To barbecue fanatics, a restaurant named Memphis Championship Barbecue is as intriguing as Memphis in May, the annual world barbecue championships in Memphis, Tennessee, an event which has been called the “Superbowl of Swine.” With a name like that, the restaurant has got to be great!
Proprietor Mike “The Legend” Mills is an unprecedented three-time world champion of that esteemed event (Memphis in May, not the Superbowl). He was called “the competition crushing, restaurant-owning Grand Pooh-Bah of barbecue” in the July, 2006 edition of Bon Appetit magazine and authored a definitive guide to barbecue appropriately named “Peace, Love and Barbecue.” He owns several award-winning restaurants: the 17th Street Bar & Grill restaurants in Murphysboro, Illinois and three Memphis Championship Barbecue restaurants in Las Vegas.
With such credentials, it’s obvious Mills knows barbecue and it’s demonstrated in the slow-smoked meats extricated from the smoker at the precisely perfect instance and with just a tinge of pink. Those meats are ameliorated with Mills’ “Magic Dust,” a combination of 18 different spices available on each table in the restaurant.
Las Vegas patrons perennially consider Memphis Championship Barbecue the best wood pit barbecue restaurant in town (according to the Las Vegas Review Journal’s annual poll). The restaurant earned either the Readers’ Choice or the Editors’ Choice awards in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The best way to experience “it all” is with the “grand championship sampler” which features pulled pork, chicken, hot links and beef brisket. The best of the lot is the pulled pork, which is fork tender and succulent. All the meats have a pronounced smoky taste, are light and moist. None need sauce although an excellent vinegar-based sauce is available, a subtle sauce which allows the meats’ smokiness to stand out. The sampler is of championship caliber.
Alas, we’ve also visited Memphis Championship on a night in which it would have been dethroned by the competition. Regrettably, it was the baby back ribs which though infinitesimally better than 99.9% of the ribs you’ll find anywhere else, were of “send back” quality for this restaurant. They were a bit tough and dry, likely the result of over-heating.
Also of championship caliber are the restaurant’s sides: the cream corn and baked beans, in particular.
Memphis Championship Barbecue
2200 E. Warm Springs Road
Las Vegas, NV
LATEST VISIT: 2 July 2003
# OF VISITS: 3
BEST BET: Pulled Pork, Cream Corn, Baked Beans