One day while working in Memphis Tennessee, my co-workers and I decided to try some local BBQ for lunch so we headed over to a famous rib joint downtown called Rendezvous. I had heard about this place before and looked forward to checking it out.
We parked in a nearby parking structure and walked to the alley where, strangely enough, the entrance to the restaurant is located. As we walked we could smell the smoke from the charcoal-fired pits all the way down the block. It was pretty easy to find the entrance just by following our noses.
Once we entered the front door, we proceeded down a large staircase leading into the large dining room with it’s checkered tablecloths and memorabilia lined walls. It was like stepping back in time to an earlier era. The place looked like the type of old school restaurant that’s been around a long time, the ambiance was very interesting.
It’s said that Rendezvous is the birthplace of Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs which all started back a long time ago. There’s a good story behind how it all got started.
According to their website (link below) the restaurant’s history is as follows…
For 70 years, the Vergos family has been serving their signature dry rub ribs in a basement through a downtown alley across from the Peabody Hotel. And while the world outside has changed considerably, very little has changed in that magical basement.
It all started in 1948. At the time, Charlie Vergos co-owned a meat and three restaurant called Wimpy’s with his brother-in-law. But they didn’t see eye to eye on everything and Charlie decided he’d move into the basement and sell ham sandwiches and beer in a snack joint he called The Rendezvous. He turned an old coal chute into a smoker to give the meat some flavor.
At that time, ribs were scrap meat. Ribs had been a staple of backyard barbecues in his neighborhood for years, but not used in restaurants. So Vergos came up with the still-used formula: he threw the racks in 18 inches from the fire, and grilled them for an hour and fifteen minutes to seal in the flavor. A vinegar wash kept them moist. And Vergos created a rub based on the seasoning from his father’s unique Greek chili recipe and the cajun spices he discovered on visits to New Orleans. He added paprika to give it a more traditional barbecue color. And that’s it. People went nuts for them. The standard for “Memphis style” barbecue ribs was set over half a century ago in a basement restaurant in Downtown Memphis.
Not much has changed today. While the meat is the calling card, a big part of what makes The Rendezvous special is the experience. The smoky aroma is grilled meat and barbecue shake. The sounds of Memphis soul and delta blues, cut with clinking beer mugs and laughter. The taste is perfectly seasoned southern heaven. It’s a meal that turns into a party you think about for the rest of the year. It’s a great time with friends old and new. And it only happens at The Rendezvous.
The ambiance was fascinating, the service fantastic and the food really good. This was a nice experience that I recommend everyone try if and when they find themselves in Memphis someday.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous
52 S 2nd St,
38103 Memphis TN