United States

Best Memphis Barbecue

Memphis may be known as the "Home of the Blues," and the "Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll," but the city has another, tastier feather in its cap: "Barbecued Pork Capital of the World." Die-hard barbecue fans and local foodies know this city cooks up some of America's best barbecue, ranking as home to one of America's most famed styles, alongside Kansas City, Texas and Carolina-style fare. 


What makes Memphis' style unique is its penchant for pork products (ribs, shoulders, tips, the whole gamut!), and slow cooking the meat in a pit, known as "pit barbecue." In a town so beholden to smoky pork products, it’s hard to pick the best of the best. Still, we've dished on our top picks for the best Memphis barbecue.

Britt Reints, flickr

Central BBQ

Diners can sink their teeth into all manner of barbecued delights at Central BBQ, like pork shoulder and ribs, dry-rub wings and smoked sausage. Favorites include a pork plate with “bark,” the dark, heavily smoked crust that barbecue lovers devour. Homemade potato chips dusted with Central's special blend of seasoning make for a tasty side dish. Wash this goodness down with a cold brew from the restaurant's selection of craft beers, including Memphis's own Ghost River. If the food weren't enough to lure you in, perhaps the location will. Central BBQ is situated along bustling Central Avenue, in midtown Memphis, and its large outdoor deck serves as the perfect people-watching setting on a warm evening.

Dan Overes, www.danocan.com

Tom's Bar-B-Q and Deli

Tom's Bar-B-Q and Deli might serve up some of Memphis's most unique barbecue flavors. The founder, Tom Sturgis, was a Greek immigrant, and Tom's barbecue rub calls upon his Greek heritage with a selection of spices that include oregano, garlic, paprika, red and black pepper, thyme, basil, nutmeg and cinnamon. Incredibly, all the beef and pork at Tom's is marinated in this spice rub for a whopping 24 hours. While you'll be hard-pressed to find anything on the menu that isn't amazingly good (most popular are the baby back ribs, beef brisket and pulled pork), Tom's is unsurpassed in its rib tips, which are smoked on an open pit over hickory wood and charcoal, then served with Tom's signature sauce.

Sean Davis, flickr

Payne's Original Bar-B-Q

Located in a former auto service station, dimly lit Payne's may not offer up much in the way of atmosphere, but a down and dirty vibe is perfect for this barbecue haven. Payne's Original Bar-B-Q dishes up one of Memphis's best -- and messiest -- chopped pork sandwiches, and has been doing so since 1972. Though the menu list is short, it doesn't matter; you're here for one thing: Payne's pork sandwiches served chopped or sliced, smothered in your choice of mild or hot sauce, topped with a tangy, day-glow-green, mustard-infused slaw.

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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