FAREWELL TO CHARLIE VERGOS
It was with sadness that Steven learned of the passing on Saturday of Charlie Vergos, founder of the legendary restaurant Rendezvous and inventor of one of Memphis’ most iconic dishes, the dry rub rib.
Charlie was originally in the sandwich business. One day, a meat salesman brought him a case of babyback ribs (a very unpopular cut in the 1950s), and drawing on his Greek heritage, Charlie seasoned the ribs with oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper, reddened them–at the salesman’s suggestion–with a dose of paprika and chili powder, and grilled them directly over a charcoal fire.
Then, as now, the Rendezvous ribs defy the traditional notion of barbecue on several counts: They’re grilled (not smoked) over charcoal (not wood), and the seasonings are applied only after the ribs are completely cooked.
But such fine points are not debated by the thousands of customers who dine at the Rendezvous each week. For them, the restaurant’s dry ribs are the very essence of Memphis barbecue.
Condolences to Charlie’s family, friends, and the city of Memphis.