Corky's Ribs & BBQ (Memphis, TN)
My wife and I had only been back in Tennessee about a week, the majority of which had been spent unpacking and organizing our belongings (as well as our lives). As a treat, we decided to roll through Memphis to do a little home shopping. Even though it's a far cry from Central Texas-style, I couldn't resist trying out some top shelf Memphis barbecue.
Corky's was the closest to our other pre-determined destinations, so that made for an easy decision. It's also consistently rated as one of the top barbecue joints in Memphis. This place has a lively blues atmosphere which was very inviting. Judging by the photos on the wall, it seems like Corky's has been visited by hundreds of celebrities over the years. I hoped that translated into delicious food rather than just hype.
While the majority of barbecue joints I've encountered are simple counter-service operations, Corky's is full table-service. My wife and I were both exhausted after 2.5 hours of solid shopping (well, I was at least), so we appreciated a more relaxing meal. This is a busy place with lots of tables, and they clearly get plenty of business. After a brief ten minute wait and much anticipation, we were seated and started perusing the menu.
Choosing Corky's as our lunch spot was a no-brainer, but figuring out my order was much more difficult. I definitely wanted some Memphis-style ribs, and I thought I'd also see how they did with a Texas favorite: brisket. My best option for this meaty duo was the Ribs & Beef Killer Combo. I opted for dry ribs rather than wet. When I asked to have my brisket fatty with extra bark, I was informed that "they cut all that off," so I hoped it would be tasty enough as-is. Their combos automatically come with bar-b-q baked beans and coleslaw, but I subbed in hush puppies instead of the slaw.
The beans, as expected, were very sweet. I also found a hint of black pepper, but they weren't really spicy per se. The hush puppies had an amazing crispy batter on the outside, and were somehow both dense and fluffy on the inside. These were spicier than the beans, especially the ones with larger chunks of jalapenos (I think) in them. I also appreciated that these pups were homemade rather than frozen, and I can safely say that they were the best hush puppies I've had to date.
I almost always eat my brisket sliced, but unfortunately this was chopped. It was also loaded up with Corky's thick homemade barbecue sauce. Given these serving choices, coupled with the decision to cut off all of the bark, there was no hope for finding a smoke ring. Undaunted, I dug in anyway. The meat was very tender and juicy, and the sauce had a nice bite of vinegar to it. Since the main flavors here came from the sauce, I could only pinpoint a mild smokiness. Overall I'd say the brisket was rather tasty, but I would have preferred actual slices with bark.
As usual, I saved my ribs for last. These were beautifully pink from the smoke, though I couldn't taste much more of it than with the brisket. Fortunately, there was a great crust and the rub packed a ton of flavor. It might have had just a tad too much salt, but otherwise the rub was awesome. The meat itself was also really tender and came clean off the bone with each bite. All things considered, with only a moderate amount of smoke present I could really taste the natural flavors of the pork quite nicely.
My wife let me try a bite of smoked turkey from her brioche club sandwich. The thin, deli-style slices of turkey were very tender. They also had a decent smoke level and were fairly tasty for poultry.
Even though we were both thoroughly stuffed, dessert sounded too good to pass up. We got a slice of Miss Emma's Chocolate Fudge Pie to share, a la mode of course.
The pie looked absolutely amazing! It was fudgey and delicious, complete with fluffy whipped cream. And just in case the pie itself wasn't sweet enough, there was an extra drizzle of chocolate sauce atop the whole thing. Every bite was exceptionally rich. This was a great palate cleanser.
Corky's is likely top notch 'que by Memphis standards, but I guess I just have a different opinion of what constitutes stellar barbecue. To paraphrase Dorothy, "We're not in Texas anymore." Regardless, the food was all really good.