Tops Bar-B-Q

Posted by on October 27, 2015

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Charcoal and Wood Smoke Roll from a Brick Pit at the Rhodes Ave Location of a Tops Bar-B-Q in Memphis, TN

Tops Bar-B-Q is one of those places that people either love or just don’t understand. People looking for a sweet bbq sauce get disappointed because of their expectations. But open your mind to the way that a tangy sauce compliments pork shoulder and you’ll see why so many people like Tops Bar-B-Q. But they’re not limited to barbecue. Tops has one of Memphian’s favorite cheese burgers. Tops has the look and feel of a fast food place with their fast service, simple laminate tables and drive thrus at some locations. But make no mistake, they are local Memphis bbq and their pork shoulders are smoked with charcoal and hickory for the better part of a day in their brick barbecue pits. Of the fifteen in the Memphis tri-state area, I’ve been to all but two and for good reason. The tangy Blue Plate-based bbq sauce, the smoked pork shoulder chopped with all the wonderful bits of smoky crust mixed throughout and yes, slaw, make this bbq sandwich one of my favorite in Memphis-whether I’m in a hurry or not.


Bags of Charcoal Staked Next to a Brick Pit at a Summer Ave Location of Tops Bar-B-Q in Memphis

Check back in the future for a full review. If you’d like to read more about it sooner, comment to let me know. Until then, see my Quick-Fire Guide below, including photos of Tops Bar-B-Q. Also check out full reviews and Quick-Fire Guides of other bbq restaurants from my BBQ Guide.

fire icon10Quick-Fire Guide:

Here are a few notes about the ‘que:


  • Ribs-tender
  • Shoulder-tender and juicy white meat is mixed with the chopped bits of smoky crust mixed throughout.


  • Ribs-light smoke flavor. The ones I had didn’t seem to have the same kind of smoke flavor I’ve always enjoyed in the shoulder. Only in recent years has Tops begun selling ribs and one of the servers told me that the ribs are smoked in a separate pit, an electric smoker.
  • Shoulder-has fantastic bacon-like smoke flavor. It may look and feel like a fast food restaurant, but charcoal and hickory are used to slow-smoke the pork shoulder for the better part of a day.

A Pig Sign Rests Over the Pit Room at Tops Bar-B-Q on Summer Ave.

Sauce-the tangy sauce is a Blue Plate-based bbq sauce with a slight sour pickle taste that compliments the smoked pork. Tiny bits of pickle can be found in the sauce. Blue Plate bbq sauce is from the same company that makes mayonnaise of the same name. Its origins can be traced back to Louisiana.

Slaw-the slaw is finely chopped with some mayo, a touch of sweetness and a bit tanginess, perhaps from a little mustard or vinegar. Together with the tangy bbq sauce, it compliments the smoked pork.

Thanks for visiting my Memphis bbq blog! Tim Shirley


A Tops BBQ Sandwich with Tangy Sauce and Bits of Crusty Bark




Tops BBQ Sandwich-Smoked Pork, Tangy Sauce and Slaw

Tops Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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2 Responses to Tops Bar-B-Q

  1. Rob Marais

    Tim, thank you for your praise of Tops’ BBQ in Memphis. My first visit to the Tops’ on Union across from Methodist Hospital was when I was 6 years old with my Grandmaw from Gibson Co, and that was over 50 years ago. I’ve relished every visit there since, when I can get there, now that I’ve lived in Boston, Massachusetts more than half my life. A “6 Pack” of pork BBQ from Tops’, along with appropriate adult beverages, is the finest take out meal one could imagine.
    I’ve enjoyed your review as well of Three Little Pigs out in East Memphis on Quince off Mount Moriah, my late uncle’s favorite hangout! Thank you for sharing your love of good ole’ Memphis BBQ.

    • Tim Shirley

      Thanks for commenting Rob. I think Tops is underrated. Then again, maybe it’s not. At least, not by business standards, since locals keep Tops’ sixteen locations bustling with business daily-critics or not.

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