From Cozy Corner we headed to Payne’s. Having been to both of our lunch stops the previous day, we made much better time. Payne’s is under the barbecue radar even for a lot of Memphians, and as you pull up you’ll know why.
It’s a cinder block building in the middle of an industrial area of town. The building is painted white with Payne’s in red and a small red awning next to the entrance. When you walk inside, you see that they certainly didn’t blow the budget on decorating. There is a counter that you order from, and just to the left is the pit that is built into the wall. There are a few tables and mismatched chairs for dining in, but it’s unlikely that many people exercise that option. The Monet print on the wall is a nice touch.
I heard about Payne’s from a guy I met a guy in Colorado that was from Memphis, and during our 45 minute barbecue conversation he kept coming back to Payne’s over and over as a place I had to go. So under his direction we anxiously entered Payne’s.
The lady that greeted us had a smile that I wish I could have taken home for a rainy day. She had an infectious personality, happily talking about how they have been smoking their shoulders over hickory in this pit for years and how they chop your pork right when you order your sandwich.
I ordered one sandwich that the two of us were going to split. After waiting a couple of minutes, two sandwiches appeared on the counter, which JP and I took as a clear sign to take off our skirts and grow a pair.
Unfortunately the barbecue style at Payne’s just wasn’t my cup of tea. The pork was chopped with the skin, giving the meat a crunchy texture that I just couldn’t get into. The slaw that came on top was overpoweringly sweet and took away from the smoke flavor of the pork. After a couple of bites, we both decided to take our sandwiches to go, which was our nice way of not throwing away half of it in front of our kind host.
You win some and you lose some when you’re on a barbecue tour. While for many folks Payne’s is a W, for me and JP it fell in the L column.