In the land of dry rub ribs and pulled pork, it seems that a vegetarian would be out of luck. But a handful of Memphis restaurants offer meatless alternatives to the traditional pork-based 'cue.
Central BBQ's portabella sandwich features a giant marinated, char-grilled mushroom, which the cooks generously coat with tangy barbecue sauce. The result? A messy, almost-meaty sandwich that prevents vegetarians from feeling left out when dining with their omnivore friends. (Vegans should request no coleslaw or cheese since those come on the sandwich.)
R.P. Tracks on Walker Avenue serves up large fried cubes of sweet 'n' tangy barbecue tofu in three ways: on nachos, in a burrito, or piled onto a bun. Their BBQ Tofu Nachos are likely the most popular vegan menu item in town — black beans, tangy barbecue tofu, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, and salsa top crispy, seasoned tortilla chips.
The BBQ Tofu Burrito features a similar list of ingredients, plus rice, stuffed into a larger-than-one-person-should-eat tortilla. Tofu cubes meet coleslaw on a bun with their BBQ Tofu sandwich, but be warned: It's nearly impossible to fit into your mouth. I typically take the top bun off and eat the sandwich open-faced.
Downtown's Déjà Vu Creole Soul Food and Vegetarian Restaurant specializes in both vegan and meaty Southern staples, so it follows that they make a mean platter of sweet and spicy barbecue tofu. Fried tofu cubes are smothered in sauce and served with a choice of two sides, among them citrus spinach, garlic roasted potatoes, smothered okra, and fried cabbage.
Not only does vegetarian barbecue save little piggies from slaughter, it's also lower in saturated fat.
But both meat and non-meat barbecue have at least one thing in common: You're going to need a wet nap.