Since it opened in 1923, Bozo’s has become a BBQ beacon east of Memphis. Shoulder slow-smoked over hickory is served white or dark, the former unspeakably tender shreds, the latter more chewy and crusty outside meat. (Connoisseurs get a combination of the two.) You can have it the classic Memphis way, in a sandwich with slaw (although here the slaw has a more pronounced vinegar tang), or on a plate with beans and/or onion rings. Jumbo sandwiches are immense, loaded with more meat than any bun could comfortably contain. Tables are armed with three sauces: mild, sweet, and hot. Hot is very hot.
I’m not sure what to say about the ribs, which are available Friday and Saturday. Some people love them. Others, myself included, find them curiously unsucculent, like they were some sort of Lean Cuisine diet rack.
Although BBQ pork is the must-eat meal (and dining room decor features countless pig figurines), Bozo’s menu includes steaks, shrimp, catfish (blackened or fried), BBQ chicken, and even chicken salad. All these are served with a choice of two sides. Also available are burgers, corn dogs and chili dogs, and a BBQ bologna sandwich. Whatever you eat, do finish off with a slice of pie. Bozo’s pies are downhome classics, made by a local woman named Ms. Perry, whom aficionados know as The Pie Lady.
Named for founder Thomas Jefferson “Bozo” Williams, the ingenuous restaurant was drawn into a trademark battle with Bozo the Clown back in the 1980s. Bozo v. Bozo went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. So Bozo’s is still Bozo’s (although the original building was destroyed by fire in 1950.)
Note that Bozo’s is closed Sunday and Monday.