As I have mentioned before, the first thing you smell when you are coming out of your hotel door, in downtown Memphis, is the smell of BBQ. That may have been especially true for us as we were staying down the street from the world famous Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous.
After a long morning and part of the afternoon of seeing the sights in Memphis we, Neumans, were famished and ready for something to eat. BBQ, perhaps? So we headed down Monroe Street past 2nd Street and entered Charlie Vergo’s Alley. As we headed down the stairs to the hostess desk, I told her, “We followed the smoke!” She just smiled and sent us down between a log row of tables and past the bar. We got there, we saw that more dining rooms, sprouted from where we were. We took our seats at a table between some Rockabilly musicians and school kids on a class trip from Georgia.
Why? Because this is a place with a story…
Kevin had read about the Rendezvous or watched it on tv… The place started by specializing in grilled ham and cheese sandwiches in the basement of an office building. And then, Charlie Vergo found that they had a coal shute and began smoking his own hams and chicken. Eventually a meat salesman (which my Dad used to do for a living for years) brought Charlie a case of ribs. The rest? Was history.
We ordered the appetizer platter. Sausage, ham, salami, cheese, pickles, peppers and crackers all tossed with the Rendezvous’s signature dry rub. And to drink? Well, here is the thing… All the white shirt and black bow-tied waiters all wore a button that said, “We Have Wine!”. And they did. Nothing spectacular. The kind of wine you can buy at any grocery store in Chicago. And it would have been fine. I could have had it.
But I didn’t.
It seemed wrong. (I don’t always have to drink wine. It just seems that way.)
It struck me that the Rendezvous was a joint about tradition. And to me? That means what’s on tap. And that was Michelob. So, drinking pitchers of beer and (for the kids) pitchers of Coke, we ordered our lunch. Kevin and I? Ribs. Dry rubbed and hardwood charcoal smoked, served with mustard slaw and beans and rolls. The girls? Sophie had ribs and chicken. Celia? The Greek salad. I know. It seemed INSANE. Though she did steal ribs off of Soph, so she could finish. And actually, the salad rocked. It was full of olives and feta and onions and included a dolmade (which I ate and LOVED). Amazing food. Good prices. Great service. It seems so simple. It is. But it is also indescribable.
Charlie isn’t running, the place anymore. His family is. And they know how important family and tradition is… since a lot of their staff have been with them for years… and by that, I mean decades and then THEIR kids come and work for the joint.
So you know it must be good.
Oh. And if you want to taste the ribs and can’t make it to Memphis? You can order them online here.