Being surrounded by states like Missouri, the Carolinas, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana, one could say that finding a place to eat barbecue in Tennessee would be easy, and while this is true, some places have people coming back just for the ribs.
Memphis is a hub for savory ribs along with all barbecue menu items, but don’t assume it’s the only city in the state that will capture your meat-eating craving.
Here are 20 must-try hot spots for ribs in Tennessee.
Central BBQ — Memphis
It has a catchy slogan, Go where the locals go, and the best way to fit in at this food spot is to leave the barbecue sauce behind. With hints of cayenne pepper and brown sugar on the top layer of the meat, Central BBQ’s dry rub ribs are a must try.
Siler’s Old Time BBQ — Henderson
This whole-hog pig-pit establishment has had its fair share of recipes, but ever since its current owner, Chris, mixed up a new rib sauce — what he calls a “happy accident” — his ribs have been flying off the shelves. The key ingredient to this historic joint’s delicious thin golden honey sauce is sorghum molasses.
Slick Pig Bar-B-Q — Murfreesboro
Within walking distance from Middle Tennessee State University’s campus, is this little gem; and though it may look like a hole-in-the-wall, it can get pretty crowded. With pork sandwiches that go for only $1, it might be hard to pass them up for the ribs; but the ribs are sure to have you coming back for more. Try a half rib plate with a double side of homemade potato salad and baked beans.
Interstate Bar-B-Que — Memphis
Driving through Memphis, it would be a shame not to stop at Interstate BBQ. Having been name-dropped by several publications as a must-try, this place — which was once a grocery store — has delicious pork tips, beef ribs and pork ribs.
Archer’s BBQ — Knoxville
If you’re a health-conscious kind of person, you wouldn’t typically be eating ribs and barbecue, but lucky for you, Archer’s makes for a pretty good “cheat day”. All of the sauces, meats and sides are gluten-free with absolutely no MSG. Try the dry-rubbed hickory smoked ribs — they were cooked with extra care.
The Bar-B-Q Shop — Memphis
This is where Memphis does it again. If you haven’t tasted The Bar-B-Q Shop’s dry-rub ribs yet, you might be missing out on something that’s sure to take you’re taste buds way south (in a good way). These mouthwatering ribs fall right off the bone. Have them with or without the sauce.
Helen’s Bar-B-Q — Brownsville
Don’t call the fire trucks just yet, but if you’re in the mood for some smoked ribs, head on over to Miss Helen’s. Located in Brownsville, this little building might not catch the eye right away, but just about anything is going to be a treat and full of flavor, including the savory ribs.
Hog Heaven — Nashville
Go ahead, get a whole pound if you’d like. We’re talking ribs, and this must-have is located near Nashville’s Centennial Park. The outdoor shack is especially perfect during the summer months, so don’t be surprised if fellow foodies are having a “pig-nic”. Be sure to try some of the tangy white sauce to go with these ribs.
Back Alley BBQ — Dickson, TN
Located in Dickson, you may wish to know the secret sauce for this food, but let’s be honest, if it’s just that good you’ll probably never find out. Pair together Back Alley’s tender and juicy ribs with two sides made from scratch. You just might think you’re in heaven.
Cozy Corner Restaurant — Memphis
Don’t let the exterior of this building fool you; the interior is actually quite cozy. If you’re looking for a place to bite into some meaty ribs, Cozy Corner won’t disappoint, these tender babies have a bit of smoke and tang, and best of all they come with a three-decade-long legacy.
Peg Leg Porker — Nashville
The pit master at Peg Leg must be doing something right because the ribs he’s serving up are just enough to make you wish you wore some stretchy pants. Located near Nashville’s Gulch area, these slabs are made with more that a dozen spices and can be paired with white or red sauce.
Jack’s Creek Bar-B-Q — Jack’s Creek
This authentic family owned business stands tall in the little town of Jacks Creek. Here, food comes in pints and pounds, so if you’re deciding on whether to get one or two pounds of ribs, it’s probably a good idea to get the latter. You won’t be sorry you did.
Sticky Fingers Smokehouse — Chattanooga
Although the restaurant originated in South Carolina, we got lucky because there’s one in Chattanooga. One might say that Sticky Fingers sauces are like the IHOP of syrups because there’s plenty to choose from. Whether you get a full slab or order a combo, the Memphis-style hickory-smoked ribs will be off your plate pretty quickly.
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous — Memphis
This hot spot has gone from sandwiches to savory ribs and it’s all thanks to the late Charles Vergos and his coal chute discovery. Stars like Justin Timberlake and Mick Jagger have been in this eatery. If you’re a first-timer, don’t leave without trying the “world-famous” ribs.
Slow & Low BBQ — Nashville
This Music City attraction started simply by a couple of good ol’ boys with a pretty great idea. Building from the ground up, it has operated out of a mobile truck. Try the Half Slab Rib Plate, Four Bone Rib Plate or Hickory Smoked Baby Back Ribs.
Marlowe’s Ribs and Restaurant — Memphis
If you happen to have a “suspicious mind” about Marlowe’s, don’t worry, you’re in good hands. Decorated in all Elvis memorabilia, take a stroll after you’ve filled that belly up and check out Graceland. You may need a doggie bag for this meal, because Marlowe’s does it big. They focus on the meat more than anything else.
Corky’s BBQ — Brentwood
While this food chain isn’t your hole-in-the-wall find or yummy family-owned food-joint, it is a place filled with delicious goodness. So, it’s probably a good thing Corky’s has plenty of buildings located in Tennessee. Brentwood’s location does a fine job of preparing Memphis-style ribs whether they’re dry or wet rub, they will be sure to satisfy your taste buds.
Carl’s Perfect Pig — White Bluff
We aren’t bluffing, this White Bluff destination will have you stuffed. If you’re headed to Carl’s and you haven’t been, the ribs are the first place to start with on the menu. Don’t forget to bring cash though, or you’ll miss out on these smoked, savory ribs.
Sugar’s Ribs — Chattanooga
If you’re from out of town and visiting Chattanooga, you probably know how many activities the city has to offer. With a lot of touring, comes a big appetite, so we’ve found the perfect rib stop for you to pig out. The combination of good sweet and smoky ribs and a gorgeous view is just the beginning. Eat your meal outdoors because the patio is heated.
Dead End BBQ — Knoxville
Located in Knoxville, Dead End BBQ has a great atmosphere and just about anything that a barbecue joint would have on its menu. The ribs here will be sure to reach every craving on your palette, but if you’re in the mood for something a little less filling, make sure you try their award-winning Blue Rib-bon appetizer.