Barbecue Smackdown: T. C.’s v. MEMPHIS Redux
ELV’s comely young assistant:
ELV's hair apparent
…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:
…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.
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.
MEMPHIS CHAMPIONSHIP BARBECUE
1401 South Rainbow Blvd. 702.254.0520
4379 Las Vegas Blvd. North 702.644.0000
2250 East Warm Springs Rd. 702.260.6909
T.C.’s RIB CRIB
8470 West Desert Inn Rd. #H3
Las Vegas, NV 89117