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Barbecue here is Tip-Top and Memphis style

Ronnie Seay has always had a reputation for good barbecue.

His secret? The sauce, a spicy-sweet concoction developed decades ago by his grandfather, Joseph Seay, who hailed from Memphis, Tenn.

"That's where it all began," said Ronnie's wife and business partner, Deborah.

The Seays last year started a restaurant -- Memphis Tip Top Barbecue -- featuring meats slathered in their special sauce. They were open for business only on Fridays and Saturdays until this spring, when the family -- which includes the couple's son Brandan and Ronnie's brother Wadell -- decided to make it a full-time venture.

The group serves up barbecue, plus a variety of homemade side dishes, out of a tiny space on Modesto's Drake Avenue, just off McHenry. It's takeout only. Its main form of advertising? Brandan Seay, who appears on McHenry Avenue during the lunch hour and late afternoon enthusiasticaly waving a sign.

Memphis Tip Top Barbecue serves hot links, Polish dogs, tri-tip, chicken, pork and ribs, plus several combination lunch and dinner plates that include a variety of meats. Also noteworthy are the side dishes: green beans, potato salad, barbecue beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, and cornbread muffins. Combination plates come with a piece of bread to sop up the sauce.

On Fridays and Saturdays, Deborah Seay makes desserts from scratch. Her specialities include peach cobbler, pound cake and sweet potato pie.

So, what makes the Seay's restaurant different than other barbecue joints? They prepare their meat Southern-style, Deborah Seay explained, which means they cook it first, then brush on the sauce.

"Also, it's prepared with a lot of love," she said.

-- Kerry McCray

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