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Memphis Barbeque, Owner Chris George in Crystal City - Closed


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Memphis Barbeque is currently under construction in Crystal City and is hiring at the moment. The location is close to the Crystal City Jaleo and Buffalo Wild Wings. I have talked to the owner/chef twice and he has said that the restaurant will be opening in 30 days or so.

Rob

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According to a recent interview with Huffington Post Local, Memphis BBQ owner Christopher George has several concepts that he plans on introducing to the area. Slow down, Chris...I think it's pretty clear barbecue is kicking your ass right now, so why don't you focus on doing that right before moving on to other "concepts?"

They've only been open for about two weeks, so I won't dwell on the service too much, except to say that it was comically bad. Even though we were there around noon, our server kept referring to "this evening" and "tonight" like she memorized a script and couldn't wrap her mind around the time of day; she didn't know the difference between the dry Memphis style ribs and the traditional wet ribs offered on the menu; didn't know what I meant by "slaw" until I said "coleslaw," and she lied to the table behind us about the restaurant's opening date (maybe as a preemptive excuse for the meal they were about to not enjoy?). We were literally laughing out loud by the end.

None of that would matter if the food was good, but...

The meal began promisingly enough with a complimentary basket of jalapeno and onion hushpuppies. A little dry, but nicely crispy on the outside and not too dense in the middle. Most of their appetizer offerings try way too hard to be clever and unique, instead reading like a joke list of hacky 'fusion' dishes - pulled pork egg rolls and beef brisket enchiladas are two actual items on the menu. No thanks.

This being a Memphis style joint, I came in knowing that I wanted to try their spare ribs and pulled pork. When I ordered, however, our server didn't ask how I wanted my ribs. This concerned me because I was sure that I wanted them Memphis style - dry with a little sauce on the side. When I said so, the server launched into a confused, and confusing, babble about how they're all Memphis style, you should get them with the sauce, when they're wet that means with sauce, everyone gets them with sauce, Memphis style just means how they're cooked, and so on. Mostly to stop her from talking I buckled and ordered them wet like she clearly wanted me to. My wife ordered the baby back ribs.

When my plate arrived, it looked unappetizing - a sloppy pile of soggy pulled pork drenched in sauce, 'garnished' with a sad piece of parsley equally soaked in sauce, and a measly set of dry looking ribs with barely any meat on the bones. Both offerings tasted just like they looked. The pulled pork had ok flavor, but the mushy, pasty texture was awful. It's like the pork shoulder was pulled from the smoker three days ago, drenched in sauce, and left to sit under a heat lamp. Sort of like Lloyd's, the microwave stuff you get in a plastic tub at the market, but for about three times the price and not in the comfort of your living room.

As I mentioned before, the spare ribs had very little meat on the bones. The small nuggets I was able to pull off were tough, chewy, and so overly salty that they left my tongue numb - these characteristics all came together to make the meat taste more like bad jerky than anything else. After wrestling with two bones I stopped trying. To be fair, the baby back ribs my wife ordered were the meal's highlight. Tender, smoky, and flavorful, with more meat than my spare ribs.

I am a huge fan of sides, and southern barbecue sides are close to the top of my list. Not these. Collards weren't on the menu, which made me sad. We ordered mac n' cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, and onion rings. The Mac n' cheese was baked, not creamy, which may be more southern, but not tastier in my opinion. This version was way too eggy, with overdone noodles and a broken cheese sauce - tasting ok, but leaving a horrible mouthfeel that was like oily scrambled eggs. The baked beans tasted too much like their tomato base and not smoky at all. They also didn't have any bits of smoked meat in them which I always think is a plus. The slaw and onion rings were actually good - the slaw was not too sweet, with crisp fresh cabbage, and not overdressed, and the onion rings were not too bready and well seasoned.

Now I'm just nitpicking, but the "high class barbecue" idea means that they have cloth napkins and no wetnaps on the table. Another misstep which on its own wouldn't be a deal breaker, but when added to the rest of the experience was just irritating.

The brisket is really the only thing left on the menu which I should probably give a chance, but I won't. Nothing about this meal makes me think they'll do the brisket any better than the rest of what I ate. I was incredibly surprised to know that owner Chris George, and his father, the financier, are actually from Memphis! It's unfortunate because this is so close to home that it could have been a great game-day alternative to BW3 up the way, but I won't be back.

I haven't tried Pork Barrel Barbecue in Del Ray yet, but my fingers are crossed.

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I visited Memphis Barbeque last week and I'm afraid Jay Cobb is right. Unfortunately, I am moving at the moment and have not had time to write. Fortunately, Jay did it for me. :)

During my visit, I had the ribs and while mine were moister and had more meat, the bark (outer crust) was tough as hell. Either they were on the smoker too long or perhaps they are finishing them off at too high a heat. Also, the hickory smoke seems more like a coda then a theme to me. As for the rest:

--The gumbo had flavor but not a lick of spice;

--The marinated grilled squash side was no more than five slim slices. C'mon, that seems a bit on the stingy side;

-- And finally, the best item was perhaps the BBQ sauce that came with the decent onion rings as a dip. Nice balance of heat, sweet, and hickory. Too bad it wasn't around for the ribs.

Rob

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Somewhat off topic, but whenever I see a restaurant on the tax deficit list, it goes on my do-not-visit list (like Tandoori Nights, which was convenient to me). It bothers me to give them sales tax money knowing that they haven't turned it all over.

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