Sunday, January 18, 2009

Road Trip: Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Q Memphis, TN

Do you have a food that you are totally nuts over? For me, and a few of my friends it’s barbecue. There is not one thing about BBQ that we don’t love. Even the act of walking into a new barbecue joint is a joyous event. So when I say we drove a 545 mile return trip for a single BBQ meal you should not be surprised; especially when I tell you that this was a road trip to the famous Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q in Memphis, Tennessee!

Our motley crew was comprised of Eric from, a friend of his named Cecil, and of course myself. We all packed into Eric’s car for the 4 and a half hour drive from Madisonville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee. Armed with only our coffee, our appetites and about two and a half hours worth of small talk we started our journey to one of the World’s most famous BBQ bastions.

In 1978, Jim Neely purchased Interstate Grocery at 2265 South 3rd Street. Not only would the grocery store provide his son with a job, Neely thought the store might provide himself with a way to supplement his income once he retired from the insurance business. The store was run down and had become a place for a rough element to hang out, drink, take drugs and get in the occasional fight. Most people probably would never have imagined the store could become a prosperous business. People asked why he came to this location, "It's not the land, it's the man," says Neely. "I had a vision for what this place could become.

In 1979 He purchased the property and then converted the store to Interstate BBQ Restaurant. This established the Neely name on the Memphis BBQ scene. Today Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q has fame status and is well known in barbecue and foodie circles all over the world.
When we finally arrived at our destination we were immediately revitalized by the prospects of an incredible barbecue meal. As strange as it sounds, just stepping out of the car in the Interstate Bar-B-Q parking lot felt like it was already worthwhile. It was as if we knew it was going to be great without really knowing, if that makes sense.

When you enter the doors to the restaurant the aroma hits you like a velvet wall of smoky goodness. Your mouth starts to salivate in anticipation of the delights that are about to come. The place itself shows its age, but not in a bad way. It is like you are entering a historical landmark; the history of great BBQ was made here.

I ordered the Bar-B-Q Sampler and an unsweet iced tea. In the south tea is either sweet or unsweet and sweet means SWEET, so you better be ready if you order it that way. I figured the sampler would give me the widest assortment of Interstate Bar-B-Q experiences without causing me permanent and irreparable damage.

The sampler is made up of Pork Ribs, Beef Ribs, Links, Beef Brisket, Pork Shoulder, B-B-Q Spaghetti, Beans, Slaw and Bread. The Sampler Platter is described as “A Trip to Hog Heaven”! This was really a stand out barbecue meal everything on the plate was clearly top notch; the pork ribs were fall off the bone tender, the beef ribs had just the right amount of texture and were not tough at all, links were made in house and were incredibly seasoned. The chopped brisket was tender and smoky with a hint of tangy sauce, and the pork shoulder was pulled and sauced and was incredible on the plain white bread with some slaw. To me the star of the sampler was the B-B-Q Spaghetti, it had the perfect amount of sauce and meat and the flavors were far more complex than I expected. The side dishes were all great as well, there was tons of meat in the beans and they were hearty and rich. The slaw was both tangy and creamy and cut through and enhanced the sweet rich pork.

We finished the meal with a piece of the Sock-it-to-me cake which we all shared. It was described to us as a pound cake pumped up with sour cream and love. That it was for sure, there was a cinnamon crumble center and a sweet glaze over the cake. It seemed like it would be the lighter of the desserts on the menu. I’m looking forward to some sweet potato pie on my next visit.

If you find yourself in Memphis or you are willing to make the long drive out from wherever you are, the ride to Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q will be worth time and travel. Taste some barbecue history for yourself. On the way out we thanked Jim for an excellent meal.

Let him know that we sent ya!

Jim Neely's Interstate Bar-B-Q
2265 S. Third Street
Memphis, Tennessee 38109
901-775-2304 - Restaurant
901-775-3149 - Fax and Order by Fax

1 comment:

Joie de vivre said...

I started salivating just reading about the aroma as you walked into the restaurant. Actually doing it must have been amazing!