Tops Bar-B-Q – Memphis, TN – Matt Booth

Tops Bar-B-Q  – Memphis, TN

  I was back in barbeque heaven a week ago and looking for a local place to eat. I wound up at Tops, which has multiple locations, fast service (they have a drive through), and a long history. (Opened in 1952) I was excited as I figured any restaurant that had stayed open for this long in Memphis had to be good. I was very disappointed.
To be fair, Tops should not be judged alongside traditional sit down barbeque places. It is basically fast food, kind of like the Moe’s of barbeque restaurants. Even with that in mind, I just wasn’t that impressed.

  I ordered the barbeque sandwich, and for five dollars, you get a nice amount of food. Sizeable drink, slaw, beans, and sandwich. Not bad. But the taste just wasn’t there, and not for Memphis standards, for anyone’s standards. The beans had a very strong smoky taste. I was trying to talk myself into liking it but it didn’t happen. Remember the time you made your own sauce by mixing other sauces and you thought you did something great? Then you ate it and as much as you wanted to like it, it was a failure? That was the feeling with the baked beans. The cole slaw was swimming in mayonnaise, and the sandwich was just average. Served on a plain hamburger bun, just regular, nothing special barbeque.
Oh well, it was five dollars, you can’t complain too much. Then I took a drink and saw this.


Really?!?! I realize that statements like this are made all the time, but please, “Memphis Best Bar-B-Q”? That’s like saying the south’s best sweet tea, or Ben Affleck’s worst movie. It is not a statement to throw around in my opinion. For that, and for the taste of my meal, I would say go elsewhere when you visit Memphis.


What are your thoughts on Tops?

6 Responses to “Tops Bar-B-Q – Memphis, TN – Matt Booth”

  1. on 05 Aug 2009 at 9:23 am BP

    I actually had a pretty good experience at Tops. Which location did you go to?

    I read an interview ( with someone from Tops management where they say that each location has its own “master cook.” So it seems like quality could vary from branch to branch.

    I went to the one on Union Ave. It was by no means the best barbecue sandwich in Memphis, but I’d probably put it in the top 10. I can’t speak for the side items, as I didn’t try any of those.

    I like your blog – keep up the good work.

  2. on 06 Aug 2009 at 3:38 pm Matt B.


    I believe I went to the one on Union Ave, but I’m not sure. I should have made a note of that in my review, sorry about that. I took that picture in the review, so if that is the location you went to, then we went to the same one. If they have different master chefs at each location, then I guess each location can prepare their food a little differently, so there is a chance I hit it on a bad day, but I just wasn’t impressed. I was very open minded as I sat there, I wanted to like it, but it was definitely plain, average barbeque. I’ll be in Memphis again soon so I’ll give it another try.

    Thanks for the comments!

    matt b.

  3. on 30 Aug 2010 at 1:27 pm Gail M

    I see your post is about a year old. Have you been back to Memphis?
    The picture that you posted looks like one on Summer Ave, close to Highland St. Of Course, there could be others locations that look the same. I’ve found that Summer Ave location isn’t as good as it used to be. Next time go a little further east on Summer Ave and try that one.
    I live in Texas. What I wouldn’t give for some good ole Tops BBQ!!!!!! Wish they delivered.

  4. on 24 Jan 2011 at 5:39 pm Tim

    Please tell us poor & hungry where, for $5 you get a better BBQ combo? We want to go there!

  5. on 09 Feb 2011 at 7:33 pm Pam

    Tim, you can come to Tops BBQ in southaven, ms and get a jumbo bbq, drink, beans and fries for about $6.00. Love it!!

  6. on 13 Oct 2012 at 1:34 pm Leon

    I like the food at Tops BBQ on Union in Memphis but the Manager is very very rude not only to the customers but to the workers in there; she yells at them and belittles them in front of customers; Surely Tops is not that hard up to keep someone like her since the economy is the way it is someone out there needs a job and would be more respectful to the workers in there. I can see that one of these days one of her coworkers will go off on her and maybe even hit her. The customers should be worth more than that to Tops. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has sat in there and ate and listened to that loud mouth bully.

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