Name: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Location: 7238 Nolensville Road, Nolensville, TN
Order: ½ rack of ribs - dry with fries and cornbread, 2 pulled pork sliders, 1 brisket slider (link to menu)
Bill: $12 (ribs/sides), $5 (3 sliders)
Speedy: From September 2009 - March 2010, I spent nearly every week flying to Nashville for work. I had been to the city once before, but only for a wedding, so I didn’t get to explore the city much. I was pleasantly surprised when it became my pseudo-home for six months, as it’s a great city with a lot more going for it than the honky tonks (which themselves are pretty darn fun under the right circumstances). What I didn’t find in the city, however, was good barbecue. Given the city’s proximity to Memphis (where I had been once previously and sampled some fantastic ribs at Rendezvous), I was shocked that I couldn’t seem to find some decent ‘cue anywhere. I tried all the downtown spots, and a couple outside of downtown, but to no avail. During that time, I never made it to (or even heard of) Martin’s.
My friend and host for the weekend, Drew, wanted to get my opinion on Martin’s, a place he had been a few times and enjoyed. Martin’s is not convenient to downtown Nashville - it actually resides about 20 minutes away in Nolensville - so it was a bit of a hike to get there. We went at lunch time on Friday, and when we arrived, there wasn’t much of a crowd. The restaurant has a great ambiance, as it has wood counters and tables, a screened-in porch, and has a bit of an old school feel. However, it also has several nice TVs with sports playing and a bar with 5-6 beers on tap. AKA the best of both worlds.
Monk: Some people say that it’s not a barbecue joint worth visiting if it serves alcohol. Maybe I see the point they are trying to make, but mostly I just think these people are dumb.
Speedy: At Martin’s, you order at the counter, choose a table, and food is brought to you once it was prepared. I liked what I saw on the menu, and wanted to sample the ribs, pork, and brisket, so I ordered a half rack and three sliders. The ribs were offered either wet or dry, and I ordered dry, making the assumption that the Memphis-style ribs would shine here. I think this was a mistake, but more on that later. The ribs came with two sides, and I ordered fries and the cornbread. I asked what color the slaw was and the cashier told me it was white, but that it was cream, not mayo, based. I have an intolerance of all things lactose, so I passed on the slaw.
Monk: What exactly does she mean by cream? Like half and half? Heavy cream? Whatever the case, that sounds awful.
Speedy: Drew and I sat down just as a whole hog was brought into a pit in the middle of the restaurant to be prepped for cooking. It was actually pretty neat getting to see the workers split the pig and trim off some of the fat to prepare for cooking. I’ve never smoked a whole hog before, so I was pretty excited to see some of the prep.
Monk: Now that sounds cool. Fortuitous timing on your part.
Rudy: I once saw a place wheeling whole dead pigs inside in grocery carts. I figured that place was pretty fresh. And it was a bit freaky to see.
Speedy: Funny you mentioned that - someone called trying to buy a whole pig while we were there and, after much discussion, the guy prepping the pig decided it was illegal for them to sell uncooked meat. Not sure if that’s accurate or if it’s just a Tennessee law, but there you have it.
Anyway, the food was promptly brought out to our table. The portion size for the half-rack of ribs meal was pretty big - certainly enough for an entire meal. The ribs themselves were absolutely covered in dry rub. It was very clear that rub was dumped on the ribs before, during, and after smoking. While I like a good rub as much as anyone, it was clearly overdone here. The overwhelming flavor of the rub took away from the taste of the pork, and you could barely taste what type of meat you were eating. The ribs were pretty tender, but could have been more so. I was very disappointed to see that the membrane from the back of the rib had not been removed prior to smoking. This, to me, seems like an amateur mistake, and could account for some of the lack of tenderness. Drew informed me that the wet ribs were much better, and I have to believe this to be true, because the dry ribs were just not good.
Monk: I do have to think that if the wet ribs were prepared in the same way as the dry, just with the addition of sauce then they sound like they wouldn’t have been too great either.
Speedy: The sliders were much better. They are served on small buns with only a dab of sweet, tomato based sauce. I actually didn’t think the sauce worked that well with the pork, but there was so little on there, it was hard to notice. The pork would’ve been better if you slapped some vinegar or Lexington style sauce on it, but it was good as it was. The brisket was slightly better. It was served chopped and with the same sauce, but the sauce seemed to work better than the beef. The brisket slider was probably my favorite part of the meal.
Monk: There goes chopped brisket again. I still feel like that is heresy in some way.
Rudy: I agree. I’m starting to see it more here in Texas than I had before. Typically it is served on sandwiches. It just tastes like a fancy Sloppy Joe to me.
Speedy: The fries were fine, and the cornbread was good, though it looked more like a pancake than bread.
All in all, I did enjoy my experience at Martin’s. I was greatly disappointed in the ribs, but would definitely like to give it another try to check out the sauced ribs. And if those aren’t any good, pork/brisket sliders, beer, and sports are a great consolation.
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3.5 hogs
Pork - 3 hogs
Ribs - 2 hogs
Brisket - 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs