As a born Northerner with all my roots in Memphis (a Memphian at heart, one might say) I've noticed the lack of coverage of my favorite Southern city on these boards. Anyway, here are my two cents about the best of Chowish cuisine in my adopted home:
For ribs, I'm still partial to the Rendezvous. Pretty much anything with their seasoning and sauce is golden. The best barbecue (pork) sandwich in the city, however, is at Payne's, 1762 Lamar at McLean. Interstate's a serviceable sandwich, especially at the airport when you've got time to kill before a Northwest flight, but doesn't measure up.
Breakfast doesn't get any better than the local minichain CK's Coffee Shop, whose flagship location on Perkins just south of Poplar (in a converted Johnny Rockets) is its best. The staples (eggs, waffles, hashbrowns, pancakes) are top-notch.
I know it's another local chain, but that doesn't stop Back Yard Burgers (throughout the city; try 436 Perkins Extended just north of Poplar, 4471 Summer just west of Perkins, or 6466 Poplar about halfway between Massey and Kirby) from being Memphis' answer to In-n-Out. All items on the menu are excellent, especially the hamburgers and unfathomably thick shakes. And the whining kids and screaming adults of your typical fast-food joint are absent; BYB locations, especially the one on Perkins, are downright sedate at lunch hours.
My final Chowish choice in Memphis is Pete & Sam's, 3886 Park at Getwell. Looking like a funeral home on the outside, and your childhood basement in East Brunswick or Oak Lawn on the inside (think wood paneling and grim fluorescent lighting), Pete & Sam's is an Italian restaurant with a devoted local following that crowds the place, especially on weekends (Sunday dinner at Pete & Sam's has been an East Memphis tradition, especially for members of the tight-knit Jewish community, since the Sixties), and a menu of Italian favorites. Toasted ravioli is awesome, as are old standbys such as spaghetti and meatballs. Steaks are good, and this includes the steak sandwich (a cut of juicy meat plopped between two hamburger buns). Pizzas are super-thin crust, and cut into squares; all are tasty, especially barbecue (yes, this is barbecue pork on top of a cheese pizza). There is no Pete, but owner Sam presides over the front of the restaurant as he has done since the Fifties, when the now-prestigious neighborhoods east of this stretch of Park were farmland.