I went to college within spitting distance of the original 17th Street BBQ restaurant and never ate there. It's funny that 25 years later they have opened a restaurant roughly the same distance away from my home. Today I finally found a way to convince my family to eat there for lunch.
17th Street BBQ is owned by Mike Mills. Mike is called "The Legend" in BBQ competition circles. His competition BBQ team, Apple City BBQ, has won a number of Memphis-in-May titles. Memphis-in-May is the Superbowl of BBQ competitions. He's been featured in Gourmet magazine and his BBQ is served at Memphis Championship BBQ in Las Vegas. This is a pit master that knows what he's doing for sure.
The building that they've occupied has been several different restaurants, including a previous BBQ purveyor. What struck me when I entered the place is that they have completely redone the inside. There are walls where there weren't before and they've given the place a very traditional feel. I liked the atmosphere right away. The only thing that I found odd was the choice of classic rock music in the background. I don't think I've ever eaten BBQ while listening to Pat Benetar signing "Hit me with your best shot".
17th Street does BBQ in the Tennessee/Memphis style. Their original sauce is vinegar based and they serve "chow" (a sweet slaw) on their sandwiches. This is right up my alley in terms of personal preferences and I have to say that they did a nice job with the BBQ.
The side dishes were also very traditional and very tasty. I had creamed corn and baked beans with my BBQ pork sandwich. Both sides had a "down-home" quality that I enjoyed very much. And no BBQ meal would be complete without sweet iced tea. My only real complaint is that I felt that their prices were a bit high.
Here's my report card for 17th Street BBQ:
- BBQ - A
- Side Dishes - A
- Atmosphere - B
- Value - C+
- Overall - B+
I enjoyed my meal and would recommend 17th Street if you find yourself near one of their locations.