Lost Memphis: Pitchfork BBQ

Consider this a "tease" for a longer piece I intend to run on the old Pitchfork BBQ restaurant, located on South Second, close to The Peabody.

It's entirely possible that another Memphis landmark is in that location today, but I won't give it away.

The only reason I'm even sharing this with you is because I found this interesting old ad in a 1958 issue of a handy publication called the Memphis Hotel & Motel Guide. As you can see, the Pitchfork offered all the usual fixin's you'd expect from a barbecue joint: hickory-smoked pit barbecue (is there really any other kind?), beans in a pot, ribs, and chicken. And if you're tired of pork, you could get a steak, salad, or even a sandwich of some kind.

Now what is a little unusual is that they also served breakfast. Yum! Nothing like a big ole platter of greasy ribs to start your morning off right.

And has there ever been a barbecue establishment in Memphis that didn't make some sort of (often unconfirmed) national claim to fame? Not only does the Pitchfork brag that it is "famous" but it is even known "known coast-to-coast." Really, Pitchfork people?

But what I mainly wanted to do here is also poke a little good-natured fun at their logo. The name of the place is the Pitchfork, right? But do they show a pitchfork? No. And does a pitchfork — a tined instrument with a handle usually used for tossing hay around — have anything to do with barbecue? No. Do they use a pitchfork to kill the pigs before tossing them in the barbecue pit? Well, gosh, I certainly hope not.

"Pitchfork" just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

And to add to the confusion, instead of a pitchfork of some kind, the owners of this establishment went with an image of a smoldering log — quite possibly hickory-smoked, but who's to say — with the name of the eatery carved into the side. Or maybe the letters have been burned into it with a branding iron. But what's the name of the place again? Pitchfork. Not "Branding Iron." Not "Burning Hickory Log."

But you'll have to wait for the main article — in a future issue of Memphis magazine — for the whole story of the Pitchfork, which really was one of the top barbecue joints here. And that's all I'm sayin' for now.

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Famed Memphis trivia expert Vance Lauderdale answers reader questions weekly here on his blog!

About This Blog

Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business. Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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