Monday, February 23, 2015

DoRag Does Memphis Part 2

Friday - 
As I left Twangtown Friday afternoon I inserted an unmarked CD into the player.  When the first note played I knew it was a sign… The unmistakable sound of Richard Johnston & his electric cigar box guitar playing the Memphis Delta Blues.  When I think of Memphis I think of the Blues, Elvis, & Memphis BBQ!  My drive was filled with bad-ass guitar licks, & the anticipation of tasting some great BBQ, but most of all spending time with my BBQ Friends & Family. The plan was to get to the hotel, freshen up, & have a few drinks before rendezvousing with the group at the Rendezvous for dinner.  Friends & BBQ Judges Jan & Jon Ewing from Kentucky had already checked in & were out seeing the sights & planning on meeting at the Rendezvous.  Judge & Competition Cook Randy Calk from Tennessee & BBQ Media personality (Pit-Tootsie) Vernee Green-Myers driving over from Georgia were planning on meeting up at the hotel & riding over together.  About half way to Memphis while listening to a rousing rendition of Richard Johnston’s version of RL Burnside’s “Shake ‘em On Down” I get a call from “V” saying she was stopping at Big Bob Gibson’s to pick up a pie & did I want here to get one for me?  Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back? Well HELL YES!  Coconut Please!  Feeling even more excited I laid the hammer down & continued on my way to Graceland! 

I arrived about 6PM, got checked in & fired up the laptop to answer some emails.  V was still a ways out & Randy was resting before the nights activities.  Our reservations were at 8PM & you know how I hate to be late so I had me a snort of “Jack” & tried to relax.  V called and was still about an hour out…ETA 8 PM…took another snort!  Received a text from one of the “locals” who just happens to be a 4 time WORLD FRICKEN BBQ CHAMPION Mark Lambert!  They were at the Rendezvous waiting on us & the count was 15!  V arrived & we quickly stashed the pie & jumped in Randy’s truck to head downtown.  We finally got parked in a deep dungeon like garage in the bowels of some building & began walking through building & lobby's finally arriving on S. 2nd Street.  I now know how Moses felt…it seemed like we were just wanderin around when BAM….there is was…down the alley of lost bones…..The Rendezvous! 

Dude at the door said “you must be the one’s they are a waiting for”…I said “ yep..that be us”.  Wow what a group!  Jan & John Ewing from Kentucky, Jason & Julie Perrigin from Dickson, TN, Phil Wingo from Chicago, Shane Draper & Mike Owings from Cunningham, KY, Luke Ray from Cape Girardeau, MO, Mark Lambert from Olive Branch, MS, Danny Green from Hernando, MS,  Local Memphians Bev Hibbing, Chris Birmingham, Bryan Jackson from Barlett, TN, along with Randy, V, & yours truly!  The Rendezvous began cooking ribs in 1948 and is still going strong.  Presidents, Movie Stars, Rock Stars, & people from all walks of life have all tasted the famous Rendezvous ribs.

Randy ordered a Cheese & Sausage plate while I poured a beer from someone’s pitcher.  After I downed the first one I remember thinking this was pretty cool…that a group of BBQ “Enthusiasts” from various parts of the country could come together in a city know for BBQ, in a restaurant know from BBQ. & enjoy friendship & fellowship…. I almost shed a tear…not because of that thought…because I was out of BEER!  The Sausage Cheese plate was the standard sliced sausage, cheddar cheese chunks, pickle spears, banana peppers, sprinkled with rub, & a side of sauce & saltines!  What I call “Redneck hors d'oeuvres”! 

I ordered a ½ slab of ribs which comes with a small side of beans & slaw.  The service was fast!  Once we ordered we had our food within 5 minutes.  My ½ rack came with a 5 bone slab & a single bone.  They were served dry.  As I understand they cook the ribs in the smoker & when done they remove the ribs & mop them with a mixture of water & vinegar followed by the family recipe seasoning.  They came with a side of beans & slaw.  There is sauce on the table, regular & Hot.  I bit into the single bone first & immediately knew it was tough & undercooked.  Not what I expected but I finished it off none the less.  The 5 bone ½ slab was more to my likin…over-cooked!  Almost fall off the bone over cooked! That’s what I expected!  The rub had a distinct Greek like taste with a hint of heat.   The sides were above average but nothing sparks my memory of them.  While not worthy of “competition” ribs I have to say I did enjoy them.  The real star of this “BBQ  Shrine” is the people & the ambiance.  First the entrance is in an alley!  It has character & displays all types of memorabilia & memento's.  You could spend a whole day just looking at the display cases, pictures, & artifacts hangin on the walls & from the ceiling.  The “Staff” like the ribs are well seasoned.  Some like Big Jack & Robert Sr. have been there 40+ years!  Henry the Pitmaster on duty let us check out the pit & cut up with us a bit. 

All in all I enjoyed my Rendezvous experience.  The atmosphere was funky cool, the service was spot on, the beer was cold, & the food was enjoyable.  If you are expecting “life changing” ribs…you will most likely be disappointed.  If you are expecting a good rib…you prolly be be sasafied!  

Here is my scorecard:
Charlie Vergos’ The Rendezvous
Type: Restaurant
Signature Dish: Ribs
Rating (KCBS Scoring 2-9)
Ribs  - 7
Sides – 6
Service – 9
Appearance – 8

Overall – 7.5 Avg

Stay tuned for DoRag Does Memphis Part 3.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

DoRag Does Memphis Part 1

How It Started….
I was having a few adult beverages (nothing new there) & watching Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives reruns when the Memphis BBQ Tour episode aired.  I had caught it before (season 3 episode 9) but it sparked an idea.  I realized that I had only eaten Memphis BBQ once back in the early 80’s at the Rendezvous.  With Memphis just a little over 3 hours West I decided I was gonna take my own Memphis BBQ Tour.  Naturally I posted my idea on Facebook…I have been told I’m an “over-poster” but hey…we all have our issues right?  Soon after my post several FB Friends commented they wanted to go too!  So faster than green grass through a goose….. the DoRag Does Memphis BBQ Tour was born! 

The DDD episode included Leonard's Pit Barbecue, Marlowe's Ribs, Tom's Bar-B-Q . Cozy Corner, Central BBQ,  & the Germantown Commissary.  I also added my friend & fellow Competition Cook Melissa Cookston’s restaurant The Memphis BBQ Company.  After all Melissa is a multi-time World Champion!  I checked my “social calendar” & came up with a date that did not conflict with any BBQ events in the area February 7-8.  My next move was to contact each of the restaurants & discuss our visit.  I was wanting to give them a heads up on us coming & arrange to meet the Owner, Manager, or Pitmaster.  I wanted to understand more about their history, cooking techniques, & philosophies & hopefully score a tour of the “Pit”.  I sent out emails to each restaurant introducing the group & our purpose.  Being it was Thanksgiving week I did not get any immediate responses until the first of December.  Over the next few weeks I received email replies & even a few phone calls welcoming us to pay them a visit.  Sadly Cozy Corner informed me they had a bad fire & were not sure when they were going to reopen.  It became apparent that some peeps would arrive on Friday so I added a Friday night stop at….wait for it….yes the Rendezvous!  Hey…you gotta pay respect!  I then looked at the logistics to plan out the schedule & route.  With the help of several locals here’s what I came up with:

11:00AM Leonard's Barbecue
1:30PM Tom's BBQ
4:00PM Marlow's BBQ
8:00PM Memphis BBQ Co.
11:00PM Gibson's Donuts  (added during another “drankin & watchin Food Porn” night!)

11:00AM The Commissary
1:30PM Central BBQ
4:00PM Morris Grocery

A base hotel was chosen, reservations were made.... all we had to do was wait until February!  Stay tuned for Part 2.