Sunday, January 27, 2013

Central BBQ - Memphis

At this point, it seems like I’ve covered a number of the big names in Memphis bbq: Payne’s, Cozy Corner, Neely’s Interstate BBQ, Germantown Commissary, Corky’s, and the lackluster Neely’s, but there’s always more to try in this BBQ Mecca. So the last time I was Memphis, I decided to stop by a restaurant that is often named in Memphis bbq discussions, Central BBQ.

If there is one major challenge to eating bbq, it’s knowing what to order. Presented with a full menu of options, I typically decide the best thing is to try as much as possible and at Central BBQ that could only mean a rib combo plate. It wasn’t long before my order was ready and what better place to start than with smoked wings?
Typically, wings would be the last thing I’ll order at a bbq joint but a ringing endorsement from Full Custom BBQ made me give them a go.
In my experience, bbq chicken wings are a gummy, smoky affair that is best avoided but these wings were miles ahead of any bbq wing I’ve ever eaten. Each bite was rewarded with a crispy crunch and a full assault of smoky and spicy paprika flavored seasoning. Even after being smoked and deep fried, the only downside to these wings was the lingering heat of the dry rub made me wish I had ordered more than three.

With the wings little more than a pile of bones, it was time to move to the rib combo plate.
Skipping the bologna on this visit, I decided to try Central BBQ’s hand at sausage, pulled pork, and ribs with mac & cheese and baked beans for my sides.

Working left to right, the pulled pork was first on the chopping block.
It did seem a little strange that the pulled pork arrived without any sauce but I took it as an opportunity for the pork to stand on its own merits. How did it fare? Not particularly well. There may have been a little flavor from the rub and hickory smoke but without sauce this pork was overcooked and chalky.

The pulled pork may have needed sauce to be worthwhile but the sausage needed no such help.
A pleasant snap to the casing, a hot and juicy interior, there was no mistaking a well cooked sausage.
While I’m still unsure about the type of sausage (I’m thinking kielbasa), it was a solid choice for the combo plate regardless of type.

Hoping for the best of both worlds, Central BBQ was kind enough to serve my order of ribs half dry and half wet.
I did think it was interesting that there wasn’t any additional rub on the dry ribs.
That’s right; there was nothing but well smoked, juicy pork ribs with surprisingly little rub flavor.
In addition to the rosy hue of the smoke ring, the texture was spot on as well. The meat didn’t fall off the bone, but it did need a gentle tug.

Oddly enough the wet ribs pulled off the bone much easier than the dry.
The texture of the meat was still superb while the sauce was sweet but relatively benign. Far from overwhelming the flavor of the ribs, it did little more than add moisture and a dimension of sweetness.

A combo plate wouldn’t be complete without the sides.
There was a decent mustard flavor to these baked beans and a nice amount of pork. It was also refreshing to taste some baked beans that weren’t tooth achingly sweet.
This mac and cheese was insanely thick and quickly forgotten.

As infrequently as I visit Memphis, I’m far from having a working hierarchy of best bbq joints, but Central BBQ deserves another meal if only for their smoked wings. The wings with their captivating rub and the snappy sausage were the real highlights of the lunch with the ribs lagging just a bit behind. As for the rest of the plate, some things are best left unsaid.

Central BBQ Address & Information
Central BBQ on Urbanspoon


Frank said...

Next time try their homemade BBQ potato chips. They're fantastic.

Cynical Cook said...


-Thanks for the suggestion, I'll be sure to try them out.