For over 75 years, the Vergos family has been serving their signature dry rub ribs in a basement through a downtown alley across from the Peabody Hotel. And while the world outside has changed considerably, very little has changed in that magical basement.
It all started in 1948. At the time, Charlie Vergos co-owned a meat and three restaurant called Wimpy’s with his brother-in-law. But they didn’t see eye to eye on everything and Charlie decided he’d move into the basement and sell ham sandwiches and beer in a snack joint he called Rendezvous. He turned an old elevator shaft into a smoker to give the meat some flavor. Business was good enough, but by the late 50s, he realized he had a problem. He needed to diversify the menu.
At that time, ribs were looked at as scrap meat – a staple of backyard barbecues. After much tinkering, he came up with the formula we still use today: throw the racks in 18 inches from the fire, grill them for an hour and fifteen minutes to seal in the flavor, and add a vinegar wash kept them moist. And Vergos created a rub based on the seasoning from his father’s unique Greek chili recipe. He added paprika to give it a more traditional barbecue color. And that’s it. People went nuts for them. The standard for “Memphis style” barbecue ribs was set over half a century ago in a basement restaurant in Downtown Memphis.
Not much has changed today. While the ribs are still the calling card, a big part of what makes The Rendezvous special is the experience. The smoky aroma is grilled meat and barbecue shake. The sounds of Memphis soul and delta blues, cut with clinking beer mugs and laughter. The taste is perfectly seasoned Southern heaven. And it only happens at the Rendezvous.
Mr. Charlie’s kids and grandkids – along with their extended family (the restaurant staff) – still serve those signature ribs the same way. Locals, tourists, dignitaries, and celebrities all come down through the alley and down those steps to experience the Rendezvous. And if ribs aren’t your thing, you’ve got options. Salads, brisket, chopped chicken, red beans, and rice are all on the menu too.
If you aren’t in town, we are sorry about that. Memphis is a heck of a place. But you can still have our world-famous ribs delivered to your door or you can buy our dry rub and sauces at your neighborhood grocery store.