I've heard for a number of years that Interstate has some of the best BBQ around, and it's a prime example of the Memphis style. Self proclaimed connoisseurs of the meaty stuff know that there's a significant difference between what is labeled BBQ in various parts of the country, and around the globe too. Memphis style is a either pork shoulder or pork ribs, with a thick sauce that's a sweet and tangy blend. Most BBQ joints in the area offer a mild and a hot version of their sauces, giving the diner options in how much heat they want to endure. Head east into the Carolinas and the sauces become thinner and more vinegar based; the meat is expected to carry more of the flavor. Move southwest into Texas and it's all about Beef. Brisket is the pinnacle choice with a bold and usually thick sauce. Memphis style falls somewhere in the middle in flavor and sauce thickness. When it comes to BBQ in the south, one thing is certain. Never, ever argue about who cooks it best. I imagine it would be like arguing with a Samurai that there's a better sword than their own; they are not likely to believe it even after trying the supposed better option.
Since this is really supposed to be about Interstate BBQ, I will move on. Their location is one I wouldn't visit after dark. It also lives up to what I've heard about many good BBQ institutions, which is the food will be great and the service will not. The BBQ is quite good, not what I would consider spectacular but very good. It beats many I've sampled in that the fat is rendered out well so it's moist but not full of gristle. The sauce has a great sweet and spicy balance that works well with the pork. The spaghetti is really where things happen. I would endure the service again just for the spaghetti. It's a generous serving of spaghetti noodles topped with pulled pork and their in-house sauce. After tasting it, it's one of those dishes that makes me think "Why didn't I think of that?" Skip everything else on the menu and go for the spaghetti. It's really that good.
I'm looking forward to the indoor smoking ban taking effect in Tennessee, because this is one of those few restaurants left where the few remaining smokers are intermingled with the non-smoking majority. The law went into effect on July 1, but will be actually enforced starting October 1, 2007. My visit was in August, so clearly they will be one of those businesses that will make the leap at the very last moment to stay in compliance.
Overall Rating : 3.5 stars
Pros: The spaghetti is amazing. Portions are generously sized and in some instances enough to share. The pork has a great texture and isn't at all dry.
Cons: Location is a bit unsettling and the whole smoking issue does really put me off from going there. Any business that won't comply with the law until absolutely forced into it sets off warning bells to me immediately.