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MEMPHIS CHAMPIONSHIP BARBECUE

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South and East of The Strip

2250 E. Warm Springs Road

Las Vegas, NV 89119

702-260-6909

website

$10-$25

Varies by Restaurant

American/BBQ

A-

AT A GLANCE

What is it?

If you like barbecue you have to come here.

Where is it?

There are multiple locations but the closest is on Warm Springs Road, south and east of The Strip.

What kind of food is served?

Traditional down home barbecue with all the sides and fixings.

What is the atmosphere like?

Nothing special but who cares - it's all about the food.

How is the service?

Excellent.

What are the prices like?

Very reasonable for the amount of food you get.

What else do I need to know?

If you're really hungry check out Mama Faye's Down-Home Supper - feeds four (and will have leftovers).

What's the bottom line?

A terrific BBQ joint in the Vegas desert.

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FULL REVIEW

Fans of genuine barbecue are not an easy lot to impress. Food that would impress most folks would make the barbecue-heads sneer. And let's not even discuss the McRib sandwich at McDonald's.

Having taken more than one road trip through the deep south, I can tell you that barbecue is like a sacred thing in portions of this country and everyone has an opinion on what constitutes "the best." I ate a lot of barbecue on my trips and so going to Memphis Championship Barbecue in Las Vegas had me a bit worried - could it live up to the "real" barbecue of the southern US?

I needn't have worried.

This small family-run business has four stores - three here in Las Vegas and the home base back in Illinois. The original restaurant at 4379 Las Vegas Blvd. North (near Nellis Air Force Base) has a smaller dining room and menu than the newer places at 2250 E. Warm Springs Road (not too far from the airport) and the one where I dined most recently at 1401 S. Rainbow Rd. in the northwest section of town.

Both the Rainbow and Warm Springs locations are done in shabby Memphis chic, with down-home country kitchen tchotchkes, a large fireplace, corrugated tin, exposed wood beams, some fanciful murals, and lots of family photos from creator Mike Mills. It's certainly nice in a TGI Fridays kind of way, something that true barbeque-heads will sneer at since anything this nice can't possibly be authentic, they'll say.

But you didn't come here for the décor, now did you? No, you came for the food and it is plentiful and delicious."

Appetizers run the gamut from a plate of stringy "Onion Straws" that was bigger than my hotel room to Memphis style wings, crawfish tails, barbecue nachos, and southern fried dill pickles to name a few. There's also a full choice of salads including a beautiful (and enormous) barbecue salad with tender chicken and fresh greens.

Don't bypass the chili and soup portion of the menu. The former was some of the best chili we've tasted this side of the Mississippi, packed with meat and beans and topped with cheese and green onions and wow, good.

There are about a dozen tempting entrees that range from $10-25. Here are a couple of samples: baby back ribs (full or half rack), smoked barbecue chicken, smoked Memphis hot links, charbroiled shrimp, ribeye steak, southern catfish, chicken fried steak.... Wait, I'm getting hungry again.

Speaking of hungry, they offer Mama Faye's Down Home Supper, which they bill as feeding four people. For $70, it includes 1 rack of baby back ribs, 1/2 pound of pork, 1/2 pound of beef brisket, 1/2 pound of hot links, one whole chicken, baked beans, cole slaw, French fries, cream corn, and rolls with their delicious honey butter. That's gotta be four REALLY hungry people.

If a full entrée sounds like too much you could go for the sandwich menu. They have chopped barbecue pork, barbecue beef, smoked chicken, hot links, catfish, burgers, and a pulled barbecue chicken sandwich that was delicious. The meat almost falls apart when you touch it and is seasoned perfectly with their signature sauce (tangy vinegar based) and barbecue "dust." The hot links sandwich was equally divine and definitely a sinus clearer if that's what you're looking for.

They truck in the apple wood to run the giant pits in the back (we got a peek - they are named Smokey and Bandit in the Rainbow location). Meats sit on that cooker for hours to get to that perfect level of tenderness and it shows once the dishes hit the table.

In case you're worried about a sandwich not being enough they all come with your choice of two sides including fries, baked beans, coleslaw, rice, cream corn, red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, or a dinner salad.

As if all of that wasn't enough they also offer stuffed potatoes (roughly the size of a Kia, piled high with butter, sour cream, green onions, and your choice of barbecue meats), a full bar, and a full desert menu with things like root beer floats, bread pudding, pecan pie, and strawberry shortcake.

Everything we sampled was unbelievably delicious, in portions that ranged from big to "you're going to have to carry me out of here." All of that for prices that are more than reasonable - $10-25 for entrees, $7-9 for sandwiches, $4-8 for appetizers, and so on. You can easily get a hearty full meal for less than $15 per person.

Service was very good and the staff from beginning to end was exceptionally friendly, one of the benefits of dining off The Strip.

So barbecue-heads rejoice - there's a place in Las Vegas for you to enjoy alongside all of the rest of us normal folks.

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