See my Quick-Fire Guide below. Also check out full reviews and Quick-Fire Guides of other bbq restaurants from my BBQ Guide
Chef’s Downtown Wings & More is a charming little café in the midst of a not-so-charming concrete jungle. It’s located right across the street from the Shelby County Jail and adjacent to attorney’s offices, bail bonding companies and a large commercial parking lot. It’s a bit hidden, tucked back in a small alley, but gets plenty of business from surrounding courts and government buildings. Their small alley has been developed into a charming little “village” of offices if you will, complete with a brick street, beautiful plants and a metallic statue of a mariachi band to greet pedestrians. Why the Mariachi? I have no earthly idea, since there is a complete absence of anything Latin American there. When I went, barbecue was only offered one day a week. You’d know it was Friday when you smelled the bbq smoke billowing from Chef’s bbq pit. Chef had one made out of a hot water tank and parked it front and center in his patio area on ‘barbecue day.’ When he fired it up, not stopping in was not an option.
On my first visit, Chef was out of spareribs, so I got the chicken. I’ve rarely had barbecue chicken from a restaurant that I enjoyed as much as the barbecue chicken that I had from Chef’s. It was perfectly tender, juicy, smoky, well-seasoned and was complimented by a nice classic sweet-n-tangy bbq sauce. He barbecued the chicken over charcoal, allowing the drippings to hit the coals and produce that traditional backyard smoky barbecue flavor that I crave. It was the kind of bbq chicken that I grew up on in Memphis. It was what my dad enjoyed barbecued the most.
The next time I passed through on “bbq day” walking to my car, I once again succumbed to the smoky aroma of barbecued meats rendering their juices onto sizzling coals. And this time it was all about the ribs. They were just as smoky as their aroma, tender, well-seasoned, had a crusty bbq bark and were complimented by the sauce served with them. He poured the warm bbq sauce on like gravy, instead of basting or glazing the sauce onto the meat as I usually prefer. But this barbecue “gravy” method as I call it, is a kind of bbq comfort food if you will. Overall, Chef’s Downtown Wings & More served up great barbecue and some of the best barbecue chicken to be found in any Memphis restaurant. The last time I talked to Chef (I think in the summer of 2010) he told me that he barbecues seasonally and usually only on Friday, though he had taken a break that year. Otherwise, he always serves breakfast and lunch fare. A quick call to find out if he’s barbecuing would be worth it for lunch, especially if Chef is firin’ up that tank he’s got.
Here are a few notes about the ‘que:
- Ribs-Juicy, not dry, but slightly tough. I would’ve enjoyed them a bit more tender.
- Chicken-perfectly juicy, tender chicken meat. It was a thigh and leg quarter as I recall.
- Ribs-Great smoke flavor.
- Chicken-Great smoke flavor.
Sauce-classic tasty, sweet and tangy bbq sauce.
Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Tim Shirley