Ray Lampe, aka “Dr. BBQ”; competition barbecue judge; spokesman for The Big Green Egg; and author of Slow Fire, Ribs, Chops, Steaks, and Wings and more.
"The dry-rub ribs that Memphis has become known for really evolved by chance," explains Ray. According to local lore, they were first introduced in 1948 at a restaurant called the Rendezvous, which remains a Memphis culinary landmark to this day. After discovering an old coal chute in the restaurant's basement and getting a good deal on a shipment of ribs, the Rendezvous’ owner, Charlie Vargos, decided to expand his business into barbecue. Drawing on his Greek background, Charlie seasoned his meat with a distinctly Mediterranean-inflected rub, which included spices like coriander, oregano, allspice and mustard seed. The mixture was a hit and before long the style spread to other establishments around town. "Charlie didn't have the Internet to consult or experts for market research," says Ray. "He was just trying to sell some delicious ribs."
Serve it with: "If you want to get authentic, lots of folks in Memphis are crazy about poor-man's specials like smoked bologna or barbecue spaghetti, which is pasta tossed with half tomato and half barbecue sauce," says Ray. "And also plain-old white bread, of course."
Pro tip: "Salt and sugar are the building blocks of any good rub," says Ray. "You can play with the ratios, but half-and-half is always good place to start."