Before you take away my Memphis card for not liking barbecue pizza, barbecue spaghetti or barbecue nachos, let me point out there are exceptions to these made-in-Memphis dishes. Barbecue spaghetti at the Bar-B-Q Shop is a whole different thing from sauce poured over noodles and I love the stuff – more on that another day. And while I’m not going to get excited over barbecue pizza, the baby one at Pete & Sam’s is not so bad – it’s tiny, after all.
The most interesting thing about barbecue nachos used to be who came up with them, the youngest dish in this trifecta. It seems that it was a woman named Rosie who worked for Walker Taylor’s Germantown Commissary and created the dish by throwing a handful of pork on an order of nachos at a Germantown festival. There was controversy over this a few years back, a minor food scandal.
But it doesn’t matter now. Unless it’s barbecue tofu nachos you crave, which you’ll find at R.P. Tracks, Central BBQ is the place for nachos. Ernie Mellor’s Hog Wild are great – I love the flour tortilla base – but they’re only at special events. The reason Central’s are so good is similar to Mellor’s: No tortilla chips.
If you order straight from the menu, that’s what you’ll get. But I’m helping you out here. I love tortilla chips, and love them covered in cheese – but not in pork, which is to me a clash of two distinct flavors. And I love pulled pork, but not with cheese – you might as well pour nacho sauce over my seared tuna. Gross, right? Well, that’s how I feel about it on pork. Just my opinion, not an absolute right or wrong.
At Central they make their own potato chips, and they offer barbecue chicken and beef brisket, either of which are just fine with cheese. A few years ago, I started ordering my nachos that way, then I upped the game a little by adding a side of cole slaw on top to freshen it up a bit, give it the extra flavor that lettuce, onion, tomato and sour cream bring to a platter of Mexican nachos. So potato chips, brisket or chicken, cheese and cheese sauce, jalapeno peppers, cole slaw and the barbecue sauce of your choice. I was converted.
But then! Earlier this month I read in The Memphis Flyer about using pork rinds for the base. They’re also made in-house, and The Flyer article suggested leaving off certain things to make the dish keto- or paleo-friendly (I’m not sure which). I didn’t follow the rules, because I want my cheese and my barbecue sauce, but I love pork rinds, and I have nothing against cutting a carb when I can. And pork rinds, if you don’t know, are all fat and protein, a low-carber’s friend.
Suffice to say, these are nacho mama’s bar snack. We loved them and managed to put away almost every bite between two of us, leaving a few soggy rinds behind. Are they better than the nachos on the homemade potato chips? Nah, but they’re as good and I’m just as likely to order them one way as the other. Are they better than tortilla chips? Not even a comparison. Save those for the Mexican joints.
There are four Central BBQ locations: 6201 Poplar Ave., 4375 Summer Ave., 2249 Central Ave., and 147 E. Butler Ave.