Memphis is a city that celebrates slow food. Pork shoulders and ribs are smoked for hours by patient pitmasters who have practiced this sweaty craft for decades. All over Memphis barbequers ten fires behind cinder block buildings, converted gas stations, decaying shopping centers and anywhere else there's room.
One of the signature barbeque dishes of Memphis is the Memphis barbeque sandwhich: chopped pork shoulder blended with a spicy and tart tomato-based sauce, topped with mustard coleslaw.
One of Memphis' top barbecue joints is The Original Leonard's Pit Barbecue, founded by Leonard Heuberger who invented this sandwich. Brown's business - now located south of downtown Memphis - features a neon-lighted pig, dressed in top hat and tails, with the slogan "Mr. Brown Goes to Town," a cryptic reference to another Memphis tradition, mixing in crunchy, blackened outside pieces of pork on every sandwich. Inside the restaurant, plastic pigs dine at a trough of seed corn in a hog farm diorama.
Leonard's influenced not only generations of Memphis restaurant operators but one in East Tennessee as well. It's where the late Grace Proffitt got the idea to start serving beans back at The Ridgewood in Bluff City. She had gone to Memphis to visit her son Larry, then a pharmacy student at the University of Tennessee.
When the fire from the old-fashioned lump charcoal begins to die down after each day's rib cooking, Shirley Williams unwraps two-foot-long rolls of bologna and barbecues them for an hour or so. Barbecued bologna is another fixture on Memphis menus.