Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cozy Corner in Memphis, TN

Cozy Corner is another of Memphis’ legendary barbecue haunts that lives in the shadow of Rendezvous and Corky’s. Unless you’re a local, you probably haven’t heard about it, and that’s fine with the folks who frequent this barbecue jewel.

I first read about Cozy Corner in Smokestack Lightning, a book that is a must read for any barbecue lover. I remembered it because the author raves about the smoked Cornish game hen, and at the time I thought that seemed little crazy. But Eric at the Bar-B-Q shop recommended Cozy Corner, and he agreed that the Cornish game hen was a must.

When you enter the Cozy Corner, the first thing you see is the pit. Rather than the closed cast iron pits that most places had, theirs has an open glass front, which if not for the stain from decades of smoke would allow you to see into it. It’s a surprisingly small pit for such a popular spot, with the ribs, sausage, chicken and pork proudly displayed for people waiting in line. Cozy Corner isn’t the type of place that welcomes you with open arms on your first visit. They’re not rude, but they definitely have an edge to them that says “locals spot”.

I ordered the Cornish game hen and bbq spaghetti, and JP ordered a smoked sausage sandwich and bbq corn on the cob. The Cornish game hen was awesome. Well smoked and quite hot with spice, I definitely had a little sweat going when I was done. Cornish game hens are tiny little things, and there’s a great photo of me with the tiny leg in my circus freak hand that looks absolutely ridiculous. The bbq spaghetti was better than Interstate’s, with a little more meat and less sauce. Eric recommended the smoked sausage sandwich and JP was glad he did. This sausage is different than the kind in Texas. It’s not homemade, but it comes packed with flavor and smoke taste. It’s like the Hillshire Farms version you find at the grocery but with about 4 hours of hickory smoke added to it.

A look around the place showed a cop on what seemed to be an awkward lunch date with a cougar, a table of businessmen that seemed quite familiar with the good ole boys system of Memphis politics, and a group in the back that probably didn’t leave very much. Most everybody else that came through got it to go, likely because there office wasn’t very close to this place.

At the end of lunch I befriended the guy at the counter and got him to open up the door to the pit. He told me that they had used this pit for years, and that they are still using the same techniques used by founder Raymond Robinson. That’s a good thing, as judged by the legions of Memphis folks who swear by the Cozy Corner.

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