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Slaw

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Movies - By Michael Don­ahue

Con­sider the slaw at the Ren­dezvous.

Ac­tu­ally, I’ve al­ways taken it for granted. I know I’m go­ing to get a bowl of the yel­low slaw and a bowl of bar­be­cued beans with my sand­wich, ribs or just about any­thing else I or­der. I love it; it doesn’t taste like any other slaw I’ve eaten.

I be­gan think­ing about the slaw the other night when a friend said to John Ver­gos, one of the restau­rant’s own­ers, “The slaw has hot sauce in it.”

I never thought about that, but she was right. The slaw is a “mus­tard, vine­gar-based slaw with a lit­tle tangy hot sauce in there for ef­fect,” Ver­gos said.

And the slaw comes with a story. “It’s prob­a­bly about a 100-year-old recipe. My grand­fa­ther had a hot dog stand on Beale Street in the ’20s. It was the slaw he used on his hot dogs.”

So, where did his grand­fa­ther get the recipe? “The Slaw Fairy. That’s the best (story) we can come up with to where he came up with it.”

Ver­gos’ grand­fa­ther opened a diner, Jack­son Cof­fee Shop, across from St. Joseph Hospi­tal af­ter his stint on Beale Street. “He would serve those hot dogs and serve them with slaw.”

Ver­gos’ fa­ther, the late Charles Ver­gos, opened the Ren­dezvous in 1948 and be­gan serv­ing ribs in the ’50s. “When my dad fig­ured out how to make th­ese ribs, the only side dish he had, and the log­i­cal side dish for him to use, was my grand­fa­ther’s slaw recipe.”

So, for a while, his grand­fa­ther and his fa­ther were sell­ing the slaw at the same time, Ver­gos said.

The slaw and the beans come with all Ren­dezvous en­trees. You might think you’re not get­ting much in that cup, but you’re ac­tu­ally get­ting 4 ounces. “If it’s not enough and you want some more, the wait­ers will gen­er­ally give it to you, but if they charge you, it’s a buck and a quar­ter.”

They don’t make the slaw at the restau­rant, Ver­gos said. “We used to make it our­selves, but now we have St. Clair Foods make it for us be­cause we just can’t keep up.

“Peo­ple really love our slaw, but it sur­prises me be­cause some peo­ple just flat out don’t like it. I don’t know. Some peo­ple just don’t like slaw in gen­eral, which al­ways sur­prises me. It’s not like it’s liver.”

You now can buy pints of Ren­dezvous slaw at the gro­cery store. “It’s gone into all the lo­cal Kroger stores,” Ver­gos said.

MICHAEL DON­AHUE / THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

Slaw at the Ren­dezvous

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