“I treasure the memories of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.” Bruce Lee
January 8, 2015, one of my favorite bar-b-q restaurants, Cozy Corner, suffered a fire. Thankfully that fire was contained mostly to the rear of the store and no one was injured. Additionally, their famous glass-walled pit remained intact. In fact, they were able to transport it across the street, where they are now temporarily serving ‘que out of Encore Café, owned by relatives of Cozy Corner owner, Desiree Robinson. The pit is now not one, but two pits, built into a wooden trailer parked behind Encore. This family stuck together through hard times, proving that blood is thicker than…yes, even barbecue sauce.
I decided this spring to make it there to show some support. The temporary Cozy Corner/Encore Café sign is a plastic banner stretched across the front of the store. Inside, there are two counters where orders can be placed. On the left was Cozy Corner and on the right, Encore. After getting permission, I drove around back to get a few pictures of those pits. There, I met Rob, self-proclaimed, “Get ‘er done man,” i.e. Cozy Corner pit man. I couldn’t have arrived at a more perfect time. Meaty, maddening, fragrant smoke was rolling out of those pits, and I got to see the action inside. Rob invited me in, where he demonstrated a perfectly done Cozy Corner rib. The beautiful mahogany color and just the right bend where telltale signs that those ribs were smoked to perfection. As I’ve already indicated in my first article about Cozy Corner, they cook over the coals. This contradicts what most pit-masters are doing these days-and I like it. Cozy Corner proves that this a viable method. For me, it is the preferable method, at least for part of the cooking time. I use a hybrid method of smoking both over coals and indirectly. A closer look will reveal that long, low and slow bbq such as ribs and shoulder are positioned on an upper grill grate, high above the coals. below are the fast-cooking foods, such as wings. Not only do the ribs and shoulders cook low and slow because they’re high above the grill and because there is only thin layer of coals at the bottom, but additionally, faster foods create a barrier between the upper grate and the heat source. As a result, ribs and shoulder still smoke low and slow. And flare-ups are not a problem when there is a thin layer of coals that are spread out across the cooking chamber. Why this method? Again, as mentioned in my previous article, the meat drippings land directly on the coals, producing a smoke flavor not achieved from indirect heat.
After Rob tortured me for several minutes with those wonderful sights and smells, I gave him the link to this site, shook his hand and made my way around front to place my order. By now, Cozy Corner was busy with fellow tortured patrons, ready to satisfy their meat cravings. I ordered a slab of ribs to take to Blake for his school lunch. The idea was that we would enjoy them together. Only, they sort of didn’t all make it there. Nope. I did as any responsible dad would do when feeding his boy-quality control. Once I got in the truck, I initially opened the box to get a picture to show my readers. But the craving was just too much..er.. I mean, I knew what I had to do to ensure the best for my son, so I wolfed down a couple of bones. When you bite into a Cozy Corner rib, the first thing that stands out, is the savory flavor of their house-made bbq dry rub seasoning. You have that, “What is in that?” effect. Then comes the smoke flavor from meat dripping onto coals for hours. Finally, you notice how tender juicy they are. Ideal tenderness in competition barbecue is when the meat pulls very easily from the bone, even with just your fingers, but the only meat missing is from the place you took a bite. If you try to take a bite and the whole piece of meat falls off the bone, it’s considered overdone and frustrating to eat. Getting that perfect balance of tenderness takes practice, and Cozy Corner nailed it.
The family of Cozy Corner and Encore Café have displayed love, hard work and fortitude. The original building is scheduled to reopen at the end of summer, I’m told. Meanwhile, I hope that others will show some support by heading out there and giving them some business as many have already.
Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Tim Shirley
For my original Cozy Corner review, click here.