I lived in Memphis, off and on, for well over a decade. In fact, I drive to The Bluff City at least twice a month, and my ties there are very strong. It is the place that opened up my palette to becoming a chef and I will always be grateful for the friends, food, and family there.
But this isn't "I Write Memphis."
It is I Write Arkansas, and while Tops is known as Memphis Barbecue, they do have a location in Marion. I was pleased to be able to visit this week as Tops has some of my favorite Barbecue of all time. Personally, I say forget the downtown Memphis Barbeque stops. Forget about the big name, nationally known, fancy barbecue eateries. You can stay across the border in Arkansas and have some fine barbecue at Tops.
The Marion location sits just off Interstate 55 and around the corner from Highway 64. If you're thinking of driving 64 instead of 40, it is the perfect stop for a 'que stop (and the burgers are good too).
On Saturday afternoon the restaurant was busy but not packed. The staff was dealing with customers quickly and efficiently, and I was able to place my order almost immediately after walking through the doors. The #1 barbecue pork sandwich (slaw on the sandwich, of course) with baked beans and fries on the side. The sandwich was delicious. Some of my favorite pork. I mean, like, ever. The meat is more chopped than pulled which is usually not my favorite, but the flavor was so good I didn't and don't care if it is pulled or chopped. The liquid of the slaw and sauce dripped and I didn't mind becoming a mess.
However, the baked beans are my real favorite. A nice smoke flavor mingles with a mustard forward sauce and you can see the meat intermingling with the beans. These are what beans at a barbecue restaurant should taste like. Like I said earlier, forget the big names in Memphis. These guys (along with, strangely enough, Jerry Lawler's Barbecue in Memphis) are my favorite.
If you're ever close to the Arkansas/Tennessee border, this is a fun stop for good food.
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.