(WMC TV) - Barbecue, at least here in the Mid-South, is like relationships.
Creativity and variety keep things spicy.
These are the five most creative, most unusual barbecue dishes in Mid-South restaurants, according to me and to your Scorecard nominations on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AndyWise5).
* BBQ SALAD, The Bar-B-Q Shop, 1782 Madison Ave., Midtown Memphis, 901-272-1277, http://dancingpigs.com/
"When you go to a restaurant, you typically expect a chef's salad," said The Bar-B-Q Shop's Eric Vernon. "Since we're a barbecue restaurant, we thought, 'Why don't we put our Boston butt on top of a salad?'"
Freshly-chopped Boston butt, piled into a gorgeous bowl of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese. With bleu cheese on the side, or, even better, The Bar-B-Q Shop's signature barbecue sauce, the BBQ Salad is a meal in itself.
* BAR-B-QUE OMELET, Cockadoos, 85 Second St., Downtown Memphis, 901-590-0610, http://cockadoos.com/
"In a barbecue town -- and being a breakfast place -- we had to come up with something that would set us apart," said Cockadoos' owner John Bradley Wells.
Three eggs, smoky provolone cheese, a hearty portion of pulled pork -- and whatever else you want to stuff in it -- put Cockadoos in its own breakfast & barbecue category.
"It's a good taste," said customer James Mullen of the restaurant's Memphis Bar-B-Que Omelet. "I didn't think barbecue and egg would be really good together. But I guess the chicken and the pig, they hang out well."
Perfect harmony -- with three cathead biscuits on the side.
* DEEP-FRIED RIBS, 10 Bones BBQ, 5960 Getwell, Suite 126, Southaven, MS, 662-890-4472, http://www.10bonesbbq.com/
Pit Master Mark West starts his award-winning baby-backs the same as many pit masters.
He trims the membrane, adds the dry rub, glazes the racks as they smoke for seven hours.
Then he does THIS:
"Cut them down to one bone and just drop them in the deep-fryer for a few minutes," West said. "It just kind of seals all those flavors & those juices inside that rib."
"It's just that little added 'ummph' that you don't get from just your regular smoked and grilled ribs," said customer Bo Brown, with a little sauce on his lip.
* BBQ TOFU NACHOS, RP Tracks, 3547 Walker Ave., University of Memphis Area, 901-327-1471, http://rptracks.com/index.php
The thing with tofu -- a bean curd made with soy milk -- is it takes on the flavor of whatever is mixed with it.
It's a little harder, though, for tofu to duplicate texture.
But RP Tracks and its tofu nachos nailed it. The tofu tastes and feels like pork.
"Get that barbecue fix without eating a pig," said Manager Jeff Potter.
The tofu nachos are especially nice with jalapenos, cool sour cream and an ice-cold beer!
* BBQ WHEAT GLUTEN, Saigon Le, 51 N. Cleveland St., Crosstown/Midtown Memphis, 901-276-5326
Wheat gluten is essentially wheat with all the starch washed out. It's tender, chewy -- a lot like sausage.
When Saigon Le's cooks add a Vietnamese spin with savory Asian barbecue sauce, it is another great vegetarian option among Mid-South barbecue dishes.
"It's the 'go-to,' honestly," said Trey Street, a loyal Saigon Le patron from Cordova, TN. "It's savory. It's really sweet. The gluten kind of counters it with a nuttiness. It's a really good vegetarian protein alternative."
INSPECTION SCORES OF THE WEEK:
Edy's, 2491 Winchester Rd., Memphis Intl. Airport, 97 on Nov. 7
Front Street Deli, 77 S. Front St., Downtown Memphis, 97 on Nov. 7
Dream Berry Frozen Yogurt & Treats, 94 S. Main St., Downtown Memphis, 96 on Nov. 7
Daylight Donuts, 7546 Highway 70, Bartlett, TN, 95 on Nov. 8
McDonald's, 3068 S. Perkins Rd., Parkway Village/SE Memphis, 95 on Nov. 8
Panchos Mexican Restaurant, 2841 S. Perkins Rd., Parkway Village/SE Memphis, 95 on Nov. 8
Pietro Pizza & Subs, 7717 Highway 70, Bartlett, TN, 95 on Nov. 8
Subway, 2669 Lamar Ave., Bethel Grove, 95 on Nov. 8
Burger King, 2348 Lamar Ave., Bethel Grove, 95 on Nov. 8
Crossroads Bar & Grill, 1278 Jefferson Ave., Crosstown/Midtown Memphis, 95 on Nov. 7
Lenny's Sub Shop, 2491 Winchester Rd., Memphis Intl. Airport, 94 on Nov. 7
Baskin Robbins, 4758 Navy Rd., Millington, TN, 94 on Nov. 7
The Corner Pub, 4148 Wales Ave., North Memphis, 93 on Nov. 10
Arcade Restaurant, 540 S. Main St., Downtown Memphis, 93 on Nov. 9
Burger King, 4663 Navy Rd., Millington, TN, 93 on Nov. 8
The Merry Cook, 2898 S. Perkins Rd., Parkway Village/SE Memphis, 93 on Nov. 8
Sonic Drive-In, 2865 S. Perkins Rd., Parkway Village/SE Memphis, 93 on Nov. 8
Crumpy's Wings & More, 220 Claybrook St., Medical District, 93 on Nov. 7
Corky's, 1740 N. Germantown Pkwy, Cordova, TN, 92 on Nov. 9
Raleigh Bar-B-Que Restaurant, 3530 Ramil Rd., Raleigh/Frayser, 92 on Nov. 9
Lenny's Sub Shop, 4726 Spottswood Ave., East Memphis, 92 on Nov. 7
Nagasaki Inn Restaurant, 3951 Summer Ave., Berclair/E. Memphis, 91 on Nov. 13
All Stars Hot Wings, 3111 S. Perkins Rd., Parkway Village/SE Memphis, 91 on Nov. 8
McDonald's, 4657 Quince Rd., East Memphis, 90 on Nov. 10
Burley's, 662 Madison Ave., Medical Center, 90 on Nov. 10
Lou Jack's Diner, 3183 Winchester Rd., Capleville/Airport Area, 90 on Nov. 9
Taqueria La Guadalupana, 4818 Summer Ave., Berclair/E. Memphis, 89 on Nov. 12
Little Caesar's Pizza, 2669 Lamar Ave., Bethel Grove, 89 on Nov. 8
Pa Pa Pia's, 83 Union Ave., Downtown Memphis, 89 on Nov. 7
Wendy's, 5998 Stage Rd., Memphis/Bartlett, 88 on Nov. 9
Taste of China, 4514 Summer Ave., Berclair/E. Memphis, 88 on Nov. 13
Tortilleria La Unica, 5040 Summer Ave., East Memphis, 88 on Nov. 12
Adline's Hot Wings Express, 2736 Warford St., Frayser, 88 on Nov. 8
Payne's Bar-B-Q, 1762 Lamar Ave., Orange Mound/S. Memphis, 88 on Nov. 8
Chick-Fil-A, 1230 Germantown Pkwy, Germantown, TN, 88 on Nov. 7
Popeye's Famous Fried Chicken, 6085 Stage Rd., Bartlett, TN, 87 on Nov. 9
Elfo's, 2285 Germantown Rd., Germantown, TN, 87 on Nov. 9
Los Comales Restaurant, 4774 Summer Ave., Berclair/E. Memphis, 86 on Nov. 12
Rally's Hamburgers, 3280 Poplar Ave., East Memphis, 86 on Nov. 9
Sonic Drive-In, 2460 Poplar Ave., Midtown/E. Memphis, 86 on Nov. 8
China Inn II, 2829 Covington Pike, East Memphis, 86 on Nov. 8
Baskin Robbins, 85 S. Highland St., Poplar Plaza/E. Memphis, 86 on Nov. 7
Chang's House, 5999 Bartlett Center Dr., Bartlett, TN, 85 on Nov. 10
Vietnamese Lotus Restaurant, 4970 Summer Ave., Berclair/E. Memphis, 84 on Nov. 12
Oleo's Sandwich Shop, 1509 Willis St., North Memphis, 84, date not listed.
Rum Boogie Café, 182 Beale St., Downtown Memphis, 84 on Nov. 9
Germantown Commissary, 2290 Germantown Rd., Germantown, TN, 84 on Nov. 9
La Hacienda, 1760 N. Germantown Pkwy, Cordova, TN, 84 on Nov. 9
Taco Bell, 4655 Riverdale Rd., Hickory Hill/SE Memphis, 84 on Nov. 8
El Mercadito, 6220 Stage Rd., Bartlett, TN, 84 on Nov. 7
Saito Restaurant, 6600 Stage Rd., Bartlett, TN, 83 on Nov. 8
Edo Japanese Restaurant, 4792 Summer Ave., Berclair/E. Memphis, 82 on Nov. 12
J R Fish & Chicken, 2974 Covington Pike, East Memphis, 82 on Nov. 8
Local Gastropub, 95 S. Main St., Downtown Memphis, 80 on Nov. 7
American Café, 2055 West St., Germantown, TN, 80 on Nov. 8
Captain D's, 2815 S. Perkins Rd., Parkway Village/SE Memphis, 80 on Nov. 8
City Donuts, 6335 Stage Rd., Memphis/Bartlett, 80 on Nov. 8
Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana, 1215 Germantown Pkwy, Germantown, TN, 72 on Nov. 7