Memphis Feature

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Sizzling, Smokin' Tastes of Memphis

To many folks, Memphis means barbecue, and in Memphis, barbecue means pork. It can be sandwiches of "pulled" pork loin drenched in sweet, tomato-based sauce and topped with coleslaw, or pork ribs coated in spices. (The latter are called "dry ribs," not because the meat isn't succulent and juicy, but because they are sauceless.) Either way, the meat is slow-cooked over hardwood coals in a barrel cooker.

There are dozens of barbecue restaurants in Memphis, peddling subtly different versions of the classic product. Corky's is the powerhouse. The line of people waiting for a table often extends out the door of the restaurant on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis. Corky's also has branches at Memphis International, in Nashville, in Tunica, Mississippi, and in New Orleans. Corky's and the Rendezvous, a downtown restaurant known for dry ribs, also operate thriving mail order businesses. They're happy to FedEx a slab of ribs to barbecue lovers anywhere in the country.

The serious connoisseur of barbecue will also want to seek out some of the smaller, family-run operations. The choices are many—in this city, you can find a good plate of barbecue almost anywhere, including one combination laundromat and barbecue shop. Some of the best spots are the Bar-B-Q Shop, the Cozy Corner, Gridley's, Interstate, Neeley's, and Payne's. Nearby Tipton County is known for a slightly more vinegary style of barbecue. Bozo's, in the minuscule town of Mason, is the most popular restaurant for this variation of the grilled meat theme.

Not surprisingly, this city of barbecue aficionados is the site of the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. Each May, more than 225 cooking teams compete for $40,000 in prizes—and the highly coveted "World Champion" title.

The best barbecue in Memphis, however, might very well be what's prepared in backyards and on front porches across the city. On holiday weekends in the summer, the whole town smells of barbecue smoke.

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