On Caramelized, I lean toward sharing trendy, happening hot spots wherever I live or travel. My first instinct for the “critiques” tab is to provide aesthetically pleasing photographs and mouth-watering descriptions. But occasionally, beloved eateries do not fit that fancy mold yet still deserve the spotlight. In Memphis, Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous and Westy's are two classic occasions.
Nostalgic at best, the barbecue joint and historic hot brownie (and bar) establishment are ultimate destinations for Memphians and tourists, alike. Both are rich with culture and raw memories of downtown Memphis. My second family from growing up, the Orgels, introduced me to both places. In fact, we ate them back-to-back.
I will briefly explain each line-up in hopes that you will, too, occasionally step out of the box and relive “less trendy” yet ever-so unique, deep-rooted restaurants.
Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous is best known for the dry ribs, which I obviously recommend on a regular basis. However, I recently tried the barbecue shrimp, which must be ordered 24 hours in advance! Since we were a large party, our beloved waiter Calvin arrived with a cauldron-like brew with pounds of sweet and spicy shrimp, served on a Styrofoam plate with rolls or a slice of white bread. So messy and so worth it. The sausage appetizer, lamb ribs and pulled chicken are also not to be missed, especially if you choose Rendezvous last minute and did not order shrimp early enough.
When it comes to dessert, drive a few blocks to Westy’s in the Old North End. Back in the 70s, my parents’ friends would come to North End (once a bar) to drink beer (underage!) and indulge on the famous hot brownie. Billy Orgel, one of these Memphians who hung at the same spot in high school, introduced me to the same brownie. This restaurant's version comes fully-loaded with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It's extra hot and extra rich with a chewy crust and gooey center. Your pants will most likely be unbuttoned by the time you’re finished—but it’s worth it, y’all.
Let me know what you think of Memphis’ true restaurant treasures!