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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Tennessee’ Category

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 @ 06:01 PM

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As I mentioned, I LOVE barbecue!  So I figured since we have been to three of the major barbecue restaurants in Tennessee, I would feature those to start off the blog with a bang!  Now as you all know, I already discussed Rendezvous with y’all, largely because that was the most recent BBQ joint we had been to, and it was still so fresh in my mind.  However, about the same time last year, Adam and I visited one of Memphis’ (and the world’s) most legendary BBQ hot spots, Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que; and I’d like to tell you about it.

Open since the 1970’s, Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que is also located in Memphis, but WAY off the beaten track in a more “local” section of West Memphis.  Not to be confused with the Neely’s of Neely’s Bar-B-Que and The Food Network, Jim Neely is actually the founder of the Neely tradition in Memphis, and is where Jim’s nephew Pat Neely (of “Down Home with the Neely’s” on The Food Network) got his start.  But enough about them, I’m sure they will be a feature soon enough, don’t you worry:). 

Now, Interstate Bar-B-Que has been featured ALL OVER television, and is famous for a lot of their items.  They even won “Best place in America for a pork BBQ sandwich (USA Today, 1980’s) and #2 in People’s “Top 10 Barbecue.”  Like with Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous, an episode of “Food Heavens” on the Travel Channel called “Barbecue Paradise” featured this restaurant.  It has also been featured  more recently on Travel Channel’s “Chowdown Countdown” (I think it was #55 of 101), and way back on a PBS television special called "Great Chefs of America" (also featured in Southern Living, Vogue, Washington Post, and The LA Times).  So…it’s famous and supposed to be REALLY yummy!

We happened to be driving back to Texas through Tennessee and figured since we were going to hit Memphis right about lunch time, why not?  At the time we thought we could just plug the address into “Julie” (our GPS) and easily make our way there.  However, although located in Memphis, it is definitely on the outskirts of town and in a much more local area.  But, we found it eventually, and when we finally did arrive, I was excited to see all that it might have to offer.  As I said, it is located a bit off the beaten track in an old local grocery store, so it is pretty simple in appearance.  As in most barbecue restaurants, you get a very down home feel.  But in the case of Interstate, it felt a bit outdated and in need of a pick me up.

 

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Adam (as you can see) was very excited about the experience!!  (I want to add a side note at this time that on some of the posts I do not have specific images of the food we ate, because at the time we visited the restaurant I had no plans of writing this blog.  So forgive me, but some images I have pulled from other sources to give you an idea).  I have to be honest, unfortunately this look of utter happiness quickly faded the minute we entered the restaurant. 🙁

I want to remind you all that I promised to give you my honest opinion and review of these places, even if you personally do not agree, or most of all when it differs from those reviews that other famous critics have given them. 

So as I was saying, when we entered the restaurant there was a typical sign saying, “Please Wait to be Seated.”  So, we waited….and waited…..and waited, even though all the while a waitress/hostess noticed us when we walked in, but then turned away!  About five minutes went by when we asked her if in fact we needed to wait or should seat ourselves?  In a very annoyed tone, she replied, “Can you read the sign?.”  Needless to say, by the time we were seated we already had a bad taste in our mouths. 

Now, this visit wasn’t going well right from the get go and although I hate to say it, our service did not help the situation the rest of the meal.  From the minute we entered, we got the feeling that we were NOT welcome and were treated that way the entire time, as though we were annoying tourists who did not belong.  Usually, I can overlook the ambiance of a place if I am completely wowed by most everything else, but unfortunately as you will soon see, I was not.   

As in other Tennessee Barbeque joints, Jim Neely’s is known for it’s use of pork; but what it is most famous for is a signature dish…Barbecue Spaghetti?  Adam was especially anxious to try this dish, because it combined two things he loves, barbecue and pasta!  I wanted to try the ribs…well…. because I have to try them at every barbecue restaurant I visit :-).  The other thing that differs from Rendezvous is that rather than heavily relying on a dry rub, their sauce plays a significant role in all of their dishes.

 

image source: http://img.foodnetwork.com/FOOD/2008/03/05/NY0100_BBQ-Spaghetti_lg.jpg

 

Now barbecue spaghetti is exactly how it sounds…spaghetti noodles combined with a mixture of pulled pork and their barbecue sauce.  Adam enjoyed it and thought it was good, but he was in no way blown away.  In other words, the delivery did not match the hype. 

As I eluded to, I ordered the ribs platter (seen below); and although I enjoyed them, they were only ok and wouldn’t get them again, mainly because of the sauce…which they were bathed in.  The thing was, neither of us really enjoyed the taste of the sauce, and since it was pretty much heavily smothered over both dishes, it was hard to get away from that flavor.  I typically don’t mind barbecue sauce, in fact there are certain dishes where I love it to be smothered in sauce.  However, this sauce had a very distinct flavor, and although I could taste the vinegar, which I LOVE, it was way too sweet and heavy and had a weird little kick that we didn’t like. Unfortunately, the sad part is that regardless of the sauce, I think the meat itself was not all that great and lacked flavor.

 

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image source: http://www.interstatebarbecue.com/Images/ribDinner.jpg

 

In the end, as excited as we were to visit this restaurant, we left feeling very disappointed and not as satisfied as we would have hoped.  The only two solid Little Piggies I can give them are for having a signature dish and because their prices were reasonable.  I do want to give them a half a Piggie for taste, because although we both agreed it was not our favorite barbecue joint, it’s hard to completely dislike BBQ! 

So as is a point of PCC, this will be one of those examples where I feel that the previous rave reviews are are not warranted; and in this case…I give Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que2 1/2 little piggies.

 

pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon half

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 25, 2010 @ 06:01 PM

One thing you have to look forward to each week is where the restaurant of the week has been showcased, like on Man vs. Food or Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives; and how it stacks up on my “Five Little Piggies” rating scale.  In other words, is it a ‘must-visit?’  That being said, I apologize for my omission of what makes Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous “pop culture cuisine,” and how I rated our visit from last week’s post.  Therefore, here is a quick post  re-visiting this Memphis BBQ mecca.

The first place I saw it was on as special that Travel Channel featured called “Barbecue Paradise” (part of the ‘Food Heaven’s’ series).  More recently, I saw it featured on a show Adam and I love and NEVER miss…“Man vs. Food.”  Below is a clip of when Adam Richman went to Rendezvous, hopefully it will give you an even better taste of what Rendezvous has to offer!

Man vs. Food Memphis [Video].  (2009).  Retrieved January 25, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnNM38chgRQ.

When I began this blog, Adam and I thought that I needed to give each restaurant we visited a rating to fully describe how I felt about each location, hence….”Five Little Piggies.”  I must credit my husband with the idea of “Five Little Piggies,” because as he explains it “there are going to be those restaurants that you just want to eat like a little piggy.”  Not to mention, I love pigs in general so why not? 🙂  But I digress; You can visit that section of the blog for a full breakdown of the rating system, but the important things to keep in mind are signature dish, taste, ambiance, service, and price.  So, in the case of Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous, they receive Five Little Piggies!

pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon pig-icon

Other Links:

Travel Channel’s Barbecue Paradise

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 @ 10:01 AM

Now as I mentioned before we live in Dallas where beef is King, so the BBQ experience stops in comparison the minute we hit Tennessee, for pork rules in those parts!  So the first restaurant I want to touch on is  Charles Vergos Rendezvous, a spot we had been hearing about for awhile, from television, to friends, and family members.  Located in Memphis in a small alley way across from the famous Peabody Hotel it could be easily missed if your eyes were not peeled.  Let’s just say Adam and I had quite the adventure with Julie(our GPS) around  a circle of 5 or more blocks in downtown. :)  However, the minute you do find it and step out of your car, you can not possibly miss the wonderful smells of charcoal and pork wafting through that alley. 

 

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Upon entering, that smell only gets stronger and let’s just say your mouth begins to water as you are lead down to the basement where the restaurant is located.  We were lucky  that we were passing through town around lunch time a few days before Christmas so the restaurant itself was not overly crowded.  That is not to say that it was not busy, it was, just no hour long waits that I hear are typical for a Friday or Saturday night. 

 

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We did not need to look at the menu to know ribs were in order, seeing as that is what they are known for, as well as my favorite dish at any BBQ place.  But, we also thought we would give the pulled pork sandwich a taste to see what it was all about and of course I was drawn to fact that you could order a side of pickles… you will soon learn they are a LOVE of mine!  Now what makes Rendezvous differ so greatly in their rib styling is they use a dry rub when slow cooking their ribs over charcoal as opposed to other Tennessee barbeque places we’ve tried, who use a sauce over their dry rub while cooking.  Rendezvous does offer two sauces which they place on the table for you to add if you so desire, but you really do not need it.

 

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This is the gloriousness that appears when they bring the ribs platter…the ribs with dry rub, bbq cole slaw, and baked beans.  Yes that is only dry rub and there is a lot of it, but it is by all means necessary and awesome!  Not only does the dry rub add an insane amount of flavor, these ribs are tender and juicy to boot.  That is something I always look for in a good rib, you should not have to work to get that meat off the bone.  And the bbq slaw is also great and surprising with its tangy mixture of vinegar and sauce that create a wonderful smoky and crunchy slaw.  As I mentioned before adding sauce is really not necessary for flavor because these ribs are pack a punch all by themselves, but the sauce is very tasty nonetheless.  We chose the mild, since Adam and I are self proclaimed weanies and really do not enjoy anything spicy unless the spice is for flavor not just for the sake of being HOT!

 

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The pulled pork sandwich was also good, but not really anything I would write home about.  As far as pulled pork goes still very tasty, however if I am ever fortunate enough to experience Rendezvous again, I would not waste any room on this, but rather enjoy every morsel of their decadent ribs!  I mean I did say that ribs hold a special place in my heart :).

 

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I truly loved the experience we had there and if we had not been traveling through Memphis to get home I would have loved to stay longer.  The atmosphere is great and I think it would have to be rocking on a Friday or Saturday night. 

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We obviously hated the food based on these pictures :).  And I was so surprised how much I loved the dry rub they had, especially since I had never experienced ribs in this way.  We enjoyed the dry rub so much we even bought some for a friend who already makes wonderful ribs, we thought this could enhance them for him.  So if you are ever in the downtown Memphis area I would highly recommend taking the time to stop at Rendezvous.  Not only will you fully enjoy your dining experience, you will get to eat some of the most different tasting and enjoyable ribs you have ever had.