<<EDIT 11:30 AM, 12/1/11: An alert tipster just let us know that Memphis has decided to delay its opening until Monday.  Staff are handing out coupons for a free appetizer with the purchase of two entrees during the month of December and explaining that the restaurant just got its liquor license today.>>

Back to back barbecue openings, and it’s not even my birthday!  Consider it a practice run for Meat Week 2012.

If you smell smoke in Crystal City tomorrow, don’t be alarmed.  Memphis Barbecue opens its doors at lunchtime, and they’re going to be bringing the low-and-slow taste of that great southern barbecue city to the former site of Mackey’s Public House on 23rd Street.  We stopped in for a look around the dining room and a peek inside the kitchen.

The name that Chris George and his father, Dr. William George, gave to their restaurant is at once generic and super-specific.  On the one hand, it channels one of the five major styles of American barbecue (and one of the two major competition circuits), connecting itself to the history and the tradition that comes with it.  At the same time, that connection tells you everything you need to know about the meal you’re about to experience, conjuring up memories of smoky pork laced with spicy dry rubs and tangy-sweet sauces.

As it turns out, Crystal City’s take on Memphis does all that and quite a bit more, with a menu that only begins at hickory-smoked barbecue.

More of what’s in store after the jump.

If you remember anything about Mackey’s (you probably don’t or it would still be there), walking into Memphis will make you question whether you’ve come to the same place.  Gone is the faux pub decor, replaced with brick walls, tile floors, and furnishings of black and red.  The design is a tribute to some of the great barbecue joints across the country, and it just happens to evoke the inside of a wood-burning smoker simultaneously.

Sure, you can order a slab of ribs or a big pulled pork sandwich for the road, but Memphis isn’t just a grab-and-go smoke shack.  The focus at Memphis is on dining, with entrees that incorporate hickory smoked flavor into everything from the ‘cue to salmon, shrimp and even vegetables.  The menu offers appetizers, sides and desserts as well, and the bar features barbecue-friendly beverages like Fat Tire Amber Ale and an array of bourbons.

To handle the lunch and dinner crowds, the Georges are running two Southern Pride smokers with a combined capacity of 800 pounds.  One will be used for longer-cooking items like pork shoulder and brisket, while the other will cycle through chicken, ribs and smaller cuts.  Overseeing the smokers and the hickory-burning wood grill will be pit master Redrick Rayborn, who managed one of the Corky’s Ribs & BBQ locations in Memphis.  Cue enthusiasts will tell you that’s a solid pedigree, as Corky’s barbecue is among the best in Memphis.

All that firepower came at a price; Arlington County mandated that all of the wood-burning equipment needed to be contained under a single ventilation hood.  The result?  A few weeks’ worth of permitting delays and one of the largest custom-made vent systems you’ll ever see.

Memphis will be open from 11 AM to 10 PM Monday through Thursday, 11 AM to 11 PM Friday, 10 AM to 11 PM Saturday and 10 AM to 9 PM Sundays.  They’ll offer a brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM, and limited late-night offerings are in the works.

So whose ‘cue will do it for you?  There’s only one way to find out.  Can you say barbecue for lunch AND dinner?

Memphis Barbecue
320 South 23rd Street, Suite 50
Arlington (Crystal City), VA
Memphis BBQ on Urbanspoon

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