Inside and out, Interstate is perfumed by smoke from slow-sizzling barbecue round the clock. That is because proprietor Jim Neely puts his pork shoulders in the pit at 5pm for the next day’s lunch and he starts the day’s ribs every morning. Mr. Neely is a master, and in the city of Memphis, to be a true pitmaster is to be a god.
His restaurant is a modest pork house serving four-star ribs, shoulder meat, sausages, and bologna with all the proper fixins, including bar-b-q spaghetti (soft noodles in breathtaking sauce). You eat at a table in the simple dining room where a “Wall of Fame” boasts critics’ accolades and 8x10s from celebrity fans; or enter next door and get it to go, by the sandwich, plate, or whole slab of ribs.
The ribs are agreeably chewy with a deep savor haloed by the perfume of wood smoke. Chopped pork shoulder has a few crusty outside shreds and tatters among the pillowy pile of interior meat; slices are less gooped with sauce, and not as messy … but not as succulent, either. A large chopped pork sandwich is the most Memphian dish on the menu, made as per local custom with a layer of cool cole slaw atop the well-sauced meat. It is a total mess that disintegrates as you eat it, but the most delicious mess imaginable!