A Bit of the backstory

Memphis is the pork barbecue mecca of the world, and there are great joints in every nook and cranny of this town. We know how to eat right. And while everyone has a favorite, few can question that the Rendezvous is a quintessential Memphis experience. For over 70 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 alley 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. He called the place the Rendezvous. There was an old coal chute that he converted into a smoker to give the ham some flavor. In the late 40s, Downtown Memphis was the shopping and business hub of the city. During the week, men worked downtown. After work men would hit the Rendezvous for a snack and a beer while they waited for their wives to pick them up. On weekends the fellas would drive their wives down for a day of shopping, and pass the afternoon drinking at the Rendezvous. Through the early fifties Vergos started cleaning up the joint a little, and the ladies decided they might like to stop in too. But by the late fifties, he realized he had a problem. He needed to diversify the menu.

After trying his hand at chicken and oysters, his butcher came to him with the one thing he had plenty of. Ribs. At that time, ribs were scrap meat. Ribs had been a staple of backyard barbecues in Memphis neighborhoods for years, but not used in restaurants. So Vergos came up with the still used formula: he threw the racks in 18 inches from the fire, and grilled them for an hour and fifteen minutes to seal in the flavor. A vinegar wash kept them moist. And Vergos created a rub based on the seasoning from his father’s unique Greek chili recipe and the cajun spices he discovered on visits to New Orleans. 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. Come experience it for yourself.

Not much has changed today. While the meat is 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. It’s a meal that turns into a party you think about for the rest of the year. It’s a great time with friends old and new. And it only happens at The Rendezvous.

Mr. Charlie’s kids – John, Nick and Tina, 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 at your neighborhood grocery store. Seriously though, if you come through town, make time for The Rendezvous.

You’ll be glad you did.

A Bit of the backstory

Memphis is the pork barbecue mecca of the world, and there are great joints in every nook and cranny of this town. We know how to eat right. And while everyone has a favorite, few can question that the Rendezvous is a quintessential Memphis experience. For 70 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 alley 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. He called the place the Rendezvous. There was an old coal chute that he converted into a smoker to give the ham some flavor. In the late 40s, Downtown Memphis was the shopping and business hub of the city. During the week, men worked downtown. After work men would hit the Rendezvous for a snack and a beer while they waited for their wives to pick them up. On weekends the fellas would drive their wives down for a day of shopping, and pass the afternoon drinking at the Rendezvous. Through the early fifties Vergos started cleaning up the joint a little, and the ladies decided they might like to stop in too. But by the late fifties, he realized he had a problem. He needed to diversify the menu.

After trying his hand at chicken and oysters, his butcher came to him with the one thing he had plenty of. Ribs. At that time, ribs were scrap meat. Ribs had been a staple of backyard barbecues in Memphis neighborhoods for years, but not used in restaurants. So Vergos came up with the still used formula: he threw the racks in 18 inches from the fire, and grilled them for an hour and fifteen minutes to seal in the flavor. A vinegar wash kept them moist. And Vergos created a rub based on the seasoning from his father’s unique Greek chili recipe and the cajun spices he discovered on visits to New Orleans. 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. Come experience it for yourself.

Not much has changed today. While the meat is 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. It’s a meal that turns into a party you think about for the rest of the year. It’s a great time with friends old and new. And it only happens at The Rendezvous.

Mr. Charlie’s kids – John, Nick and Tina, 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 at your neighborhood grocery store. Seriously though, if you come through town, make time for The Rendezvous. You’ll be glad you did.

Barbecue Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees

Picture by Robert Jacob Lerma

Pictured: Tuffy Stone, John Vergos (accepting posthumously for Charlie Vergos), and Tootsie Tomanetz

Restaurant Hours

Tues to Thurs: 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Fri : 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sat : 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Address

52 S. Second Street
Memphis, TN 38103