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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

King Lawler’s Memphis BBQ

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New Benton location promises “Best and Fastest”

Memphis-style barbecue.

World-champion wrestler and WWE announcer Jerry Lawler.

A tag team made in … Benton, La.? King Jerry Lawler’s Memphis BBQ Company has opened their newest location at 6458 Highway 3 in Benton. Lawler, who won 168 championships and once slapped actor-turned-wrestler Andy Kaufman out of his chair on a famous “Late Night with David Letterman” television broadcast, is a Memphis legend and lover of the city’s barbecue.

“Memphis is world famous for the best barbecue money can buy,” Lawler said from his home in Memphis. “We’ve been looking for other opportunities to show people in the rest of the country how great Memphis barbecue really is. That’s why we’re really excited for our first franchise to be in Benton.”

The original Jerry Lawler’s Memphis BBQ Company opened just outside Memphis about a year and a half ago. That restaurant was born out of another one which Lawler co-owned on Memphis’ famous Beale Street. But Lawler isn’t just trying to capitalize on his name. He, along with his partners, have been hands-on when it comes to the food served.

“We went through several different recipes, tried different ways to cook the barbecue – grilling, electric, wood – until we got it exactly how we wanted it. We taste-tested different things, different sauces, different rubs.”

If King Jerry Lawler’s Memphis BBQ Company has an identity – other than the name – it’s serving good food quickly.

“Our concept is fast-casual,” said partner and Shreveport native Jimmy Silvio. “We have a drive-thru. It’s only a 1,500-square-foot place. The recipes are simple and delicious. Your ticket times are two and three minutes. Having said that, that’s what people want – to be in and out. For example, around the corner is the (Bossier Parish) Courthouse. Those people only have an hour for lunch, and that includes drive time. A concept like ours, where you get your food in two or three minutes – what’s that worth?” So, what’s the difference between Memphis-style barbecue and any-other-style barbecue?

“You put the rub on the ribs and you put it on the grill,” Silvio explained. “Once the rub crystalizes on the meat, that gives you your Memphisstyle ribs. We’ve developed the systems to get that down to a pretty low-ticket time and still delicious food.”

News of Memphis-style barbecue coming to Northwest Louisiana has stimulated the taste buds of one area barbecue connoisseur. Patrick Netherton, a Shreveport radio talk show host, is a Kansas City Barbecue Society Certified Judge and Table Captain.

In other words, he knows his barbecue. “I have a great appreciation for Memphis barbecue,” Netherton said. “Memphis is traditionally considered one of the top barbecue destinations in the country. Memphis barbecue is typically pork-based that emphasizes dry rubs over sauce. I enjoy Memphis barbecue because, while everyone does pork ribs, Memphis folks specialize in the dry rub, which is a completely unique approach that you don’t really find anywhere else.”

The menu at King Jerry Lawler’s Memphis BBQ Company is all barbecue – along with the sides you would expect. Except for one side which Lawler says is a must-try.

“I don’t know if you can go anywhere else and find Sweet Potato Waffle Fries that have a powdered sugar on top, and it comes with some delicious maple syrup that you dip the fries down in there,” Lawler described. “Every time somebody comes in the restaurant, I say, ‘You gotta try something different – something you ordinarily wouldn’t think about, something you wouldn’t ordinarily order.’ When they try the Sweet Potato Waffle Fries, they just go crazy over them!”

You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy a visit to Lawler’s restaurant. But if you are, you will enjoy your visit even more. The inside is decorated with memorabilia from the champion’s time in the ring.

“(The restaurant has) some robes that I wore in different championship matches, Lawler said. “Some tights I wore in different matches. And, of course, all the pictures and things on the wall are from my career. … It’s a really neat concept. I really love the way the look of the restaurant turned out. I just couldn’t be happier with it.”

And what would a restaurant so closely associated with a world-famous wrestler be without ... wrestling?

“We’re going to pull the trigger on having live wrestling events right there at the restaurant,” Lawler said. “We’re going to set up a wrestling ring right out there in the parking lot of the restaurant, and we are going to come down there and do some live wrestling sometime this year.”

A restaurant with the name Jerry Lawler – the wrestling legend has 1.4 million Twitter followers – is sure to get attention. However, Silvio knows its success will depend on more than a recognizable name.

“At the end of the day, it all comes down to the food,” Silvio said. “I think once you try it, you will see we have a great product. We have a great sauce. The recipes are great. The ribs are Memphis-style. We developed basically the systems for how we take Memphis-style barbecue on the road. Once you try it, you’re going to like it – I guarantee it. It’s just great stuff.”

To learn more about King Jerry Lawler’s Memphis BBQ Company, you may visit www.jerrylawlerbbq.com.

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