On the Phone with the Neelys

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Pat Neely: "I’ve never gone to another barbecue restaurant.”

On Sunday, I interviewed Pat and Gina Neely of Neely’s Bar-B-Q and Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys and Road Tasted with the Neelys. They’re currently on a 17-city tour promoting their just-released cookbook Down Home with the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook. They’ll be back in Memphis over Memorial Day weekend for two booksignings.

An abbreviated Q&A will be in the Flyer hitting the stands this week, and the full version will be online later in the week.

Here’s a teaser:

Flyer: Memphis barbecue: What, besides Neely’s, are your favorite barbecue joints?

Pat Neely: When I first opened the business 21 years ago, I thought it was important to taste your competitors to gauge where you were. Then I was told by some of my mentors in the restaurant field, people like the late Thomas Boggs, don’t worry about what other people are doing. Concentrate on what you’re doing.

I have to honestly say I’ve never eaten at Corky’s, Cozy Corner, the Bar-B-Q Shop, A&R, Central BBQ. From what I hear, they have some great barbecue, but I’ve never gone to another barbecue restaurant.

I went to the Rendezvous back when Mr. Charlie [Vergos] was there because I admire him, admire what he did for downtown Memphis. But I didn’t eat the barbecue. I ate the sausage, which I really enjoyed.
I will tell you this: The best barbecue in Memphis is not at one of the restaurants. It’s in somebody’s backyard. It’s that guy who’s got three slabs of ribs and has slowly cooked them and basted them, and he’s taken his time to prepare them for his family. To me, there’s not a barbecue joint in the city that can touch Leroy or James over there in his backyard with a big black smoker.

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