Barbecue Smackdown: T. C.’s v. MEMPHIS Redux

ELV’s comely young assistant:

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…was starving last night, and begging for some good ‘cue.

“I just read in this big free ‘zine about some really good barbecue, that this critic…I think his name is Mack Mancini:  says is really a-MA-zing,” she whined.

ELV, showing the infinite patience and patronizing demeanor for which he is known, could only scoff, “Well, if you’re talking about the guy or guys I think you are, one is from Jersey and the other from Boston…and they know as much about barbecue as yours truly does about Mongolian yak butter.”

“Come on, come on….don’t be a nudge,” she entreated. “I’ll even treat! Doesn’t some good brisket or smoked ribs sound delish right now?”

ELV had to admit her offer (like her hairdo) was appealing, but then he recalled he’d been to this certain family-run place several times in the past, and been consistently disappointed with everything from the too-tender ribs (yes, they can be too tender — indicating steaming, parboiling or worse), gummy, gloppy, too-sweet sauce — held together by way too much guar gum or whatever artificial emulsifier they’re using — and even the tough-as-shoe-leather-brisket. With those memories still imprinted on his palate like the carton of curdled milk he once chugged for a fraternity initiation, he started to use his powers of persuasion.

“How’s about I treat for some Szechuan?” he pleaded. “Or shabu shabu? You love that stuff. We can eat healthy Japanese, and I’ll overlook the fact that I’m always hungrier than Charlie Sheen after a three day bender afterward.”

“No, I want something meaty…like sausage or beef brisket,” she begged. By then, she had used her considerable powers of persuasion to convince him to go, so one last time, against his own advice, ELV ventured into the breach of T. C.’s Rib Crib.

On the way there, ELV reminded her how much he wants, and has always wanted, to love T. C.’s. “Like I always say,” he opined, “barbecue is like sex. The worst I ever had was still pretty darn good.”

Then the food showed up:

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…and his worst fears were confirmed. Inedible, undercooked brisket, ribs devoid of smoke, a smoke ring, or even a hint of smoke or smokiness, gummy, and a gloppy mac ‘n cheese. Once again, the ribs fell off the bone too easily, making them McRiblet-like — a situation not helped by the diabetic nightmare of a sauce — that was every bit as shiny, thick and slick as remembered.

All of this made ELV sad. So sad in fact, he said: “Let’s go over to Memphis Championship Barbecue and do a taste test.”

So that’s just what they did…and it was no contest.

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Unlike T. C.’s, Memphis’ ‘cue was smoked and smoky. Rather than completely separating from the bone, those ribs were barely adhesive, clinging just so to remind of the elemental, animal pleasure of separating flesh from carcass. And the brisket was a thing of beauty, beefy, tender and toothsome — a quantum leap in quality from what our peripatetic twosome had endured just minutes before.

Still, ELV was sad. He was sad because he wants places like T. C.’s to succeed and be great, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.

But, as he bloviated to his beef-filled babe on the way to his humble abode: “Good barbecue, is not hard, but it does take time, patience and the dedication/commitment to get it right. Unfortunately, T. C.’s seems to succeed by simply going through the motions. If people think it’s good, god bless them, but folks who praise it don’t know a thing about good ‘cue…and critics from Boston by way of Wisconsin should stick to their baked beans.”

The three meat platter at T. C.’s, and the two meat platter at Memphis, were each $17.


1401 South Rainbow Blvd. 702.254.0520

4379 Las Vegas Blvd. North 702.644.0000

2250 East Warm Springs Rd. 702.260.6909


8470 West Desert Inn Rd. #H3

Las Vegas, NV 89117


12 thoughts on “Barbecue Smackdown: T. C.’s v. MEMPHIS Redux

  1. ELV, You are 110% right about TC’s. Its just plain nasty. Unlike you I cant even imagine entertaining a 2nd visit

  2. Make it Tibetan yak butter, and ribs by John Mull’s Meats. OK, so you grew up in the South, but I once slept in a garage, and I’m not a car.

  3. @Maxj – Unless your experience with Tibetan yak butter is a lot better than mine, it might be better to stick with the Mongolian, of which I have never tried. It does not take much time in Tibet to have had enough yak butter to last a lifetime.

  4. What I was trying to say, Mr. Schiffman, is that there ARE no yaks in Mongolia. I wouldn’t expect ELV to know that, but I am disappointed in you.

  5. NEVER Eat BBQ in LV.

    The only stand alone BBQ is Bryants in Kansas City.

    The top….period.

  6. @Maxj is a douche bag, plane and simple. The post is about BBQ but he’s focused more on correcting the reference to Yak Butter than commenting on anything BBQ related. Give yourself a pat on the back Max, for correcting ELV and showing how lame you truly are. Hollywood could make a movie about your life and call it “The 50 Year Old Virgin”.

    As for Barbecue in LV, I have been to both Memphis and TJ’s. When I was at TJ’s I saw a picture of Mancini on the wall, which he wrote “greatest BBQ in town” and I realized he must have been under the influence of something because any sober person would have said that TJ’s is downright fowl. Memphis is better, but it isn’t great or “championship” worthy. It’s one those places where you can go once and a great while and feel sufficed. LV is just not a place for great barbecue, it’s sad when your towns best BBQ restaurant is Famous Daves.

  7. Vegas does have some damn good bbq, and dare I say some of the best brisket I have ever had. It can be found at Buzz BBQ

  8. Dear Mr. Wusthof. Bend over, and I won’t be a virgin anymore. Memphis is better than TJ’s, by the way.

  9. Adam’s right – Buzz makes some great brisket and the ribs are darned good , too.

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