Memphis Bar-B-Q in the Bowie Gateway Center, with its simple and straightforward menu, provides something for everyone. We knew immediately that this was a family restaurant, since there were crayons at the ready on the tables for the kids and the menu had lots of choices (including barbecue and hot dogs for $2.99) for the youngsters.
The adults had plenty to keep them interested too. We started out with onion straws--hot, plentiful, thinly sliced, lightly breaded and fried with just a hint of grease. Onion lovers will be in heaven. We paired them with deep-fried drumsticks, deliciously moist and served with Memphis's own mild barbecue sauce (a molasses flavor with a slight zing). Seven of us finished the appetizers in record time.
From there, the adults moved on to barbecue classics--ribs, pulled pork, barbecued beef and barbecued chicken. The well-cooked, meaty ribs were very good, but the regular order ($9.99) wasn't enough for a hungry appetite; I would recommend a giant order ($12.99). The pulled pork ($7.49) was succulent, with an excellent smoky taste. The thin-sliced barbecued beef ($8.49) was tender, with a slight hickory flavor and served coated in barbecue sauce. The ribs, barbecued beef and pulled pork (or similar pulled chicken) are all available as sandwiches or as part of a combination platter as well.
My favorite entree was the half chicken barbecue ($7.99), just as moist as the drumstick appetizers and covered in a tangy barbecue sauce. Each of the entrees includes a choice of two side orders. Our preference was for the creamy potato salad, made with red potatoes with their skins on. (My boyfriend swears its distinctive flavor was from blue cheese.) The hush puppies were also good and the seasoned fries were lightly spiced so the kids loved them. The cole slaw was chunky rather than shredded and heavy on the carrots.
The teenage girls preferred the chicken Caesar salad ($7.49). It was quite large, heavy on the dressing and, again, the chicken was nicely grilled and moist. The giant baked stuffed potato ($4.99) was indeed huge and overflowing with cheese, scallions, barbecued chicken (barbecued pork is also an option) and the zingy barbecue sauce. The potato was baked to perfection, and I was pleased to see that even though we were dining close to closing time it was still moist. The two teenage girls, competitive swimmers who always seem to be hungry, easily split the salad and baked potato as their meal. Of course they managed to save room for dessert--the Tennessee Mud Pie, which was chocolaty, creamy and served in a large parfait glass.
The service was very friendly, but seemed slow. Our main courses took an hour to arrive although the restaurant wasn't full. Yet we overheard a carryout order being placed and the customer was told to pick it up in 10 to 15 minutes. And a friend who recommended the place uses carryout often and says she has never had a problem--she calls or faxes her order ahead of time, then picks up her lunch or dinner.
Memphis Bar-B-Q Company, Bowie Gateway Center, 4449 Mitchellville Rd., Bowie, Md.; call 301-809-9441. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
CAPTION: Clint Harris of the Memphis Bar-B-Q Company in Bowie offers the barbecued ribs platter.