Football helmets of all of the key players in the South Eastern College Conference hang from the walls, among countless other knickknacks. Red and white checkered tablecloths cover enough tables to accommodate thousands on a weekend night. Waiters adorned in head to toe white uniforms assure the weary traveler about portion sizes by slowly and steadily saying, “You can always order more.”
I’m sinking my teeth into the world famous ribs at Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis. Travelers passing through Memphis on summer road trips might find themselves lingering a little longer just for this taste of a city synonymous with barbecue and blues.
The Location: The streets of Memphis seem quiet and deserted, until I decide to venture down an alley. While normally this would be the sort of action my mom would fear to hear her daughter doing, this is rib alley, where the masses are awaiting a table rather than the lone shady character perched against a dumpster. That turn quickly fills the eyes with crowds of people, waiting to get into this truly back alley restaurant. Rendezvous in Memphis might be in the middle of the downtown, but you will have to go searching for its alley entrance. The location alone lends that feeling of discovering some secret spot, even with the knowledge that it is in fact no secret.
The Famous Clientele: Celebrities, princes and presidents have all licked their fingers at Rendezvous in Memphis. From Prince Albert of Monaco, Frank Sinatra, Bill Clinton, the Rolling Stones and even Justin Timberlake, the glitterati and famous have all broken a rack of ribs in this Memphis institution. However, dining at Rendezvous is not some linen tablecloth affair, but rather more plastic tablecloth basement barbecue. Every customer can feel a part of the history, even if they are Mr. and Mrs. Nobody.
The Dry Ribs: While Rendezvous has plenty of other options on the menu, it is the establishment’s dry ribs that draw the crowds nightly. Often deemed the most famous barbecue in Memphis, the Rendezvous charcoal broiled pork ribs prove that the best Memphis barbecue requires no sauce. The dry rub seasoning makes your mouth water long before hitting the tongue. Coupled with beans and slaw, it is easy to see why these racks of ribs are served to the thousands on an average Saturday night. If you are in the mood for something a little different as you wait for your rack of ribs, try the barbecue nachos, Rendezvous’ spin on nachos complete with that same rib seasoning sprinkled over liquefied cheese.
The History: This Memphis icon all began when Charlie Vergos decided to do a little cleaning in the basement of his diner back in 1948. He found a coal chute and a new purpose to his establishment. Charlie could expand his classic ham and cheese sandwich fare and begin grilling up ribs. It is still all in the Vergos family. It’s not everyday you can experience organized and chaotic Greek hospitality in the heart of the U.S. South.
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