothing more down-home than Interstate, where the wood is stacked outside and ready to be thrown on the fire, and you can order at the counter for takeout or sit down to a full meal in the dining room.
There’s a wide variety on the menu, including pork and beef ribs, hash, chicken, bologna, hot wings and even spaghetti, all barbecued. The service is quick and friendly, and the barbecue sauce is really good. You’ll want to come back for more!
5465 Fox Plaza Dr, Memphis // +19013601963
Located in Memphis since 1922, Leonard’s Pit Barbeque serves up the best BBQ around. They say that Leonard’s original barbecue salad is the Deep South Salad, the most popular item on the menu.
I started with their classic Deep South salad, then moved on to the pork shoulder sandwich. The baked beans and slaw were great sides and the wedge fries that came with the sandwich were some of the best I have ever tasted.
If you go to Leonard’s, you have to try their catfish; it is battered just right to perfection.
4523 Summer Ave, Memphis // +19017619898
There is a wide variety of food served at Elwood’s Shack, including sandwiches, breakfasts, hot dogs, and pizzas.
Despite this, Elwood’s Shack’s barbecue is so highly regarded by locals that it can certainly not be overlooked when listing the best barbecue places in Memphis.
A BBQ burrito with pork or beef is available with jalapeno, onion, tomato, and plenty of sauce. You can also order BBQ pork with nachos and jalapeno peppers or BBQ bologna on crisp white bread.
There are also barbecue options on the menu, including BBQ sliders with pulled pork, spicy pork, brisket, and BBQ quesadillas with pulled pork and sweet bell peppers, just off Summer Avenue in East Memphis.
Summary About The 10 Best BBQ Restaurants In Memphis
There’s a popular saying, “you can’t know Memphis without eating barbecue.” And that’s exactly true! Barbecue joints here are as legendary as the blues clubs and gospel choirs.
At each of these, you can find your way into real Memphis hospitality and plenty of home-style Southern comforts, like fried chicken and catfish, good ole pot-luck casseroles, collard greens and mac & cheese, plus sweet tea served in Mason jars. And don’t forget dessert; these places also have world-famous banana pudding, which you shouldn’t miss!
Food is big in Memphis. Classic Southern food like smothered pork chops, fried okra and turnip greens, and of course barbecue keep the locals coming back for more. With so many delicious restaurants to choose from, there’s always a new place to try when you’re here.
So, don’t think about it any longer and try the best BBQ in Memphis!
Visiting other destinations in Tennessee? Check out our other delicious guide:
Igor Jovanovski is an aspiring digital nomad, travel blogger and graphic designer who really loves food. He also has a creative side, and he works as a freelance graphic designer in his spare time. He has traveled across Europe quite a few times since he was young and recently started his mission to visit every country in the world! Igor’s favorite thing about traveling is the way he gets to know new people, food, places and cultures.
This exciting experience helps him create his own stories and make memories that will last forever