We had quite a journey still ahead of us to get to Memphis. And after a quick breakfast we hopped in the car to head to the city.
Once we hit Memphis, Mom and I stopped at the original location of Central BBQ. Upon pulling into the parking lot we were overcome with heavy wood smoke and caramelizing meat. The shop was tiny with no more than 20 tables, each of them packed. I was in Memphis for ribs, so I ordered a half slab. Mom wasn’t too hungry and opted for just a side of mac and cheese. After a short wait we got our food and began to feast. Central had four sauces, mustard, hot, sweet and vinegar; I personally enjoyed the first two the most. The ribs were extremely tender but didn’t have as much smoke as I would have liked. I got an extensive tour of the kitchen and got to see how Central does BBQ.
Afterwards, we took a quick intermission and drove around the city for about an hour before trying another place. Our second stop was Payne’s. This was a down home, simple bbq shop. Everything was relaxed and the menu was focused. I ordered a slab of ribs and a side of medium sauce. The entire box was very good. Hard charcoal smoke, paired with the sweet and sour tanginess of a catsup based sauce made for a great, but different, experience of Memphis style bbq. My ribs also came with a side of slaw and baked beans, both of which were excellent. The beans packed a great punch with smoke and finished with a slight kick of heat. I would highly recommend visiting both places if you are in Memphis. (And based on local opinion, check out Cozy Corner and AR as well!) Mom and I had a long drive ahead and made it to our halfway point between Memphis and the Carolinas before settling in for the night.
The following day we got an early start to North Carolina. It took us nearly four hours before we arrived to our hotel in Greensboro. We make a quick pit stop to drop off our things and then took off for Picnic in Durham. I ordered whole hog bbq which came with two sides. I chose fried okra and braised collards, both of which were average. The whole hog bbq was probably one of the finest things I’ve ever eaten. It had amazing and dynamic texture, beautiful flavors and a great sauce that complimented the dish rather than pulling the focus away. The sauce on its own was not as good as the one at Mark’s Feed Store but when paired with the meat, it had the best synergy of everything I had tasted on this trip by far! I had a fantastic talk and kitchen tour with the pitmaster who gave me many things to think about regarding food and bbq. (You’ll see some of these ideas discussed in the future.) We had a series of other bbq places we wanted to visit but it was late and the distance from them to our hotel was a bit of an obstacle. We ended up heading back to our hotel and calling it an early night so we could get an early start tomorrow.
Check back later this week to find out how the bbq tour went!