Memphis’s Rendezvous: the thrill is gone

November 6, 2007

Years ago, seemingly like everyone who comes to Memphis, I ducked in the alley and ate ribs at Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous restaurant and pronounced them great. I had never had dry ribs before–ones with the seasoning applied as ground spices instead of a sauce–and I thought they were wonderful. When I wrote my guidebook, I had Fredric Koeppel of the Memphis Commercial Appeal review the restaurants, and in the last edition, he wrote the following:

The Rendezvous inspires such loyalty that criticism of the place seems to merit fluffin’ up the feathers and heatin’ up the tar. Sure, Elvis had Rendezvous ribs flown to Vegas when he performed there, but he also loved banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Even the Vergos family, owners of the Rendezvous, admit that the dry ribs they produce, rubbed with a unique spice mixture, partake more of Greece than the mid-South, but that fact doesn’t keep Yankee writers from proclaiming the Rendezvous ground zero of Memphis barbecue. To our minds, these ribs are interesting but not the Real Thing, but who’s going to argue with 100,000 tourists?

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