[Photographs: Hawk Krall]

I went to Memphis hoping to eat good barbecue and not expecting to find much in the hot dog department other than Dyer's deep-fried dogs featured last week. To my surprise almost every barbecue place (including a shack on the side of the road) had several varieties of hot dog, polish sausage, and "hot links" along with the standards.

Interstate is a well-known Memphis institution, opened in 1978 as a combination grocery store and barbecue stand by Jim Neely, uncle of those other Neely's you might know from television.

My initial expectations of the dog were pretty low. I assumed the barbecue was great, but who gets a hot dog from a legendary barbecue restaurant? Sort of like getting a hamburger from a cheesesteak stand. But boy, was I wrong.

The "Texas Foot Long" ($3.65) is a massive split hot dog similar to a commercial Polish sausage, although Interstate also has one of those on the menu as well, along with a smoked sausage sandwich, "Texas beef link" and a regular hot dog.

The garlicky, spicy pork footlong definitely tasted like it spent some time in the smoke pit, served on a long sandwich roll glazed with Interstate's awesome sweet barbecue sauce and creamy slaw (that I didn't ask for by the way; I'm assuming sauce and slaw are the default dressing for every sausage and dog). I was sort of blown away by how good this thing was, and other than the lack of french fries, really similar to a Cleveland Polish Boy.

And what's a trip to Memphis without Barbecue Spaghetti? Sort of Memphis' answer to Cincinnati Chili, this side dish ($1.35) is exactly what it looks like: thick, cut-up spaghetti (slightly overcooked, just like Cincinnati Chili) swimming in delicious barbecue sauce and chunks of meat. It's awesome.

Memphis has so many bizzaro barbecue side dishes, served at legit places: barbecue salad, barbecue nachos, baloney sandwiches, barbecue pizza, tamales, several varieties of encased meat - that you could spend a weeks eating across the city before ever even thinking about a rib.

Jim Neely's Interstate Barbecue

2265 South 3rd Street, Memphis, TN (map); 901-775-2304
www.interstatebarbecue.com

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