Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Germantown Commissary (Germantown, TN)
After several hours of touring Graceland, my wife and I wanted to grab a quick lunch before driving back to Nashville. Germantown Commissary was more or less on our route out of Memphis, making it a perfect choice. Too bad it wasn't Monday though, since that's when they have all-you-can-eat ribs!
The interior layout of Germantown Commissary makes little sense for a restaurant, with dining areas scattered around the small, confusing floorplan. Their choice of decor is a motley assortment of metal signs, framed pictures, autographed photos, magazine articles, and so forth. Some of it is either barbecue or Memphis themed, but there are also random things like an SR-71 Blackbird poster and a map of Lake Tahoe. If I were a betting man, I'd guess this place hasn't changed since it opened in 1981.
I really considered trying to conquer Germantown Commissary's four-meat Boss Hog Special, but that seemed like quite a lofty goal for lunch. Instead, I settled on a 3 Meat Combo of ribs, pork shoulder, and links. Besides, the Boss Hog would have only added chicken to the mix, and I can certainly live without barbecued poultry. As with the rest of their combo plates, this one comes with two sides. Our waitress said that coleslaw and bbq beans were the automatic side dishes, but she was still in training, so I picked new sides for my combo despite her unconvincing menu knowledge. Potato salad and homemade onion rings sounded great, and I also added a single deviled egg for good measure.
The egg was just mustardy enough for my liking, with a nice flavor from the spices sprinkled on top. To my delight, the onion rings were spectacular. They had a light tempura-style batter and were definitely homemade. Most potato salads I've encountered are full of diced spuds, but this version had a consistency more akin to mashed potatoes. Thankfully the veggies added a good crunchy texture. Here again there was only a mild mustard flavor, which was all that it needed.
Sampling pulled pork has been a very hit-or-miss experience for me since moving to Nashville, but the pork shoulder at Germantown Commissary did not disappoint. The meat was very tender with plenty of bark and pink/red smoke-kissed bits to go around. There was only a mild smoke flavor, but it was definitely present. Even though I'm not a big sauce guy, I enjoyed theirs. It was dark and thick and molassessy with a great Worcestershire taste that didn't overpower the meat.
Their menu description for the links says, "Gotta Please those Texas folks also!" Damn right. The links had a nice char on them. This added to the overall flavor and gave each bite a good snap. I'm not entirely sure if these were supposed to be hotlinks or just plain sausage links. Either way, they weren't the least bit spicy. They also could have used more seasoning, but that's probably not possible since I don't think they were made in house.
When I'm in Memphis I generally like to do a half-wet, half-dry mix on my ribs, but the waitress didn't give me a choice in the matter so I just crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. The ribs had a nice dark crust on them, though no visible dry rub or sauce. There were some sauces set out table-side, but I passed on them. The meat had a nice flavor despite being only moderately smoky. They were juicy and tender and cooked well. Unlike most of the Memphis joints I've visited, Germantown Commissary hasn't fallen prey to the "falling-off-the-bone ribs" misconception. It wasn't until after I'd polished off my last rib that I noticed the container of dry rub available table-side as well. Hmm, maybe that's something the waitress should have mentioned? Adding your own toppings is for baked potatoes; ribs should come either pre-seasoned or pre-sauced. Oh well, it was too late to change anything and at least the meat was good on its own.
I'm really glad we stopped at Germantown Commissary, even if I was too full and sleepy to drive the rest of the way home. Next time I'll be sure to sample the dry rub.
2290 S Germantown Rd
Germantown, TN 38138