History of Leonard’s Pit Barbecue

The year was 1922, a time widely accepted as the beginning of Memphis’ love affair for pit-smoked barbecue.

For this was the year Leonard Heuberger opened his little stand of 5 stools, selling his creation, a barbecue sandwich, for just five cents. He couldn’t keep up with demand and that modest beginning soon became the largest drive-in restaurant of its time. People came from near and far to pig-out on pit-cooked ribs and pork shoulders that Leonard’s popularized. The “King” was a regular. Elvis would bring his friends for after-hours parties that lasted ’til sunrise.

The old drive-in location is gone and Leonard Heuberger has since passed away, but the labor intensive recipes that made Leonard’s unique remain intact under the watchful eye of Dan Brown, the owner. Dan started working at Leonard’s when he was 15 as a sandwich man. Heuberger understood Dan’s love for the restaurant business, and guided him through every phase of the Leonard’s tradition. Now, nearly a half century later, Dan, his wife Janet, and a host of long time employees continue to watch over the daily restaurant seatings, tour bus groups and caterings with the same care that has established Leonard’s as a barbecue mecca for over 85 years.