Payne’s Bar-B-Q (Original) (2002)

1762 Lamar (at Seattle)
Memphis, TN
(901) 272-1523

Essay by Joe York

Down the street the Lamar Theater is little more than a poster board for politicians. The windows are boarded up. The marquee is a mangled mess. It hasn’t seen a movie in years.

Across the street is a stand of stunted store fronts. Empty and quiet. The people passing on the sidewalk pay them no mind. Boutiques, restaurants, barber shops, whatever they were, they’re not anymore. In the middle of this block is the original Payne’s Bar-B-Q.

Started in 1972 by Horton Payne, because “he just wanted to do something on his own,” it continues to send up the smoke that signals its survival. Horton, however, has passed on. But Flora, his widow, still sells the shoulders that supported them while the others on Lamar shut their shops.

Standing behind the counter looking out over an area that now looks nothing like the garage of the Exxon it used to be, Flora speaks to the persistence of Payne’s.

“Grace. I’m gonna give the good Lord that credit.” She pauses. “Plus we still got good food.”

Payne's Bar-B-Q (Original)Payne's Bar-B-Q (Original)

Payne's Bar-B-Q (Original)Payne's Bar-B-Q (Original)

Date of interview:

January 1, 2002


Joe York


Amy C. Evans

Payne's Bar-B-Q (Original)