Ken Neely’s Hickory Bar-B-Que

Posted by on September 27, 2015


Jim Neely’s son, Ken Neely opened Ken Neely’s Hickory Bar-B-Que on Winchester a few years ago. It was unfortunate that it didn’t stay open for very long. The ribs were really the best I’ve had from any of the Neely family restaurants. I wasn’t particularly fond of the slaw or the sauce, but the ribs themselves were tender and had delicious wood smoke flavor, just as the name implies. I thought that the bark had too much brown sugar though, which is something I have not experienced from the other Neely’s joints. Brown sugar rubs were a trend on the competition bbq circuit at the time, and something I am not partial to. Instead of sweet rubs I tend to favor savory rubs.

Dad’s Interstate Bar-B-Q has a different flavor profile for sure. But it was cool that Ken Neely was serving bbq with his own style, showing his own culinary identity from the other Neely’s. Regardless of sauces and seasonings, the essence of bbq is the smoke flavor, which was done right at Ken Neely’s Hickory Bar-B-Que. This bbq joint is closed, but let the record be known that his smoky, tender ribs was my favorite Neely bbq food. Check out my Quick-Fire Guide below as well as other Quick-Fire Guides and Full Reviews of other bbq restaurants from my BBQ Guide.

fire icon10Quick-Fire Guide:

Here are a few notes about the ‘que:


  • Ribs-The meat pulled easily from the bone-ideal for ribs.


  • Ribs-The meat had great smoke flavor. Ken Neely’s ribs were my favorite ones of any of the Neely restaurants.

Sauce-I like a sweet and tangy sauce, but I didn’t care for the ratio here. I thought there was something harsh-tasting in the sauce.

Slaw-As with the sauce, there was an unpleasing flavor in the slaw for my taste; something bitter. And I’m not just a mayonnaise slaw guy. I also enjoy mustard and vinegar slaws just as much as the next guy, but there was just something off-putting in this one.

Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Tim Shirley

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2 Responses to Ken Neely’s Hickory Bar-B-Que

  1. Thomas O'Brien

    My memory is very vague on this topic. It has been years since I have dined at a Neely’s barbecue joint.
    My first attempt was at the original Interstate Barbecue on Third St. I remember the service as be slow and curt. The ribs were a failure, all meat fell of the bone as soon as you attempted to pick one up. The sauce was cloyingly sweet and saturated the plate. Back then (maybe 15 years ago) I didn’t know to order dry ribs but I not sure if that is an option at Neely’s. I do remember liking the slaw. It had a slight spice to it.
    My second attempt was at Neely’s BBQ on Jefferson St. (long ago closed.) Not sure which relative owned this one. It was abysmal. The restaurant was dark and dirty and service and food matched.
    I do not understand the Neely’s reputation. If they were so good why have they all closed except the original location?
    There is also an interesting story on how Pat and Gina Nelly got their show on the Food Network. I could not find a link but the gist is Pat and Gina were visiting a set in Nashville for a filming of a Paula Deen’s show and the director said basically said to Gina, I don’t know if you can cook or not but with your personality ” I can make a show.”
    I work at Memphis Airport which has a Neely’s Interstate outlet. Having seen how they transport and store their food I would never dine there.
    Sorry for the long rant but you can assume Neely’s BBQ will never pass my lips again.

    • Tim Shirley

      Tonight I’ll be posting my Quick-Fire Guide of the new Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que on Winchester. Did you read the one about Ken Neely’s Thomas. It’s now closed, but just an interesting note. I went to Woodstock Grocery today. Good call there Thomas. The sandwich was really, really good. The owner and pit-master Anthony Bledsoe allowed me to take pictures of his pits. Check back in a day or so for those. I also recently judged contests in Yazoo City, MS and Ruleville, MS. Additionally, I went to Abe’s BBQ in Clarksdale, MS (est 1924), and Jones’ BBQ in Marianna, AR (est 1910!). I have to report that Abe’s was warmed on a griddle top to chewy and smokeless imperfection. Jones’ (James Beard Award recipient) was a really cool place-wood burned to coals in a fireplace, then shoveled into a cinderblock pit, covered with a metal plate that is raised and lowered on a pulley system. I’ll post something soon, but you’re the first to hear the details. The sandwich was served on light bread and the meat had slight smokiness. I would’ve enjoyed more smoke. More on that and the sauce soon. Thanks again for the tip about Woodstock. And please-rant on. Tim

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