barbecue plate

Rib plates from Corky's are a local favorite. (©Melly Kay/Flickr, Creative Commons)

The 10 Best Barbecue Joints in Memphis

By Lisa Kaylor on 06/15/17, updated 06/16/17
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Memphis is best known for three things: Elvis Presley, the Memphis Blues and barbecue.

This Southern Tennessee city is the home of the "World Barbecue Cooking Contest" that takes place each year and was named the "The Largest Barbecue Cooking Contest in the World" by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1990.

There are more than 100 restaurants serving up every manner of finger-licking barbecue imaginable in Memphis and each year new dishes are created, Memphis-originals are continually perfected and the barbecue scene keeps getting better.

Central BBQ

Central BBQ

Central's ribs are pure barbecue perfection: rubbed with a variety of spices, marinated for 24 hours and then slow-smoked over hickory and pecan wood. It's so good it doesn't need barbecue sauce.  

Ribs at Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis

Charles Vergos Rendezvous

Across the street from the renowned Peabody Hotel is the 'Vous where the meat is cooked over charcoal instead of wood. The ribs are the star and the menu offers "The Main Thing" served with baked beans and cole slaw. 

One & Only Barbecue 

At One & Only Barbecue golden nachos are piled high with smoked, chopped barbecue and smothered in cheese. The barbecue is smoked in cast iron smokers to create the restaurant's signature, smoky flavor complimented by their housemade sauces.

The Bar-B-Que Shop

The owner of this barbecue joint inherited the recipe for an iconic Memphis dish—barbecue spaghetti. The base is slow-cooked in the pit for 12 hours—the rest of the recipe is a closely guarded secret.

Corky's

Corky's

Corky's smokes their pork shoulders for 22 hours over hickory chips and charcoal. Want to take some home for later? Corky's barbecue is frozen and sold in local grocery stores.

Payne's Bar-B-Que

Payne's BBQ

You'll need an extra handful of napkins for these deliciously sloppy chopped pork sandwiches piled high and topped with mustard-based cole slaw. The combination of smoked pork, sweet barbecue sauce and tangy mustard in the slaw combine to make one unforgettable barbecue sandwich. 

Cozy Corner

Tucked into a cozy corner of downtown Memphis, Cozy Corner smokes their meat the old fashioned way—over coals, to allow the juices to sizzle and smoke the meat. The restaurant is famous for its dry-rubbed Cornish hens.

Germantown Commissary

The Pig Chips (homemade barbecue chips) are the perfect accompaniment to a pulled pork sandwich piled high and smothered in Commissary's famous sauce.

Leonard's Pit Barbecue

Leonard's Pit Barbecue

One of Memphis' oldest barbecue joints, Leonard's has been dishing up its mouth-watering barbecue since 1922. The restaurant's lunch buffet means you don't have to choose between succulent pulled pork or lip smacking chicken—savor both.

Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue

Named "Second Best Barbecue in the U.S." by People, the menu at Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue is loaded with smoked meats like chicken, turkey, ribs and—of course—chopped pork sandwiches slathered in Neely's famous secret sauce. 

A&R Bar-B-Que

The ribs served up at A&R Bar-B-Que hardly need sauce or rubs to make them fall-off-the-bone delectable, but the special blend of spices make them that much better. Finish off the meal with one of the restaurant's famous fried fruit pies.