Yes, you can eat some of the world’s best ribs, pulled pork shoulder and all sorts of sides from these cool spots in Memphis and Nashville. We’re going to show you just how easy it is to score the goods from Rendezvous and Peg Leg Porker, which both ship barbecue nationwide.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous
This legendary spot in Memphis, Tenn., is credited with launching the rib revolution way back when. Founder Charlie Vergos first opened the basement joint as a bar, later adding ribs to the menu because a butcher was looking to unload them bones for cheap. In the late 1940s and early ‘50s, ribs were considered scraps.
Oh, those scraps turned succulent when kissed by charcoal embers and finished in a distinctive seasoning that was a crazy mashup of the owner’s Greek heritage and the Cajun spices he loved from New Orleans. Not fiery, but smoky and savory, this seasoning is sprinkled over a rack of pickle-juice basted ribs just before serving. Sauce is served on the side, always.
The results of this backyard-staple-turned-restaurant-novelty became smoky come hither that drew huge crowds to the dining rooms, spaces filled with memorabilia and an endearing waitstaff.
In the 1980s, some far-flung patrons asked for ribs to be delivered and that’s how the whole barbecue shipping mission got fired up. It really took off later when a commercial kitchen opened and a little start-up called FedEx helped take the operation to a whole new level, shipping the ribs nationwide. These days hogsfly is actually the url for the official website of this family-owned business, now run by John Vergos and his daughters, Katherine Vergos Reiderer and Anna Vergos Blair. John’s late brother, Nick, was at the helm of the shipping operation for years before he passed away last fall.
The dish on the goods
As much as we’d love stroll over from The Peabody Hotel and walk down those famous steps for a full-on dining experience, a shipment of barbecue from Rendezvous is the next best thing.
The two slabs of ribs and two pounds of pulled pork shoulder combo is generous enough to feed four with plenty of leftovers. It includes the knockout mustard slaw, baked beans, barbecue popcorn, the signature seasoning and tomato-based sauce that’s got a hint of heat. Plus, we truly appreciate the detailed instructions on reheating and serving.
It’s important to note that these excellent ribs are definitely not the “falling-off-the-bone” style, but we happen to love the distinctive snap of ribs cooked hot and fast rather than low and slow.
And please, do not reach for a knife and fork when eating them. These ribs are the ultimate finger food. Don’t worry, there are plenty of moist towelettes included to wipe the sauce off your grinning mug after diving in to enjoy this hands-on chowdown.
The Barbecue Nacho kit is also an outstanding option, a party in a box that’s so good you might not want to share the crunchy chips smothered in Pancho’s cheese dip, smoky shoulder, sauce and seasoning.
Here’s what you won’t get at Rendezvous: dessert. It’s just not an option, but that’s all right. If you’re the owner of an average size stomach, you’re going to be too stuffed to consider piling on with something sweet.
Meanwhile, in Nashville
It might seem tempting to fire up that age-old Memphis vs. Nashville great barbecue debate, but let’s pour ice cold sweet tea on that negative notion with this positive declaration: BBQ from each of those personality-packed Southern cities is flat-out fantastic, especially when you’re bringing Peg Leg Porker into the mix.
Peg Leg, aka Carey Bringle, opened his wildly popular place in 2013 after decades on the competition barbecue circuit. Though the PLP team is rightly famous for its pork shoulder, its adjunct team made the finals and won third place for whole hog at Memphis in May’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in 2016. That just happened to be the year Peg Leg launched his namesake bourbon project.
Pitmaster with a lot of personality
Bringle is right out there with the story on how he picked up his unusual nickname, losing part of his leg in a nasty fight with cancer when he was a kid. Ask anyone who’s ever met Peg Leg and they’ll tell you that he’s never let that slow him down.
As a native of Nashville, Bringle has that kind of magnetic personality that’s made him a star in Music City. He’s been featured on so many entertaining food TV segments, we’re wondering when he’s going to get his own show. (Watch your back, Guy Fieri!)
And don’t typecast this seasoned pitmaster. He’s cooked a couple of times at the James Beard House in New York City.
That charisma carries over to the buzzworthy restaurant he and his wife, Delaniah, launched seven years ago. Before that, Bringle ran a thriving catering business, which put him in a perfect position to ship his award-winning Q nationwide.
It’s all about the wood
In Tennessee, hickory is the traditional fuel that creates the distinctive smoky flavor and Bringle’s all-in on that front. Open a box of barbecue — love the packaging with the signature logo — and take a whiff. Yup, it smells like a sun-soaked afternoon spent on the rooftop at PLP.
The prep steps for reheating a shipment of barbecue reflect Peg Leg’s tongue-in-cheeky side: “If possible, use your grill. If you can’t, use your oven. If you have to — the grill’s rusted out, the oven’s broke and the preacher and your mother-in-law are at the table waiting for lunch — use your microwave.”
Follow those instructions and in no time, you’ll be chanting the universal sound for yum: Mmmmm and mmmm again.
Hitting the spot-on texture target between tender and toothsome, Peg Leg Porker’s ribs are a perfect example of the role consistency over time plays in the barbecue game. It might seem like a straightforward process, but nailing it order after order is what makes this Tennessee barbecue such an amazing accomplishment. And getting it from the pit into the ice-filled shipping container to homes across the country only adds to its mystique.