Best Bet: Slaw

MICHAEL DONAHUE / The Commercial Appeal
Slaw at the Rendezvous

Photo by Michael Donahue // Buy this photo

MICHAEL DONAHUE / The Commercial Appeal Slaw at the Rendezvous

Consider the slaw at the Rendezvous.

Actually, I've always taken it for granted. I know I'm going to get a bowl of the yellow slaw and a bowl of barbecued beans with my sandwich, ribs or just about anything else I order. I love it; it doesn't taste like any other slaw I've eaten.

I began thinking about the slaw the other night when a friend said to John Vergos, one of the restaurant's owners, "The slaw has hot sauce in it."

I never thought about that, but she was right. The slaw is a "mustard, vinegar-based slaw with a little tangy hot sauce in there for effect," Vergos said.

And the slaw comes with a story. "It's probably about a 100-year-old recipe. My grandfather had a hot dog stand on Beale Street in the '20s. It was the slaw he used on his hot dogs."

So, where did his grandfather get the recipe? "The Slaw Fairy. That's the best (story) we can come up with to where he came up with it."

Vergos' grandfather opened a diner, Jackson Coffee Shop, across from St. Joseph Hospital after his stint on Beale Street. "He would serve those hot dogs and serve them with slaw."

Vergos' father, the late Charles Vergos, opened the Rendezvous in 1948 and began serving ribs in the '50s. "When my dad figured out how to make these ribs, the only side dish he had, and the logical side dish for him to use, was my grandfather's slaw recipe."

So, for a while, his grandfather and his father were selling the slaw at the same time, Vergos said.

The slaw and the beans come with all Rendezvous entrees. You might think you're not getting much in that cup, but you're actually getting 4 ounces. "If it's not enough and you want some more, the waiters will generally give it to you, but if they charge you, it's a buck and a quarter."

They don't make the slaw at the restaurant, Vergos said. "We used to make it ourselves, but now we have St. Clair Foods make it for us because we just can't keep up.

"People really love our slaw, but it surprises me because some people just flat out don't like it. I don't know. Some people just don't like slaw in general, which always surprises me. It's not like it's liver."

You now can buy pints of Rendezvous slaw at the grocery store. "It's gone into all the local Kroger stores," Vergos said.

Rendezvous is at 52 South Second; 901-523-2746

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