A couple of chapters back, I mentioned how quite a few restaurants in this part of the country go to town on the Elvis memorabilia, even if there may be some disagreement as to how much influence that The King had on their cash registers while he was living. Leonard’s does not play up the Elvis angle, but he really did seem to enjoy this place. There are stories aplenty about how he’d rent the previous location, at 1140 South Bellevue, for all-night parties in the early 1960s.
But while Leonard’s, which opened its current home on Fox Plaza Drive a decade after Presley’s death, doesn’t really feature on any Elvis Tours, it is simply a must for anybody visiting Memphis and wanting to try some of the city’s best barbecue. I was really impressed when we first visited three years ago and it was the first stop on a little Saturday tour that I took with the children while Marie, her brother, and sister gamed at MidSouthCon.
Leonard’s originally opened in 1922 and this building is its third home. The restaurant is known for its dry-rubbed ribs, which are so nicely peppery. The kids and I split a combo plate, and sadly, I asked for the ribs dry and they brought out the chopped pork drowned in the thick, sweet brown sauce that’s common to Memphis, and not at all bad, but it really covers up the good, smoky flavor of the meat. There are actually a couple of places around town that serve pulled pork that I enjoy a little better, but these ribs are so far untouchable in my explorations. Nobody, anywhere, smokes ribs as wonderful as these.
You can’t tell from the photo above – we were, once again, seated in the room with obnoxious neon pink track lighting that ruins photography – but that’s mustard slaw on the plate and it’s amazing. Leonard’s is one of my ten favorite barbecue restaurants on the strength of the ribs and slaw. If I weren’t sharing a plate with kids, I’d just order a half-slab, dry, and ask for a double-order of slaw instead of the beans that the plate comes with. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with these beans – my son was quite a fan – but this is some of the best mustard slaw I’ve ever had and I can’t get enough of it.
This was a terrific lunch. I kind of figured, getting started, that this would be my favorite meal of the day and everything else would struggle for second place, and I was right, but I did not mind one bit. Memphis is a fine place to spend the day eating barbecue.
Other blog posts about Leonard’s:
Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 320 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!