The year was 1922, a time widely accepted as the beginning of Memphis' love affair for pit-smoked barbecue. For this was the year Leonard Heuberger opened his little stand of 5 stools, selling his creation, a barbecue sandwich, for just five cents. He couldn't keep up with demand and that modest beginning soon became the largest drive-in restaurant of its time. People came from near and far to pig-out on pit-cooked ribs and pork shoulders that Leonard's popularized. The "King" was a regular. Elvis would bring his friends for after-hours parties that lasted 'til sunrise.
I did have a chance to have a quick bite and learned about Leonard's from Chowhound. I was exhausted from the drive and wasn't all that hungry, unfortunately. But I did order their combination dinner with dry BBQ ribs and the BBQ pork shoulder with coleslaw and baked beans for $11.
The food was fantastic! I was too shy to take my big camera into this little diner. As it was everyone seemed to look at me. I don't know if it was my unkempt look (remember, no running water at the house) or my Canadian accent. You could tell that they were all regulars and most of them had the buffet.
You can order the ribs wet or dry. But I understand that Memphisites like theirs dry. I like them that way, too. They were so tender that I ate them with a fork and knife - no fingers. How does one describe the flavour of ribs - salty, very lightly smokey, perfectly seasoned. Also a bit crispy on the surface, some tomato flavour and not spicy or hot at all. Not black but nice and browned.
The pulled pork serving was huge. It was served with a generous portion of barbecue sauce on top. The coleslaw had more vinegar than I have tasted before. The cabbage and other veggies were shredded very finely. I can't see very well things are that small (hones, it was a very fine shred) so not sure what was in there - probably onions, celery and red bell peppers? It was good but a lot of vinegar. It still was creamy. And the baked beans had lots of the pork in them, too. They were very rich and flavourful.
I wish I had the energy to have the buffet but it would be way too much food and I don't have good luck with buffets.
My servings were huge. I have enough left for another meal. This was in a bit of an out-of-the-way location but the GPS took me right there. They had a security guard in the parking lot! I think that is quite normal in Memphis.
The decor was fun. They had a vintage delivery wagon with a beautiful paint job right in the middle of the room. There was another wall with a great mural depicting a 1920's era soda shop with teenagers. That is where they placed 5 stools and a diner bar like in the original Leonard's. It was very clean and well organized and trained staff.