Corky’s: A Family Meal

corkysMy aunt and cousin are in town from South Carolina, and yesterday I joined them, along with my dad and Mimi, for lunch at one of my favorite barbecue places in Memphis, Corky’s. There are multiple Corky’s restaurants spanning several states, but we went to the original location on Poplar. Home to my favorite ribs in town until recently, I’ve eaten there many times and expect a great meal every single time, and yesterday’s lunch, while not the worst I’ve ever had, was nothing more than okay. I decided to branch out a little bit and get something I hadn’t had before, the smoked sausage sandwich, with sides of fries, beans, and coleslaw. Their fries are some of the best in town, cut the perfect width between thick and thin, and seasoned perfectly, and the barbecue baked beans were good, playing their normal role as a side dish rather than the star of the show. The coleslaw, something I hadn’t eaten until very recently because of my former hatred of mayonnaise, actually tasted really good, but despite the great flavor there were a couple of key problems there. The cabbage was cut inconsistently, some of it in big chunks and some finely shredded, which I didn’t care for, and more than half of the slaw sat beneath a watery puddle of something in the bottom half of the cup, probably mayonnaise juice. My palate might have become more accepting in recent years, but I still have my limits, and that is where I drew the line and pushed the slaw to the side, content to continue on without it.

The main component of the meal, the smoked sausage sandwich, sat in the middle of the plate, waiting to be devoured, which turned out not to be more difficult than it should have been. The sausage, thick and tender, was cut lengthwise down the center, not all the way through, and opened up like a butterfly, half the sausage hanging outside the confines of the bread. It seemed the most logical solution would be to fold the meat back together, but then I faced the problem of biting off more bread than meat, and the sausage kept flopping back open and coating the sides of my face with sauce. I couldn’t help but think that the sandwich would have been executed much better had it been served on a hot dog bun. The flavor of the sausage was good but that was an afterthought that was overshadowed by the process of trying to figure out how to eat the thing, and until a change is made, I won’t be ordering that again.

To put it nicely, the waitress wasn’t the most friendly I’d ever encountered, but she was good enough at the part of her job that matters most, attending to the customers. She was timely in the order taking and refill giving which is always a point of emphasis that is important to me and contributes to the overall enjoyment of the meal. The wooden floors and dimmed lights make Corky’s seem much more intimate than you would expect, surrounded by tables of other diners, which is definitely a positive. Overall I wasn’t overly impressed with the meal. It was like walking in place, every positive met by a negative; good fries and beans, but drowned coleslaw, or good flavors in the sausage, but nearly impossible to eat with any sense of grace. I love Corky’s, I really do, but this visit gets a 5 out of 10 rating from me. I’m not going to do anything crazy like say I’ll never be back, because I will, but in the future I will be more reluctant to branch out and try something that doesn’t have a proven track record. If you’re going to Corky’s stick to the ribs, because the smoked sausage sandwich is a terrible disappointment that will leave you walking away unsatisfied.

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