Nashville vs. Memphis BBQ: Does it really matter when there's chicken?

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Recently, two newspaper writers in Tennessee’s largest cities got into an affable back-and-forth about whether Nashville or Memphis has the best barbecue. Brad Schmitt of the Tennessean even took up the offer of the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Jennifer Chandler to visit the Bluff City for a tour of some of the best barbecue joints Memphis has to offer. In the end, Schmitt refused to relent, and still said he preferred Music City ‘cue. 

This prompted two other journalists with more alt-weekly experience to write their own analysis of the barbecue brouhaha. Chris McCoy of the Memphis Flyer and Steve Cavendish (formerly of the Nashville Scene) came together and pretty much decided that the supposed rivalry between the two larger papers was basically just a way to garner some clicks on their respective websites and that neither really knew what they were talking about.  

As Cavendish put it, “They're playing us, barbecue fans. What we should be concerned about is where to get our next great sandwich, wing, or rib. And if you haven't been to Nashville in a while, it's as good of a time as there has ever been to eat great barbecue. Is it better than what you have in Memphis? I'm not here to say things like ‘Rendezvous is criminally overrated,’ I'm here to invite you to dinner.” 

Both alt-weekly writers defended their home cities without running down the other.  One compelling piece of evidence that Cavendish offers is surprisingly not even pork-based, usually the gold standard when discussing Tennessee barbecue. While he does praise the Memphis-style dry rub ribs at Nashville’s Peg Leg Porker in the Gulch, he suggests not sleeping on the chicken. (And not because that would hurt and could be really bad for the chicken…) Cavendish shares, “If chicken is your thing, his smoked, Springer Mountain yard birds are scrape-off-the-bone delicious and come with a side of Alabama white sauce that's also the perfect accompaniment to French fries.” 

We humbly concur.

Heather Sinyard