Grabbing a meal here was a last-minute substitute for a place I had wanted to visit but has shut down, but thanks to an amazing side dish, it turned out just fine.
In the previous chapter, I mentioned that my son and I went to Reese’s after a couple of hours playing at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. Well, we got our hands stamped before we left, and went back to the Museum for another couple of hours. Their “skyscraper,” sort of a towering gerbil cage for kids, was closed for some frankly overdue refurbishment, but they’ve opened an entirely new outdoor area with a child-sized zip line, and it was still cool enough for us to spend lots of time outside playing with other families.
We’d need to meet Marie and Karl for dinner eventually, so I called it a day – there was surprisingly little grumbling, but four hours is a lot in any children’s museum – and we left to get a snack. I had planned to visit the last remaining Coleman’s in Tennessee, but sometime earlier this year, as I noted in an earlier story, it closed and became Ellen’s Soul Food.
My son was delightfully concerned about our blog. “What are you going to do if you can’t get any more barbecue,” he asked. I told him that this was Memphis, and therefore not going to be a problem.
Pollard’s Bar-B-Q is in an old building about a mile south of Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard. It was originally one of the locations of Leonard’s, back when that store, one of my favorites in town, was a small chain with six locations. The day before, I’d been doing some research at Memphis’s amazing central library and found a 1972 ad for the chain in a city directory. What an odd little coincidence that the next day I’d be making an unplanned stop in one of the addresses I’d read about. Leonard’s likes to boast that Elvis was a big fan. I wonder whether he ordered his barbecue from this store.
The Ghost Pit Chronicles (link below) notes that at least two other barbecue places set up shop here between Leonard’s closing and Pollard’s opening in 2009: Tuck’s and Arnold’s. Within a couple of years, the restaurant was struggling enough to be considered for a slot on Restaurant Impossible, which gave them cash and, more importantly, publicity. There are some details in the stories linked below. The program seems to have been very beneficial to this restaurant. It looks terrific inside, with a very modern appearance, and a good-sized group of people followed us into the restaurant to place carry-out orders.
I ordered a plate to take back to our hotel room. I had chopped pork, slaw, and barbecue spaghetti. The pork was smoky but very mild. The sauce was what you expect in Memphis: sticky-sweet with a little tang. The slaw was mayo-based and just creamy enough to suit me. Not bad, but the plate was saved by that terrific spaghetti.
While barbecue spaghetti is thought of as a traditional Memphis side dish, it’s certainly not found at every restaurant. In much the same way that you could visit restaurants all around Huntsville and Madison and not see any white sauce, or places around Athens without seeing chicken mull, you don’t see this on every Memphis menu. When I do see it, I order it. This was delicious. The chopped pork was just okay, but I’d happily try the ribs, beef, or turkey on another visit and have some more of this.
With Reese’s as the other, we only tried two new-to-the-blog barbecue places in Memphis on this trip, which is the least we’ve done in a few years, and both were overshadowed by some fabulous places that we visited on the way there and on the way home. So this wasn’t the most successful of trips in that limited regard, but the city has more than a hundred more new-to-us barbecue restaurants that we can pick from next time, and it remains exciting and promising. I wonder what we’ll find on our next visit.
4560 Elvis Presley Blvd
Memphis, TN 38116
Other blog posts about Pollard’s Bar-B-Q:
Memphis Que provided three takes on Pollard’s, before and immediately after its TV appearance, with a follow-up six months later.
St. Louis Eats (Oct. 25 2009)
Island Bell (Nov. 11 2015)
Ghost Pit Chronicles (Nov. 2016)
Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 420 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!
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