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Memphis Championship Barbecue: The Name Says It All

Memphis Championship Barbecue
2250 E. Warm Springs Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 260-6909

Since moving from Orlando, we haven’t ventured out into barbecue land. Orlando has lots of barbecue places (some not worth going into, some are excellent, most are OK). We weren’t sure what to expect in Vegas, which doesn’t have as many barbecue places. After narrowing down the choices, we decided to try Memphis Championship Barbecue. There are four locations. We chose the one near us at Warm Springs and Eastern.

I love barbecue. For some folks, barbecue is a religion, and their own denomination is the only True Way for barbecue. I am not one of those people. I like barbecue no matter Texas style, Memphis style, Southern style, or some other style. Good barbecue is good barbecue. Memphis Championship Barbecue is really good barbecue.

We were seated immediately, despite a full parking lot. That’s always a good thing. Unfortunately, there must have been a miscommunication since our server didn’t show up to even say hello and take drink orders for about 10 minutes. That’s a real pet peeve of mine. When he did show up, he was extremely apologetic, mentioning something about a surprise “9-top” that he had to take care of. Fair enough. Big tables require attention, too.

Drink orders placed, we opted to try the fried dill pickles. Fried dill pickles can be a tricky dish to pull off, and the ones we had that night didn’t quite make it. The flavor was good, but the pickles went straight from the food service bucket into the batter and then the fryer. They were much greasier than they needed to be. The dipping sauce was very good, helping to offset some of the salty bite of the pickles themselves.

When we ordered the fried pickles, our server asked if we wanted the half-order. I’m a big boy and obviously used to consuming calories, so when someone who can see me still asks if I want a half-order, I usually go that route. In this case, I’m really glad I did. We took home more than half of the pickles. No sense filling up on the appetizer. After all, we were at a barbecue joint, and it was time for meat!

The huge half-order of pickles clued us in that the portions at Memphis Championship Barbecue were going to be huge. Since this was our first time, we wanted to try a little bit of everything. It’s rare that Mrs. Vargas and I order a plate to share, but we didn’t want to take home 2/3 of what we ordered.

The “Grand Champion” platter seemed like the perfect balance of trying a little bit of this and that and still getting plenty of food. There is 1/4 smoked chicken, a beef rib, pork ribs (either St. Louis or baby backs – we chose baby backs), pulled pork shoulder, a hot link, and beef brisket. You can also choose from two sides. We picked red beans with rice and collard greens. All this for a mere $19.99.

As we found out, it’s not only too much for one person, it was enough to feed us both twice! We took the leftovers home and had a great lunch two days later. The pickles reheat well in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Doing this crisped them up better than at the restaurant and also removed a lot of grease.

The meats were as expected: flavorful, tender, and moist. The chicken was especially good. So often barbecue places just cook the daylights out of chicken, leaving something behind that’s dry enough to gag you. Not so at Memphis Championship barbecue. The chicken was thoroughly cooked, but still quite juicy. I think Mrs. Vargas’s words were, “they nailed it.”

Only the ribs had sauce, and they weren’t floating in it. I like that. I prefer to mete out my own sauce, and when my food arrives swimming in sauce, I always suspect something like, “Why does the meat have to hide?” Even the pulled pork had no sauce, which is unusual but quite welcome.

Speaking of sauce, having spent much time in the Deep South I have gotten used to thick and sweet sauces. Not that I prefer them, but it’s the style I have consumed most often. Memphis Championship Barbecue has a vinegar-based sauce. I was surprised by how much I liked it. It’s sweet and tangy. The flavors are perfectly balanced. It’s thin as barbecue sauces go, but still thick enough to stick to the meat. The sauce compliments the meat without masking it. Now I know why it’s award-winning sauce.

Each table also has a small shaker of “Magic Dust” which is billed as a combination of 18 spices. I tried a little on each of the meats, and it added some flavor, but the cumin overpowered everything else. The other spices just sort of hid, except for some salt, pepper, and garlic brave enough to step out from behind the cumin. It’s tasty enough, but don’t make the trip just for Magic Dust. The sauce is much better.

The sides were OK. The greens were tasty, but nothing fancy, not that greens should be fancy. I like greens pretty much any way, as long as they are not bitter. These were tender but not cooked to death. The flavor was good (not the least bit bitter), and some spicy pepper sauce really helped them along.

The red beans with rice were more of a soup. I’m used to a hearty dish of rice with red beans in a thick sauce. This was more like a bowl of bean and rice soup. The broth (this could not be called a sauce) was very oily and needed some salt. Mrs. Vargas ate them, but after my one-bite of tasting, I was done. Next time we go, we will be investigating other sides.

The service didn’t really improve throughout the meal. He was friendly to a fault, but slow. The same “9-top” kept coming up as an excuse, so maybe our server was simply overwhelmed. He was so nice, I can’t fault him no matter why he was slow, and it will not affect our willingness to come back.

We will probably try other places around town, mostly out of curiosity. Memphis Championship will be the place we bring guests when they’re in town and want to go get some good “Q”.


Published Mon 12/12/05 at 6:55am

Categorized in Full Service Restaurants

4 Responses to Memphis Championship Barbecue: The Name Says It All

  1. Vin said on Tue 12/13/05 at 1:19pm

    I’m looking forward to trying this when Momma Vargas and I visit

  2. Dandelion said on Wed 12/14/05 at 2:45am

    Living close to Memphis, I have a hard time believing it’s as good as the real thing! LOL

  3. LarsVargas said on Wed 12/14/05 at 7:21am

    I have never been to Memphis for “the real thing” so I cannot really comment on that specifically. I try not to judge barbecue on its regional style anyway. To me it gets too complicated trying to figure out if it’s Texas, Memphis, Southern, or even Martian barbecue. Rather than choosing a particular denomination of the barbecue religion, I am a generalist, believing in all things barbecue.

    When doing a review, I simply rate it on its own merits. How is the flavor? Is it cooked right? Is it juicy or dry? And so on. Trying to figure out if it’s genuine this or that only complicates things.

    This is some very delicious barbecue and it’s well prepared. Memphis style or not, it’s a winner in my book. On the other hand, I may have to come to Memphis and take some notes.

  4. Vin said on Wed 12/14/05 at 12:14pm

    I’ve been to Memphis, and had the pleasure of dining at two of the best (well, at least best known) barbecue places. I thoroughly enjoyed both, but my prefernce is for the “wet” rather than dry rub. Still, I wouldn’t turn down a big plate of ribs & greens.

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