Our Gourmet: Follow the smoke to Memphis BBQ
New Hampshire Union Leader | November 28. 2012 9:13AM
First impressions: 8/10
Memphis BBQ & Blues is located in an old house in a commercial strip along Route 101 west of the Milford bypass. Inside is bright and open, with autographed guitars and other musical ephemera decorating the walls of the high-ceilinged main room, which includes dining tables, the bar and a massive HDTV. The building and the interior, with its old hardwood floors, tall windows and oak woodwork, reminded us of a converted school.
It seems like a great spot for a fun night of music and food. Sadly, when we arrived on a Sunday evening, the musicians were just packing up and the place was pretty quiet. But much to the relief of our Teenage Bottomless Pit, there was football on the tube and we were quickly greeted and served.
Meat is king at Memphis BBQ & Blues: pork, chicken, beef brisket, plus a little fish, served in a variety of ways, but all smoked or baked. The barbecue style here is dry rub, with sauces — five varieties — applied by the diner at the table. If you're used to the saucy, sticky-fingers style of barbecue, having the meats arrive at the table unsauced might be a little unsettling, but the upside is that you control the amount and flavor of the sauces. Beyond the meats, there are salads, but realistically, if you're not a meat lover … well, you'll probably like the music.
Our Gourmet: The appetizer menu is short (seven items) and more than half is barbecue. From the non-barbecue items, I chose the Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms ($7.99): button mushroom caps, filled with a ball of buttery seafood stuffing. I detected crab, minced red peppers and seasoning in the tasty stuffing, but it wasn't served as hot as it should have been. I'll admit I've had better stuffed mushrooms and better openers. 6/10
The Bottomless Pit ordered Memphis Sliders. He chose pulled pork for $4.99; pulled chicken ($4.99) or brisket ($6.99) are also available. Two small sandwiches, piled high with meat. He thought the pork, served without sauce, was a bit on the dry side. Neither TDC nor I got a chance to sample, however — they didn't last long enough. 7/10
The Dining Companion: I opted for a cup of Homemade Brisket Chili (cup $3.99/bowl $5.99). The cup was filled with large chunks of smoked brisket in a fresh chunky tomato base. The meat was tender and the flavor was incredible. As the menu states, order a cup and you'll wish you had ordered a bowl. 9/10
OG: For some reason I approached my dinner selection worried that I wasn't going to get enough food. So I ordered the smoked half chicken ($16.99), onto which I piggybacked three ribs ($2.50 each).
Entrees come with two sides, and I chose baked beans and cole slaw. The chicken — again, dryrubbed — was moist throughout. The smoky flavor was pronounced, and was particularly intense in the dark meat. Normally a dark meat fan, I actually preferred the white meat here. The ribs were moist, smoky and slightly sweet, thanks to the rub.
I enjoyed them. Actually, I only enjoyed one on site; I ended up taking two ribs and a drumstick home. I need not have worried about having enough food, and in fact probably would have been satisfied with the combo Quarter Chicken and Three Ribs for $11.99. (In hindsight, maybe it was that low price that made me worry about quantity). 7/10
TBP, growing boy that he is, ordered a full rack of ribs ($24.99). The ribs here aren't of the spare-ribs variety, little bones, all attached to one another by meat. These are big, wide bones, served in small sections of one to three ribs. The full rack was piled high with three or four sections.
TBP is a sticky-fingered spare ribs fan, so he was a little disappointed, but as I told him, this is a different style, and I thought they were very tasty. Meanwhile, he thought his side of macaroni and cheese was "the bomb." The baked potato he ordered as his second side (hey, I said he was a growing boy) came home with us. 7/10
TDC: Having the brisket for an appetizer, I decided on the open faced pulled pork dinner ($10.99): a split roll with two overly generous servings of pulled pork — of which half got boxed up for take-home. Again, the pork is well smoked and served unsauced. I tried both the regular and then the spicy barbecue sauce, and I'm not sure if the spicy was mislabeled, but they both tasted the same to me, and a bit too sweet for my taste. The baked beans were also on the sweet side. 7/10
Although looking forward to the fresh strawberry and peach cobbler, our waitress returned to let us know that it wasn't fully cooked and the chef would not serve it, so we opted for chocolate peanut butter pie all around. The peanut butter layer was extremely smooth and the chocolate layer was rich and silky. Big thumbs up from all three of us. 10/10
Final thoughts: 9/10
A video on the restaurant's website features general manager Chuck Hall talking about Memphis BBQ's approach to barbecue. The smoke and the house-blend dry rub are the keys, and you can tell that they're very proud of what they do. The food was good, the patrons and staff friendly, and the atmosphere clearly conducive to a good time. On a Friday or Saturday night, with a band pumping out the blues while you work on a beer and a pile of ribs, Memphis BBQ & Blues would be a very satisfying place to be.