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Fat Larry’s in rural Bartlett, TN is surrounded by a beautiful canopy of trees and a cozy patio. It’s the kind of place I enjoy grillin’ and barbecuein’ myself. Give me a naturally beautiful setting, a nice deck or patio, wood, a pit, and a cooler of ice-cold local microbrew (I like Ghost River), and I’m in paradise. But we don’t always feel like firing up the pit, right? Often, perhaps, but not always. So why not hang out somewhere like Fat Larry’s BBQ, where you can enjoy a breezy afternoon, surrounded by nature and let someone else do the barbecuing for you? Now after all that talk about enjoying their patio, and on our visit to Fat Larry’s a few years ago, we ate inside. That’s because as soon as we entered the front door, we saw a mutual friend, sitting with Fat Larry himself. As it turned out they were long time friends. So we decided to stick around and chat a bit. We were with friends as well and all decided to sit in the same area. I asked Larry about his 1999 Memphis In May grand champion trophy near the front. “Yeah, that was back in the dinosaur days” he chuckled.
Between our two families, we all shared ribs, pork shoulder, beef brisket and grilled ribeye steak. The bbq sauce was sweet and slightly tangy. I thought it complimented the shoulder better than it did the ribs. The ribs and shoulder both had only slight smoke flavor and lacked the kind of crusty bark I like. The shoulder was tender, but kind of mushy and stringy. On a positive note, the ribs were very tender and easy to eat without struggle. So why let them do the smoking and grilling for you? Because the clear winners here were the beef-on both counts. The steak was perfectly grilled with a wonderful smoky flavor, a nicely charred exterior and juicy interior. I’ve had barbecue beef brisket in Texas and bbq beef burnt ends in Kansas City. Admittedly, it is difficult to find smoked beef brisket on that level in Memphis. Pork and chicken are our strengths here and it’s equally as difficult to find smoked pork shoulder and ribs anywhere else, that’s on par with the stuff in Memphis. But Fat Larry’s smoked beef brisket had all of the elements of good beef brisket. Tender, juicy, crusty bark and full of wood smoked flavor. I’ll be back to relax on a Larry’s patio with a cold one and a plate of smoky beef.
Update: I did return to Fat Larry’s BBQ in 2016 (years since my first visit) for more beef brisket. I didn’t have time to relax on the patio, so I grabbed some to go. I had a very different experience this time. The individual strips of smoked beef brisket were warmed on a grill. Each piece had nice grill marks, but were dry and lacked enough smoke. This is a practice that is frowned upon in Texas. Smoked brisket is to be served the fresh from the pit and never refrigerated, then reheated. It just loses too much moisture and smoke that way. Ideally, it’s smoked from early morning, or even during midnight hours, then served the same day. Leftovers are great for chili, but not to be served as is. If you get Fat Larry’s brisket the same day it was smoked, chances are, it’ll be good. And for something a little outside the box, Fat Larry’s BBQ also offers…smoked turkey ribs! I’ve yet to try ’em, but they’re on my bbq agenda.
Here are a few notes about the ‘que:
- Ribs-tender enough to eat without struggle.
- Shoulder-tender, but mushy and stringy.
- Beef Brisket-Was tender and juicy with a flavorful, crusty bark on my first visit. On my second visit in 2016, the meat had been reheated on a grill and was dry and a little chewy.
- Ribs-slight smoke flavor.
- Shoulder-slight smoke flavor.
- Beef Brisket-Had full, but balanced wood smoke flavor on my first visit. On my second visit in 2016, it had only slight smoke flavor and appeared to have been reheated.
- Smoked Turkey Ribs-I’ve yet to try ’em, but they’re on my bbq agenda.
Sauce-was sweet and slightly tangy.
Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! All comments are welcome. Tim Shirley