See my Quick-Fire Guide below. Also check out full reviews and Quick-Fire Guides of other bbq restaurants from my BBQ Guide
I didn’t see Captain John’s Bar-B-Q on TV or read about it in an internet article. If it ever made any “Best BBQ” list, I haven’t seen it. I actually discovered this little gem of a bbq sandwich shop in a restaurant coupon book. It’s located in Collierville, TN, a suburban town of the major Memphis metropolitan area where one can find a unique blend of upscale neighborhoods and fine country living. Captain John’s would definitely fall under the country part of that. It’s unassuming, but comfortable. What makes it worth a stop is the bbq smoked pork sandwich.
My first visit to Captain John’s sold me on the captain’s sandwich. The ribs were tender but had no bark to speak of and lacked smokiness, but the sandwich on the other hand did have some smokiness and was served with a popular Memphis tangy-style sauce and a tangy slaw that complimented it. The sauce is no stranger to anyone who’s been to Tops BBQ in Memphis. They use Blue Plate barbecue sauce, originally out of Louisiana. I believe the same sauce was the one served at Captain John’s.
On my second visit, my son Brett and I stopped in on our way to the fitness center to pick up some ribs (we were about to work it off, right?) This time the smoke was fragrant just pulling into the parking lot. It smelled great and we were eager to taste some of that smoky goodness. The ribs had a decent barbecue bark this time, but unfortunately even less smokiness than the ones from my first visit. It smelled so good going in, but almost none of that wonderful smoky barbecued flavor transferred into the ribs. Why? Where they baked? Parboiled? I can’t say for sure, but I did notice in their pit, which is just to the left behind the counter, that some of the meat was foiled. Wrapping meat in aluminum foil may help to keep meat tender, but foiling too soon or throughout the entire duration of the cooking time creates a barrier that prevents smoke from flavoring the meat. From my experience, foiling ribs should only be done for an
hour to an hour and a half and only after the meat has had some exposure to the smoke for at least 3-4 hours for ribs in my estimation, and even longer for shoulders. Even one hour can achieve some smokiness, but these had practically none. I did notice, however a couple of big shoulders on the pit that were without foil and fully exposed to the smoke.
I’ve found that some bbq restaurants have great shoulder, but mediocre ribs or vice versa. A third visit proved the point. This time the whole family joined me. The boys split a smoked turkey leg, while Angelica and I each had a sandwich. The turkey, which the boys shared with me, was moist, tender and slightly smoky, but the skin lacked crispness. Eh…the boys didn’t seem to care. They made little bbq sandwiches with the meat, sauce and slaw. The bbq pork sandwich this time was even better than I’d remembered it from the first visit. The brilliant smoky aroma that filled the air made its way right into the meat, which we made quick work of. I thought that it was actually one of the tastiest bbq sandwiches around Memphis. The tangy “bbq slaw” was simple, but complimentary to the smoked pork.
With all my bbq eating, I still make occasional stops for the Captain’s bbq as can be seen in my photos here of a time when the boys and I headed to the park with a sack full of sandwiches we grabbed from Captain John’s drive thru. Captain John’s Bar-B-Q sandwich is a smoky Memphis-style bbq joint and the captain of this ship is the smoky, tangy-style barbecue sandwich.
Here are a few notes about the ‘que:
- Ribs-Were tender, but lacking bark on one occasion. On another, the ribs were still tender and had a well-seasoned bark.
- Shoulder-Tender, chopped meat with bits of crust mixed throughout.
- Ribs-Unlike the shoulder meat, I didn’t get much smoke flavor out of ’em.
- Shoulder-Great smoke flavor.
Sauce-Tangy sauce with sour pickle notes-probably Blue Plate bbq sauce, which is used in several Memphis-area bbq joints. It’s originally out of Louisiana.
Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Tim Shirley