Chef Ray Gage stands behind his restaurant’s white-tiled counter, clutching his CB radio microphone like some barbecue chefs might clutch their tongs. The radio is just as crucial to his roadside barbecue business as the slabs of meat roasting in the smoker out back. That’s because Ray advertises to passing truckers via CB channel 16, jotting down orders and delivering them to surrounding truck stops or demolition derbies.
Rays knows his meals must be hearty enough to fuel the bellies of truckers barreling down I-55. To that end, he smokes thick slabs of beef and pork on beds of hickory in the small shack behind his restaurant, and slathers them in sweet, tangy sauce. He then serves hunks of meat with dollops of traditional southern sides, such as baked beans and potato salad.
As with rainbows, nations, and Model T's, burritos contain a rag-tag team of savories that are more robust combined than apart. Qdoba embraces Henry Ford's innovative ideas with an all-you-can-choose buffet of fresh ingredients ready to be stuffed into burritos, tacos, and more through a superfast assembly line of professionals. Choose the protein packer of your choice from pulled pork, adobo-marinated steak or chicken, and shredded or ground beef, or opt out of the meats and head straight to the beans. Simmer over the option of cumin-simmered black or pinto beans before you top your treat with any of five unique salsas and four original sauces. Taste the gooey flavor accents of the signature queso sauce (a three-cheese blend with roasted poblanos, tomatoes, and jalapeños, or try a smoky poblano pesto made with roasted peppers, cilantro, and nuts with creamy, hand-smashed guacamole.
Back Yard Burgers serves up North American Black Angus burgers hash-marked to order on genuine flame-licked grills. Third-pound patties dress for dinner with lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, dill pickles, and a condimental trio of ketchup, mustard, and mayo ($3.59). Or gussy up for patty prom with premium add-ons such as coleslaw, chili, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, and more ($0.35–$0.60 per topping). The grill masters also flip the first white meat, prepping Hawaiian chicken sandwiches with grilled pineapple, mustard, mayo, and lettuce ($4.09). Away from the flames, feel free to enjoy a loaded baked potato ($2.79) and a wide range of pairable plates such as chili cheese fries ($2.59 for regular size), garden salads ($2.19), and sweetly baked fruit cobblers ($1.99).
The food slingers at Lunchboxeats dish out a menu of sandwiches and meaty entrees cleverly bestowed with school-inspired names and served on cafeteria-style trays. The Third Period Smoking Birds sandwich ($8.95) rebelliously stacks chicken, tender duck meat, and slow-smoked Cajun turkey between slices of slaw-slathered wheat bread for a nostalgic taste invoking fond memories of cutting class and curing poultry in the school parking lot. Otherwise, hang a fang on the homemade chicken-and-waffles sandwich ($7.95) or the Broken Rib Bones, a red-wine-braised xylophone of beef short ribs nestled within a crispy—and sadly unsigned— cast of grilled cheese, veggies, and gravy ($10.95).
Chef Derrick Clark honed his craft at L’École Culinaire and converted a Cintas van into a mobile kitchen in order to share his cooking skills with A Square Meal on Wheels. He sizzles Angus burgers over the leaping flames of a grill, fills po' boy sandwiches with catfish or shrimp, and fries green tomatoes, all while parked at local gathering spots or rolling around a demolition derby track on cruise control. His food truck can be found at 7370 Winchester Road on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., at 20 S. Dudley Road on Thursdays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., at 6399 Shelby View Drive on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., and on Sundays at Shelby Farms from 12 p.m.–3 p.m.
At Derae Restaurant, chefs craft an array of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Ethiopian breakfast and dinner dishes that the managing editor of the Memphis Flyer called “excellent all the way around.” Start the morning off with a traditional fava bean stew called fuul, or opt for fatira, a pita bread-like wrap stuffed with vegetables or meat and baked in a brick oven until it politely tells the chef it’s done. Dinner entrees include traditionally prepared chicken and rice, spaghetti with hanid (a traditionally prepared meat), and tibs, an Ethiopian dish of sautéed meat and vegetables.