Memorable | One of the Best
A&R Bar-B-Que | Memphis BBQ at its Best
Review by: Michael Stern
You Have Arrived
Memphis was one of the first cities we explored when we started writing for Gourmet magazine back in the 1990s. Of its several culinary virtues, BBQ predominates. In the city’s constellation of excellent BBQ spots, A&R shines especially bright. As you drive up to the restaurant, a few blocks north of Graceland, good vibes fill the air. Literally: the parking lot smells of smoke and pork. Customers walk out the front door with arms full of to-go containers. A sign on the wall announces Anyone can put the heat 2 the meat; only a few can barbecue. Here you have found Memphis BBQ at its best.
The Memphis Pig Sandwich
At the order counter, listen to a blissful smoke-pit lullaby coming from the kitchen. It’s the chop-chop-chop sound of cooks hacking hickory-smoked pork into mottled shreds. They configure sandwiches the classic Memphis way. Into a bun goes pork mixed with tangy red sauce and a spill of cole slaw. Slaw in a Memphis barbecue sandwich is as important for its texture as for its pickly sweet taste. The cabbage provides such nice little bits of crunch among the velvety heap of pork.
The A&R menu is gigantic, going far beyond pig sandwiches. You can have ribs (wet or dry), catfish dinner, or hot tamales. Or consider chicken breast shaped and cooked like French fries (!). Or that only-in-Memphis treat, barbecue spaghetti. The latter is a mound of soft noodles dressed not with ordinary tomato sauce, but with – of course – BBQ sauce, laced with shreds of pork. In this city, where restaurants also offer BBQ pizza and BBQ salad, BBQ spaghetti makes perfect sense.
The ambiance of A&R is pure BBQ parlor. Steady chopping in the kitchen provides a background beat. It is a big place with a lot of elbow room. Raw brick walls and florescent lights set a no-nonsense mood. However hot it is outside, you can count on the air conditioning system to be running so high that it feels like hibernation. Or is the trance we experience a result of Memphis BBQ at its best?
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