Secrets to Great BBQ Ribs, from Memphis’ Famous Rendezvous
Where’s the best barbeque in the county? Some say the Texas Hill Country. Others say Kansas City. Still others would argue it’s Memphis. Me? I’m evenly split between the three. I’m Hill Country brisket, KC pork shoulder, and Memphis ribs.
Whether you agree or disagree, anyone who’s eaten at the Rendezvous knows their ribs are something special: tender and meaty, with a spicy, slightly crispy crust that comes from the mystical melding of smoke, char, seasoning and melting fat.
This weekend, I ate my way through more than a dozen of Memphis 100+ ‘cue restaurants, tweeting and scribing as I snacked on pork shoulder at Bar-B-Que Shop, cornish hens at Cozy Corner, barbecue nachos at Neely‘s, and ribs at both Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que and the Rendezvous.
Until I sat down with John Vergos, who, with his brother and sister, owns the Rendezvous, I didn’t realize that what we call Memphis style ribs–smoked or grilled over hard wood charcoal then sprinkled with a dry mixture of seasonings, plus-or-minus sauce–is a relatively new phonomenon. Vergos’ father Charlie was the first to sell ribs this way,in 1948, adapting the way his Greek family seasoned meats with lemon pepper, salt, and vinegar, then grilled them.
“Until then,” John Vergos told me during a round of golf on Justin Timberlake’s new Mirimichi Golf Course near Memphis, “no one sold ribs at a restaurant. People ate ribs at home or with friends on weekends, but no one at them at a restaurant.” Vergus said his dad started using them “because he could buy them cheap, maybe ten cents a pound, and just cooked them the way Greeks cook meat.”
There’s more, including the Rendezvous’ secret to ‘cueing good ribs, and it’s all here–on video–where John Vergos spills the (barbecue) beans.