One and Only BBQ & More isn't new, but it has come under new ownership in the past few months, which gives it the bona fides it needs to round out a month of reviewing new or revamped barbecue restaurants around town.
By Memphis standards, One and Only is just a babe, anyway. It opened in 2007 at Poplar and Kirby, skirting the Memphis and Germantown border.
As befits its location, the meat served at One and Only is a bit different from the gritty, pit-smoked urban and the heavily smoked rural barbecue of the area. There's smoke, but it's generally light -- and there's plenty of flavor here without that heaviness. This suburban helping of our city's most popular dish is well seasoned, consistent, and, hey, it's a nice little place, to boot.
The ribs are superb at One and Only -- very meaty, very tender, very hearty. They meet the general description of being "very beefy," except, of course, these are quite porky instead.
Oh, of course, there's a lengthy list of the so-called right way to cook ribs and a longer list of ways not to do it. At One and Only, Cookshack box smokers are where it all takes place. This style is familiar to most people who have been around competition barbecue, where not everyone cooks in a rig that looks like a race car or a split 55-gallon drum. Boxes maintain temperature, which is key to producing a consistent product.
New co-owner Alan Katzen credits the former owners with the methods used in the restaurant. One of them, Charles Quarles, has stayed on as a manager and runs the "pit."
"I've been in the restaurant business my whole life," Katzen said. "But I never did anything with Memphis barbecue."
It all started at a poker game. Katzen and longtime friend Joel Banes were in a game one night, and barbecue came up in the table talk. Katzen put forth the notion that if 10 people were asked their favorite barbecue restaurant, there would be seven different answers. It turned out that Katzen's favorite place was also Banes' favorite. They briefly discussed buying One and Only, and the next day, Katzen made calls.
It worked out; the partners assumed control in September and made only minor changes. One that's been popular with customers is the homemade banana pudding that Katzen's wife provides.
"She's making at least 10, sometimes 20 pans of it a week," he said.
It's excellent. She cooks the custard, adds the bananas, whips the meringue -- it's all a labor of love. Vanilla wafers are added right before serving.
Let me also throw a bone to the fried pickles, which are among the crispest I've tried. Treat yourself to a basket.
The pulled pork possesses both good texture and plenty of flavor. The smoked chicken leg quarters are smokier than both the ribs and the shoulder, presumably because the lighter meat takes in the smoke more readily. Sliced smoked turkey breast is very moist, with a light lick of smoke and a nice dash of Cavender's Greek seasoning.
Ah, the Cavender's. Those of us who keep it on hand at home for an all-purpose seasoning are devoted to it. Spotting a bucket of it on the shelves at One and Only was a promising sign, and seeing gallons of Trollinger's barbecue sauce was just too much.
Trollinger's is a very peppery sauce made by the restaurant of the same name in Paris, Tenn. At One and Only, the regular barbecue sauce starts with a Kraft base and builds from there ("Our sauce is not exactly intelligent from an expense perspective," Katzen said). The spicy sauce is about 80 percent regular sauce with 20 percent Trollinger's.
It's a cozy little spot, a nice place for a pretty quick dinner, and the hours are great. Food is available by the pound. One and Only is not, of course, the only place is town for barbecue -- it's one of many.
But it's a solid choice.
-- Jennifer Biggs: (901) 529-5223
One and Only BBQ & More
Address: 1779 Kirby Pkwy., No. 1-A
Telephone: (901) 751-3615.
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Reviewer's choices: Ribs, ($10.99 to $22.99 and available as part of a mixed plate for $19.99); smoked turkey ($8.99 for the dinner with two sides); banana pudding ($3.49); fried pickles ($3.99).
Poor: Zero stars
Good: One star
Very Good: Two stars
Excellent: Three stars
Extraordinary: Four stars