Top 12 Best BBQ Joints in Memphis

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Memphis is known across the globe for its mouthwatering, finger-lickin’ barbecue. The characteristic dry rub ribs and pulled pork sandwiches dripping with tangy-sweet sauce attract barbecue enthusiasts from far and wide. But Memphis barbecue is more than just pork.

BBQ JointSpecialty
Central BBQSignature spice-rubbed ribs, BBQ nachos
Corky’s BBQBaby back ribs, smoked turkey
Payne’s Bar-B-QueFlavorful pork shoulder, thin sauce
The Bar-B-Q ShopMeaty ribs, whole hog barbecue
Interstate BarbecueTexas-style beef brisket, barbecue spaghetti
Martin’s Bar-B-Que JointWhole hog barbecue, mustard-based sauce
Tom’s BarbecueOld-fashioned flavor ribs, barbecue bologna
Cozy Corner RestaurantSmoked Cornish hens, bbq spaghetti
Germantown CommissarySlaw Burger, BBQ Nachos
One & Only BBQFusion menu, Peking Duck
Elwood’s ShackTender ribs, unique ‘totchos’
Top’s Bar-B-QPork spare ribs, barbecue spaghetti

From Texas-inspired beef brisket to smoked turkey and chicken, the diversity of meats and flavors sets Memphis joints apart. Without further ado, here are 12 of the best barbecue restaurants Memphis has to offer. Dig in to experience the magic!

Central BBQ

Name and Location: Central BBQ has several locations throughout Memphis specializing in slow-smoked barbecue.

History and Significance: Founded in 2002 by partners Roger Sapp and Craig Blondis, Central BBQ has become one of the most popular and recognizable barbecue joints in Memphis.

What to Expect: Expect succulent ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken and smoked sausages with rich layers of spice and smoke flavor in a casual counter-service setting. Sides like baked beans, slaw and fries complete the hearty, affordable plates.

Visitor Information: Open 11am–9pm Sun-Thurs, til 10pm Fri-Sat. Cash only at original location, others take credit cards.

With multiple locations across Memphis, Central BBQ has perfected the art of slow-smoked barbecue in a fast-casual setting. Their ribs are rubbed with a signature blend of spices and smoked for hours over hickory wood. The ribs achieve the perfect balance between moist, tender meat and caramelized, slightly charred bark. But Central doesn’t just do pork exceptionally well. The chopped brisket sandwich piles smoky sliced beef onto a bun and tops it generously with sauce. Their BBQ nachos are also a can’t-miss specialty.

Corky’s BBQ

Name and Location: Corky’s BBQ is a Memphis-based barbecue chain with several locations throughout the city.

History and Significance: Founded in 1984 by “Corky” Barry, Corky’s has become internationally renowned for quality smoked ribs shipped globally from its Memphis commissary.

What to Expect: No frills counter-service style features Memphis-style smoked ribs, chopped pork, chicken, sausage and more by the pound or plate with regional sides and sauce options in a casual dining room.

Visitor Information: Hours vary by location, generally 11am-10pm daily. Credit cards accepted. Dine-in and drive-thru options.

Since 1984, Corky’s has been serving barbecue staples like baby back ribs, pulled pork, and chicken. Their dry rub recipe creates a salty, peppery crust on the succulent smoked meat. Corky’s is also one of the few Memphis joints to perfect smoked turkey and turkey rib combo plates. Their scratch-made sides and desserts like baked beans, coleslaw, and banana pudding round out the meal. With friendly service and a casual vibe, Corky’sMHT provides a quintessential Memphis barbecue experience.

Payne’s Bar-B-Que

Name and Location: Payne’s Bar-B-Que is a beloved whole-hog barbecue join in midtown Memphis open since 1972.

History and Significance: One of the oldest family-run barbecue joints in Memphis, Payne’s has earned iconic long-time status for consistent smoked pork sandwiches and plates from a patched together pit room.

What to Expect: Aside from smoky pulled pork and slaw sandwiches packed with flavor, locals love Payne’s for the whole smoked pigs’ ears and snouts proudly served daily while supplies last to adventuresome regulars willing to come early.

Visitor Information: Tuesday–Saturday 11am til sold out. Cash only. No dine-in seating. Expect a line at peak times.

This humble East Memphis joint puts care into every step of barbecue preparation – from spice rubs to sauce to smoking. At Payne’s, it’s all about flavorful, high-quality meat rather than frills. The pork shoulder exemplifies this approach. Smoked low and slow overnight, these hefty sandwiches and plates highlight expertly seasoned and smoked meat. Payne’s thin sauce strikes a balance between tangy, sweet and spicy. Whether you’re craving ribs, pulled pork or BBQ bologna sandwiches, Payne’s delivers satisfaction through time-perfected simplicity.

The Bar-B-Q Shop

Name and Location: The Bar-B-Q Shop is located in Midtown Memphis and known as the place that perfected barbecued spaghetti in the 1970s.

History and Significance: Family-owned and operated since 1979, The Bar-B-Q Shop remains popular with locals and tourists alike for smoked meat plates and their unique casual fusion dishes.

What to Expect: Alongside high quality smoked brisket, ribs and pulled pork done Memphis-style, expect hearty barbecue pasta fusions, loaded baked potatoes and barbecue nachos on the menu in a casual, counter-service setting.

Visitor Information: Open 11am-6:30pm Mon-Sat. Accepts credit cards. Carryout available.

Since it opened in 1978, The Bar-B-Q Shop has won numerous Memphis barbecue accolades. Their ribs are meaty with a dark, caramelized bark encasing tender, smoke-infused meat. Co-owner Frank Vernon is also renowned locally for his whole hog barbecue. The mellow, nutty flavor shines through in the pulled pork shoulder sandwich. To experience the best variety, go for the Bar-B-Q Combo with your choice of two or three meats. And save room for the velvety chocolate cobbler too!

Interstate Barbecue

Name and Location: Interstate Barbecue is considered an institution in South Memphis since opening in 1978.

History and Significance: Owners Jim Neely and his wife Desiree continue to operate what many consider the most authentic neighborhood barbecue joint where locals stop in for heaping pulled pork sandwiches and ribs on the way home.

What to Expect: A cafeteria-style model lets customers walk the pit room smorgasbord-style, serving themselves ribs, pork, chicken, bologna, sides and fixings by weight, wrapped in butcher paper to take home or devour at the few tables.

Visitor Information: Tuesday–Saturday 11am–7pm, closed Sunday & Monday. Cash only. Call-ahead bulk orders welcome.

For Texas-style barbecue done right in Memphis, Interstate Barbecue is the spot. Their massive beef brisket sandwiches are reason enough to visit. Perfectly smoked brisket is sliced to order and served up simple with pickles and white bread. Looking for something porky instead? The ribs here are excellent too. Whichever meats you choose, don’t miss out on the intriguing (and addictive) barbecue spaghetti side.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

Name and Location: With locations downtown and Midtown, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint offers whole-hog style West Tennessee barbecue in modern digs.

History and Significance: Pitmaster Patrick Martin brought his whole hog style barbecue from childhood to three popular Memphis locations since debuting the first in 2006 in Nolensville, TN.

What to Expect: On sleek counters, heaping plates of smoked pulled pork, ribs, chicken and sides are served with Tennessee pride alongside local beers and whiskey options best enjoyed on the spacious patio under string lighting.

Visitor Information: Open 11am-10pm daily downtown, til 9pm at Midtown location.

At this South Carolina-inspired joint, whole hog barbecue is the name of the game. The meat is cooked low and slow over hardwood for up to 18 hours until fork tender. Get your whole hog fix in sandwich form on a soft bun with topped with trademark mustard-based sauce. Or order a meaty rib plate with plenty of bark. With blues music playing, sit out on the patio with one of over 100 whiskies and people watch in revitalized South Main neighborhood.

Tom’s Barbecue

Name and Location: Tom’s Barbecue is a former roadside joint turned popular local spot located on Lamar Ave in Memphis.

History and Significance: Smoking meat over hickory wood since 1924, Tom’s is Memphis’ oldest same-family owned barbecue restaurant run by four generations who strive to preserve traditions.

What to Expect: Step up to the counter for classic Memphis-style barbecue like slowly smoked pulled pork, saucy ribs, spicy chili cheese fries and all the soul food sides prepared daily to perfection in a vibrant, casual setting filled with hometown pride.

Visitor Information: Tuesday–Saturday 10:30am–6pm. Cash only. Call ahead for large group orders.

A Memphis institution since 1923, Tom’s Barbecue on North Parkway knows a thing or two about smoked meat. Their no-frills barbecue eschews gimmicks and delivers on old-fashioned flavor. The ribs achieve the perfect balance – moist, meaty and pulling cleanly off the bone without fall-apart texture. For a tasty change of pace, order the barbecue bologna sandwich. Smoky with a hint of spice, it’s an unexpected delight.

Cozy Corner Restaurant

Name and Location: Cozy Corner is a family-owned downtown Memphis institution specializing in smoky barbecue cornish hens and ribs.

History and Significance: Founded in 1977 by Raymond Robinson, Cozy Corner has been operated by Raymond’s children Desiree and Ray Robinson who uphold time-honored soul food traditions and smoking methods for consistent quality.

What to Expect: Cozy Corner’s winning sauce pairs perfectly with tender smoked then deep fried Cornish game hens and meaty ribs plated with sides like baked beans, slaw and fries in a casual, welcoming environment filled with regulars and barbecue pilgrims.

Visitor Information: Tuesday–Saturday 11am–9pm. Accepts credit cards. Call-ahead orders can avoid peak wait times.

For down-home barbecue in a quirky setting, head to family-owned Cozy Corner. Since 1977, they’ve been firing up the pits daily to smoke ribs, Cornish hens and more over charcoal and wood. Regulars rave about the Cornish hen plate. Expertly seasoned and cooked tender with cripsy skin, it’s a nice lighter alternative to pork and beef. Don’t forget to try the signature bbq spaghetti side and sweet potato pie too!

Germantown Commissary

Name and Location: Germantown Commissary, also called “The Germ,” is a hugely popular barbecue restaurant located in Germantown, TN, outside Memphis.

History and Significance: Opened in 1981 by former property owners, The Germ smokehouses everything on-site daily to preserve 20+ years of tradition after changing ownership in the early 2000s.

What to Expect: Mix-and-match your favorites from hickory smoked St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, beef, sausage, chicken and sides ranging from scratch mac ‘n cheese to green beans and cobblers for family-style feasting at communal tables.

Visitor Information: Open 11am-9pm Mon-Thurs, til 10pm Fri-Sat and til 8pm Sun. Reservations for 6+ recommended.

Nick Vergos of renowned Rendezvous ribs opened Germantown Commissary in 1981, bringing his father’s Greek cooking influences to barbecue. The results are nothing short of delicious. Must-try menu items include the Slaw Burger with tangy slaw and melted cheese and the BBQ Nachos overflowing with meaty flavor. And of course, the ribs. The Commissary dry rub adds layers of flavor without overpowering the tender, properly smoked meat.

One & Only BBQ

Name and Location: One & Only BBQ is a popular downtown Memphis barbecue eatery getting attention for creative smoked meat plates and sandwiches.

History and Significance: Amy and Elizabeth Eldridge bring years of culinary expertise and love of Memphis barbecue traditions to creative combinations focused on pulled pork, sausage and hot chicken between brioche buns and over fries.

What to Expect: Enjoy fusion sandwiches like the French Dip pig roast po’boy au jus or BBQ Banh Mi loaded with bold flavors from housemade pickles, ferments and sauces that keep fans coming back again and again for inventive casual BBQ fare best enjoyed on the pet-friendly patio.

Visitor Information: Open 11am-9pm Sunday-Thursday, til 10pm weekends. Credit cards accepted.

At One & Only BBQ, sisters Amy and Babbie marry backgrounds in Memphis barbecue and Seattle teriyaki for a fusion menu. The ribs and pulled pork showcase excellent Memphis-style smoking and seasoning. Looking for something different? Try the Peking Duck. Expertly crisped skin tops juicy meat and creamy hoisin sauce on buns or rice. With picnic tables and backyard vibes, One & Only brings friendly neighborhood charm.

Elwood’s Shack

Name and Location: Located downtown, Elwood’s Shack infuses global flavors into nontraditional barbecue plates with late-night hours.

History and Significance: Opened in 2020, Elwood’sAttachment Shack experiments with barbecue cooking methods and international spices in tacos, loaded fries, kabobs, sandwiches and mindblowing mashups showing immense creativity from owner Tim Bednarski and team.

What to Expect: Enjoy blues music and a lively atmosphere while trying Memphis-Korean rib tacos, Szechuan smoked wings, Arabic shawarma platters and lots more cross-cultural barbecue fusion unexpectedly presented in a former dive bar that still allows smoking indoors.

Visitor Information: Open 4 to 10pm Wednesday & Thursday, 4pm til 3am Friday & Saturday with DJ music starting late night. Cash only.

Elwood’s may not look like much from the outside, but amazing barbecue is smoking behind those pit-stained walls. Elwood Shells chats with customers while the staff serves up amazingly tender, flavor-packed meat. The ribs ooze a sweet and tangy sauce, while the pulled pork stands on its own seasoning alone. Their unique take on loaded tater tots, dubbed “totchos”, makes for an indulgent side. For one of the best bang-for-your-buck barbecue experiences in town, head to Elwood’s.

Top’s Bar-B-Q

Name and Location: Top’s Bar-B-Q is a classic Memphis barbecue spot open since 1952 located just northwest of downtown.

History and Significance: Greek immigrant brothers opened Top’s as a drive-in pit restaurant that has passed through a few owners while preserving signature dishes pit-smoked on site that keep loyal customers coming back year after year.

What to Expect: Step up to the counter for paper wrapped smoked pork shoulder plates and sandwiches doused with signature sauce alongside Memphis-style sides and desserts in an unfussy counter-service landmark filled with nostalgia and friendly neighborhood vibes.

Visitor Information: Monday–Saturday 10am–6pm. Cash only. Call ahead for large orders and catering.

Operating since 1952, Top’s remains a classic Memphis barbecue restaurant specializing in pork spare ribs. Their ribs develop an incredibly flavorful crust but maintain tenderness below with meat tugging cleanly off the bone. Aside from ribs, Top’s serves barbecue spaghetti topping tender noodles with sauce and veggies. Homemade pies like pecan, chocolate and sweet potato make tasty dessert options. Top’s welcoming service and signature ribs keep this historic barbecue spot relevant.

From classic joints open for generations to new spots putting creative spins on Memphis barbecue, the city offers seemingly endless options for amazing ‘cue. Tourists may make a beeline for world-famous names like Rendezvous and Charlie Vergos’. But to experience the diversity of barbecue cooking across Memphis neighborhoods, this list of local favorites is a must-taste starting point. Just come hungry – and leave happy!

Leave a Comment