Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Central BBQ

Ed. Note: Central BBQ on Summer now offers Kids Eat Free nights every Monday and Tuesday. Both locations are certified by Project Green Fork.

Central BBQ
4375 Summer Avenue

A couple Saturdays ago, Warren and I found ourselves not wanting to cook after a long day of home improvements and monkey wrangling. I really wanted to go to the hibachi at A-Tan, as did Satchel (age 4), but Warren very astutely pointed out that 1) A-Tan is a little pricey, 2) 7:30pm on a Saturday night is not a good time to take the monkeys and 3) although Satchel was a dream come true on our last visit, Jiro (age 2) and the service were a nightmare.

“Okay, so how about Nagasaki?” I asked. “We could get a coupon and they are pretty kid-friendly...”

He gave me a look that said, I just spent eight hours working on the roof so we can sell the house like you want so you better start naming places I like.

“I know,” I said. “Why don’t we try the new Central BBQ on Summer? You’ve been wanting to go there, right?”

I did not say, “Even though we hardly ever go to the one that is only a mile away…”

Or maybe I did.

I had decided to take one for the team, Team Oster that is, but I hadn’t decided to have a good attitude about it.

We loaded up the monkeys, who were anything but thrilled about eating BBQ, and headed down everyone’s favorite avenue. For some reason I was driving which meant Warren was already on edge, so when I drove right past the restaurant and had to then turn left back onto Summer through lots of traffic, he was not happy.

Additionally, Jiro was now sound asleep.

We pulled into a very crowded parking lot, but had two things going for us. 1) A temporary handicapped-parking decal and 2) the knowledge that the new restaurant was about five times the size of the original restaurant.

When I saw that we had to order at the counter and then wait for our food at a table, I got annoyed all over again. (I had forgotten this aspect of the Central BBQ experience.) I sat down on a bench with an almost awake Jiro while Warren perused the menu.

“What should I get the kids?” he asked.

I looked at the kids’ menu…Grilled Cheese, Hot Dog, Jr. BBQ, Chicken, Mac N’Cheese…and said, “It doesn’t matter considering it’s all crap.” Or something like that. Maybe it was, “Looks like they’re in for another healthy dinner.”

Thankfully he ignored me and asked the monkeys directly. “Hot dog!” said Satchel. Jiro just gave him a glazed expression.

“Get them the same thing so there’s no fighting,” I recommended.

Next, I needed to decide what I wanted. Hot wings or BBQ Nachos…hmmm…either way I wasn’t getting anything remotely healthy myself. I briefly considered ordering a salad, but I knew that this was not the establishment for that. I pictured a plate of nutrient deficient iceberg lettuce and opted to go for the BBQ Nachos. When in Rome…

Warren ordered a pork plate and $29.50 later, we went in search of a table. It didn’t take much poking around to realize that about half of the restaurant was closed off and that there were only two small rooms with tables or a bar area to choose from. We were looking for a booth, but the only options were a really big circular one or a half booth/half table that was turned sideways and therefore defeated the purpose of sitting in a booth.

(For those of you who don’t know, the purpose of sitting in a booth is to trap the monkeys next to the wall so that they cannot escape and throw bananas at other diners.)

We opted for a four top as far away from other diners as possible. Once settled, I uprooted the monkeys and headed towards the self-service drink machine. Oh how they love the self-service drink machine! (Each monkey received a free drink with his $4.25 hot dog.) Jiro, of course, went for the red punch option, but I was able to lure him towards the lemonade. Satchel, in a bold move, asked for Root Beer. I acquiesced and hoped (rather than confirmed) that the brand on tap was caffeine free. (I recently learned that some are not.)

Back at the table, I was thrilled to discover that our food was already ready. “Okay, now I will cheer up,” I announced. Fast service always makes me happy.

My plate of nachos was absolutely gigantic, which didn’t hurt either. Warren seemed pleased by his large helping of pork and the monkeys went to work on their hot dogs. Warren had ordered fries for Satchel and mac n’cheese for Jiro. Surprisingly we only had to ask that they share the fries in order for them to do so. They also shared the mac n’cheese, but it wasn’t nearly as popular as the fries.

In fact, the fries were so popular that I soon found myself trading Satchel chips with cheese (but no pork or sauce) for them. Jiro also wanted some chips. Then they each had a small bite of pork. Jiro ate almost all of his hot dog and Satchel ate his entire weenie with a little prodding from me. (Note to Chip and/or RJA: please don’t read too much into that last sentence.)

Somewhere during the meal, Satchel and Jiro both needed to pee. Warren did the first round with Satchel and I later took Jiro. It appeared as though the bathrooms had been re-done and they were clean enough for me not to remember any detail in particular. In fact, the whole restaurant was somewhat forgettable. It didn’t seem like a Red Lobster anymore, but it didn’t seem to have a very strong character of its own. It didn’t seem for lack of trying. The owners hung folksy paintings on the wall and were clearly going for a distinctively Memphis feel. Individually the paintings were nice—I especially liked the one depicting the Memphis in May BBQ team that included R2D2 and Princess Leia and the one of a guitarist that featured a 3-D arm jutting out from the canvas—but they were simply drowned out by the wood paneling.

I think it was wood paneling.

Anyways, back to the table. Warren, of course, was the last to finish his dinner. And mine. And the monkeys’. Jiro did a little unsupervised running off towards the self-serve drink machine and Satchel did his share of squirming in his chair. They probably even attempted to build a fort under the table, but I was pretty successful at squashing any attempts at a full mutiny.

We all left happy and everything at our table was still in one piece, although probably sticky. I would have been really happy had the boys gotten a little vegetable action and if the check was a bit smaller, but all in all it was an enjoyable experience.

Project Green Fork Certified Restaurant
Central BBQ (East Memphis) on Urbanspoon


Chip said...

So did they have popcorn shrimp and big fruity lighthouse drinks? No?

I do so love the BBQ Nachos from Central. TWO kinds of cheese-- shredded AND nacho! Mmmmmm! Puts the nachos at Redbirds games to shame.

The Saucier said...

Ten things:

1. I haven't been to Central BBQ on Summer. I probably won't go. Why? I live two blocks from the Central BBQ that is actually on Central. If I'm on Summer, I'm getting a taco.

2. The monkeys were "anything but thrilled" about eating BBQ? Disgraceful.

3. Your leg is now bionic. Toss the handicapped sticker.

4. Central is a BBQ joint - fast food not fine dining. That's why it's good. You order at the counter. Why is that a problem?

5. Hot wings or BBQ Nachos? What kind of choice is that?

6. $29.50 seems like a lot for two hot dogs, a pork plate and BBQ nachos. That said, I can eat $30 worth of ribs as a appetizer. Did you leave something out?

7. I need to teach the monkeys how to make a "suicide" at the self-serve drink machine - equal parts of every drink available except water, add ice.

8. Vegetables? Who needs vegetables? Wait, isn't pork a vegetable?

9. BBQ nachos are dumb.

10. Why didn't you bring me a sandwich?

Memphisotan said...

I do not, and refuse to even try to, understand anyone who goes to a Memphis barbecue joint and orders anything other than ribs or a sandwich. A pork sandwich. I've had to chastise many out of town visitors for ordering BBQ beef at Central, but haven't had anyone so audacious as to suggest hot wings. (shudder)

Susan Hall said...

The very worst service. The worst ribs I've ever eaten. We ordered a pulled pork plate. We received, a hand full of dried strings. It was dirty, and the manager was a creep. We waited an hour to get served. They had about 10 to go orders in front of us. I burned my hand on the sauce dispenser, when I told the creepy manager that it was way too hot he told me he had idiots working in the kitchen. I will not return to the store on Summer.

Karen said...

I've eaten there once, and I only live a couple of miles away. I ordered dry rub wings, and they were coated in a powdery substance that choked me. I thought the person who took my order was on drugs or something because she appeared zoned out and kept asking me over and over what I said. I love the original Interstate and the original Corky's, but Central BBQ on Summer SUCKS!

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