Back to the South and what a time to be here. There is devastation everywhere - it's heartbreaking. I'm in Arkansas today and tomorrow and there is flooding everywhere - many people have lost their homes either to the tornadoes or to the flooding that's happened here in the last few days. The lights in the hotel went out today for about an hour and everyone commented that they just got the lights back on and were worried about them going off again for days. There are crews here from all over trying to restore power to the hardest hit areas. But, people are hanging in there, which is good to see.
We headed over to a little BBQ place just outside of West Memphis, which we all know is not in Tennessee at all but is actually in Arkansas. The shack, and it is a shack, but a very clean one, is located just down Highway 70 (Broadway) on 147. Once you reach 147, you hang a left and there it is - a little, bright red building on the left.
Everyone who knows anything about Southern restaurants knows that the portions are huge, but why do I always forget that the first couple of days I am back in the South? And, so it went today - we ordered way too much. When we got to Roadside, we commented on the fact that the dinner prices were not that cheap. Well, we had forgotten portion sizes - for what you get, the prices are quite reasonable.
Dad ordered the rib dinner with cole slaw and baked beans ($12 - half rack). He wanted the onion rings but they had run out. Since Roadside, like so many of the little shack BBQ places, doesn't serve alcohol, Dad ordered an A & W Root Beer. I've heard that some places allow you to take in a beer, if you keep it in a brown paper bag and there is a package store (liquor store) right next door, but we didn't test it with Roadside. They were really friendly so if you really want a beer with your meal, you might just ask them. All they can say is no, right? Well, I guess they could kick you out, too. Let me know if you try and they throw you out - that would be fun to write about!
The baked beans had a gentle, rather than cloying sweetness. They were delicious. The coleslaw was mayonnaise based and also very good, but a little heavy on the mayo, for me - flavor was good, though, and there were carrots mixed in with the cabbage. I wasn't really impressed with the ribs. If I had been judging them at a contest, I would have said they were overcooked (fall of the bone and we all know that's not good) and lacked flavor. I would have liked to have more smokiness on them. But, if you absolutely have to have ribs, get them and make sure you put the sauce on them. I suggest you try the mixed which still has quite a kick. When I said I wanted the hot on my rib tips, she said that there was a table of men crying from the hot and I should consider the mixed - I did and it was a wise choice. I also should mention that neither dad, nor I, are sparerib with sauce fans, but as a BBQ judge I have to throw away those prejudices and judge each entry solely on its merits and I did that with these.
If you don't absolutely have to have ribs, go for the rib tip dinner ($8), like I did. It was a real winner! Same BBQ beans and coleslaw, but the meat on the rib tips was perfectly done and had just the right chewiness. Although all of the "riblets", as someone in the place called them, were moist, some of the pieces were crispy on the outside, not tough, just dark, caramelized brown crispiness and with just the right amount of mixed sauce slathered on the top, they were delightful. And, best of all they had that rich smokiness that I'd expect from Southern BBQ.
I know that Memphis is the place for BBQ but sometimes that just doesn't work out. So, although I wouldn't recommend you make a side trip from Memphis to stop in Roadside, if for whatever reason you are over near West Memphis and craving BBQ, I'd say Roadside will satisfy your cravings, if, that is, you order the rib tip dinner.