Top 10 BBQ Restaurants in Central Memphis, Tennessee | S. 3rd St. Location

We know finding the best place to get your barbecue fix can be difficult, so we put together this detailed list of the best of the best BBQ Restaurants in Central Memphis so you can make your choice wisely.  Each Central Memphis BBQ location gives its patrons a unique grilled experience that you should be sure to check out on your next visit! If you know another barbecue location that should also be included in our list – or one that should be removed – please let us know!

1. Central BBQ – Downtown

147 E Butler Ave, Memphis, TN 38103, United States, +19016727760

About: Memphis is known for its excellent barbecue. Since its inception in 2002, Central BBQ has been voted Memphis’ best BBQ restaurant. What are the keys to Central’s success? “Smoke is Our Sauce,” you might have heard them say. That’s because they live in the world’s hardwood capital, and they use hickory and pecan woods, as well as intricate dry rub and a lot of patience, to create the most tender, delicious piece of meat you’ve ever tasted— sauce or no sauce. Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp met on the barbecue circuit in the mid-80s, and after participating in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis in May, as well as several other local and regional BBQ competitions, they went from friends to business partners. The first Central BBQ on Central Avenue opened in 2002, and thanks to their loyal customers, the pit has been stoked ever since. Central BBQ has developed well beyond Central Avenue over the years. They have four locations in Memphis and just opened their sixth, and first outside the city limits of Memphis, in Nashville’s Capitol View neighborhood. They sell delivery in addition to their storefronts to ensure that those who live far away are never far from their favorite bbq. And no matter how big they get, they’ll still serve up one-of-a-kind barbecue from friendly faces. That is a trait they will never lose.


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2. Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous

52 S 2nd St, Memphis, TN 38103, United States, +19015232746

About: Memphis is the world’s pork barbecue capital, with excellent joints tucked into every nook and cranny. They  know what they are doing when it comes to nutrition. Although everyone has a preference, few can deny that the Rendezvous is a must-do activity in Memphis. The Vergos family has been serving their signature dry rub ribs in a basement across from the Peabody Hotel for more than 70 years. And, although the world outside has changed dramatically, the alley basement has remained remarkably unchanged. It all began in 1948. Charlie Vergos and his brother-in-law owned Wimpy’s, a meat and three restaurant at the time. But they couldn’t agree on anything, so Charlie decided to set up shop in the basement, selling ham sandwiches and beer. The location was dubbed the Rendezvous by him. To give the ham some spice, he converted an old coal chute into a smoker. Downtown Memphis was the city’s retail and commercial center in the late 1940s. Men worked downtown throughout the week. Men will go to the Rendezvous after work for a snack and a drink while waiting for their wives to pick them up. On weekends, the fellas will take their wives down for a day of shopping and then spend the afternoon at the Rendezvous drinking. Through the early 1950s, Vergos began to clean up the place a bit, and the ladies agreed to pay a visit. By the late 1950s, however, he had realized he had a problem. He wanted to broaden his menu. His butcher approached him with the one thing he had enough of after trying his hand at chicken and oysters. Ribs are a type of meat. Ribs were considered scrap meat at the time. For years, ribs had been a common side dish at backyard barbecues in Memphis communities, but they had never been served in restaurants. So Vergos devised the now-famous method of throwing the racks in 18 inches from the fire and grilling them for an hour and fifteen minutes to lock in the flavor. They were kept moist with a vinegar wash. Vergos also developed a rub using seasonings from his father’s unique Greek chili recipe and cajun spices he found during trips to New Orleans. To give it a more traditional barbecue hue, he added paprika. That’s what there is to it. People were enthralled by them. Over half a century ago, in a basement restaurant in Downtown Memphis, the tradition for “Memphis style” barbecue ribs was created. Come check it out for yourself.



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3. Leonard’s Pit Barbecue

5465 Fox Plaza Dr, Memphis, TN 38115, United States, +19013601963

About: It was 1922, and it was widely regarded as the start of Memphis’ love affair with pit-smoked barbecue. For it was in this year that Leonard Heuberger set up his five-stool stand and began selling his invention, a barbecue sandwich, for five cents. He couldn’t keep up with demand, and his small start quickly grew into the largest drive-in restaurant in the country. People came from far and wide to gorge themselves on Leonard’s famous pit-cooked ribs and pork shoulders. The “King” was one of the regulars. Elvis would invite his friends to late-night parties that lasted until dawn. The old drive-in is no longer open, and Leonard Heuberger has passed away, but the time-consuming recipes that made Leonard’s so special are still being prepared under the supervision of Dan Brown, the owner. Dan began working at Leonard’s as a sandwich man when he was 15 years old. Heuberger recognized Dan’s passion for the restaurant industry and led him through every phase of Leonard’s legacy. Now, nearly half a century later, Dan, his wife Janet, and a slew of long-serving employees continue to oversee regular restaurant seatings, tour bus parties, and caterings with the same meticulous attention that has made Leonard’s barbecue mecca for over 85 years.


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4. Corky’s Ribs & BBQ

5259 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38119, United States, +19016859744

About: BBQ is prepared in the old-fashioned southern style at this East Memphis eatery. Meats of choice are cooked low and slow in BBQ pits over hickory chips and charcoal. Pork shoulders are cooked for 22 hours and ribs are cooked for over 7 hours at Corky’s. Corky’s is also noted for its friendly staff and extensive menu. The barbecue nachos, onion loaf, and fudge pie are all worth trying. This barbecue is so iconic that it can even be found in the freezer section of local supermarkets, and it’s well worth adding to your to-do list.

5. Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que

2265 S 3rd St, Memphis, TN 38109, United States, +19017752304

About: Interstate Bar-B-Que is notable for a variety of reasons, depending on your point of view. It is widely regarded as the best tasting chopped pork and beef barbecue in Memphis, which is widely regarded as the world’s barbecue capital. It’s a prime example of one man’s active urban renewal campaign to local residents and businesses. Jim Neely’s 15-year-old barbecue restaurant at 2265 S. Third has provided nearly endless job opportunities for family members, but for the judges of the Memphis Business Journal’s 15th annual Small Business Awards, it is clearly one of the best small businesses in the region. Interstate Bar-B-Que won Small Business of the Year in the 26-75 employee category. The restaurant has provided stable employment for the Neely family over the years. Currently, more than a dozen members of the family work there. Neely’s nephews decided to branch out on their own about twenty years ago, opening two Neely’s barbecue restaurants in town. Neely’s brother now runs the California restaurant where he first learned how to use a barbecue pit.


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6. Blues City Cafe

138 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103, United States, +19015263637

About: Doe’s Eat Place was the name of the first Blues City Cafe, which opened in March 1991. Owners Charles and Dominic (Doe) Signa started Doe’s in Greenville, Mississippi. In Memphis, George Eldridge was brought in as the owner and managed Doe’s for two years during a push for business on Beale Street. Blues City Cafe established a menu and consistent products for Memphis and Beale Street residents, visitors, and others in the early 1990s. Ribs were the focal point, as they still are today, and other foods, such as steaks, catfish, and tamales, were introduced over time. Doe’s was purchased by investors in October 1993, and the name was changed to Blues City Cafe. Many of the same people who worked at Doe’s in the early 1990s still work at Blues City Cafe. For example, Ty Agee and Bud Chitton’s consistency and relentless push to improve our food quality and pace of service have helped to make Blues City Cafe what it is today: the #1 business at Tennessee’s #1 tourist attraction.


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7. B.B. King’s Blues Club

143 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103, United States, +19015245464

About: This is the original B.B. King’s Blues Club in Memphis, Tennessee, which is located at the top of Beale Street. On the Street, B. B. King’s is the best restaurant, bar, and live music venue. They aren’t just the Blues. There’s classic soul, rock and roll, delicious barbeque, and signature cocktails to keep you satiated. You simply must visit because words cannot adequately explain the atmosphere of this place. So get yourself down to downtown Memphis and check out BB King’s Blues Club, and don’t forget your blue suede shoes!



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8. One & Only BBQ

567 Perkins Extd, Memphis, TN 38117, United States, +19012494227

About: The owners of One + Only BBQ had a similar vision in the fall of 2011 during a lively debate at their weekly poker game. A vision of a fantastic little barbecue joint. An environment where people were treated with respect. They debated whether they could compete in Memphis, a city so proud of its barbecue that some say it is the world’s barbecue capital. Five years later, One + Only BBQ was named one of the top five restaurants in Memphis in the Commercial Appeal’s “Memphis Most” competition for the best ribs and barbecue sandwich. One + Only BBQ has been a major hit with the Memphis group over the years. Kirby Parkway, Perkin extensions, Germantown Parkway directly across from Agricenter International, and their newest site at 6575 Airways Boulevard in Southern Memphis are now their four sites. One + Only BBQ has become a force in Memphis style, slow smoked barbecue, thanks to its catering.

9. The Pig On Beale

167 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103, United States, +19015291544

About: The Pig on Beale, which opened in 2002 on Memphis’ Historic Beale Street, quickly became a local favorite for “Memphis Style” Hickory Smoked BBQ pork shoulder and BBQ ribs. The Pig was named “Editor’s Pick” by the Memphis Flyer in 2003 for “The Best BBQ Ribs in Memphis,” as well as the Beale Street Merchants Association’s “Most Improved Restaurant” in 2003. BBQ is the specialty at The Pig on Beale. BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches, BBQ Ribs (wet or dry), BBQ Bologna, and Hickory Smoked Turkey Sandwiches are only a few of the options. At the Pig, everything is made from scratch. You’ll get BBQ prepared fresh everyday, whether it’s their mouth watering Onion Rings piled high with your BBQ pulled pork sandwich, BBQ sauce, BBQ Baked Beans, or Homemade Coleslaw. Hickory smoked Memphis Style out back on their Ole Hickory smoker. They’re the place where the BBQ Lovers Feast takes place! The Feast is a sampling of all of the restaurant’s favourites, and it serves two hungry people. They don’t keep something hidden in their BBQ. They want you to enjoy BBQ and all the fun that comes with cooking it, whether it’s the BBQ seasoning, BBQ sauce, or the Homemade coleslaw with over fifteen ingredients. Pick up a copy of all of the Pig on Beale’s recipes at the Pig on Beale. The Pig on Beale is adorned with movie posters from the 1920s to the 1980s and has the look and feel of a 1960s diner, complete with chrome, red, and grey seats, matching booths, and barstools. The atmosphere is that of an old-school Memphis barbecue joint with a fast and friendly staff. On their Retail Store website, you can find “Pork with an Attitude” T-shirts as well as bottles of their signature Pig on Beale BBQ spice and BBQ sauce.


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10. Tom’s Barbecue Memphis

4087 New Getwell Rd, Memphis, TN 38118, United States, +19013656690

About: Taylor’s Grocery was founded in 1950 by Wahela Taylor and her father outside of Memphis. In 1982, Tom Stergios purchased the property and opened Tom’s Barbecue and Deli. In 1995, Adam bought Tom’s Barbecue and Deli from Stergios and transformed it into an award-winning tourist destination and a local favorite. By the year 2000, Adam had added two freezers, a walk-in refrigerator, and two patios. Wahela, which Tom expanded on 70 years ago, is now a worldwide destination! Taylor’s Grocery was purchased by Tom Stergios in 1982. He had previously served in the Grecian army. Tom was invited to move to Memphis by his uncles, who owned a restaurant in downtown Memphis, to learn how to serve food. In Memphis, he learned the trade of barbecuing and infused it with a Mediterranean spice that can still be tasted today. Tom bought the property and served a large number of customers before he had a stroke in the 1990s and had to sell the restaurant to Adam.


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