Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint – Nashville, TN

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Name
: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Downtown location)
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 410 4th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201
Order: Big Poppa Sampler (Full Rack Ribs, 12oz Pork, 12oz Brisket, ½ Chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, fries) with 6 Memphis dry rub wings, 2 orders of hush puppies, and 2 cornbread hoe cakes (link to menu)
Price: $141 (for 6)

Speedy: With Monk coming to town, I had to take him to my favorite ‘cue in town – Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint. I had reviewed the OG location of Martin’s many years ago, but since then, three other Tennessee locations (as well as two Kentucky ones) have opened. While I greatly enjoy the food, I took Monk (and crew) to the downtown location, which is one of my favorite places in Nashville – barbecue or otherwise.

Monk: The downtown location of Martin’s is amazing – flat out. As soon as we stepped up into the upstairs beer garden, I knew it was going to get 5 hogs for atmosphere and ambiance. The upstairs was an airy, open air space with plenty of natural lighting and big ass fans to keep the air circulating. Besides the smokeroom off to the side, it had a small stage, two small bars flanking either side of the room, several long beer garden-style tables, ping pong, shufflepuck, and dartboards. If we ever hit it big from barbecue blogging, I will be taking photos of this space to an architect to replicate at the loft I would buy once I’m flush with all that theoretical barbecue blogging cashish.

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Speedy: With six of us in tow, we ordered the Big Poppa Platter, which consists of a full rack of ribs, 12 oz pork, 12 oz brisket, ½ chicken, and 3 pints of sides. We tacked on a few extra sides and a half dozen wings and we were good to go.

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I’ll start with the ribs. We ordered spare ribs instead of baby backs since they are bigger and we had six hungry men. The rack of ribs was massive – plenty for us all to eat. We ordered dry ribs, and they showed up heavily seasoned as a full slab. The ribs were tender, cooked perfectly, and delicious. I do wish we had ordered baby back ribs, as the quality of the meat is better. On the spare ribs, there was a big more tendon than I like, but that’s a nit-picky complaint. Overall, I could have used a little more spice in the rub, but the ribs are very, very solid.

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Monk: Martin’s is one of the few restaurants in Tennessee (or anywhere else, for that matter) that is still doing whole hog barbecue. With the purchasing power of a growing regional chain, I imagine they are able to make the economics work, but regardless I applaud them for continuing the whole hog tradition. As for the pork itself, our portion was a mixture of pork that was overall lighter than the darker meat of the shoulders predominantly used in the NC piedmont (though shoulders are also available on the menu). I’m not quite sure what the nuances are between western TN whole hog and what you’ll find in eastern NC or the Pee Dee region of SC (a topic which I’ll gladly earmark for more research later), but I quite enjoyed what Martin’s served.

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Speedy: The brisket is about as good as you can find in Tennessee. It had good bark and was cooked pretty well (maybe ever so slightly overcooked), but it is not on the same level as some of the Texas joints. Martin’s brisket does have nice tug and flavor, and has good bark, but it just doesn’t quite have the peppery goodness needed to reach the upper brisket tier. However, if I’m hankerin’ for a good brisket in Tennessee, Martin’s is the best choice there is. As a side note, while not sampled on this visit, Martin’s does offer a cheeseburger topped with brisket that simply is not to be missed. Beef on beef – brilliant!

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Monk: We don’t normally order chicken but seeing as how it came with the Big Poppa, we embraced it. Smoked chicken is not my jam but it definitely worked when dipped in the Alabama white sauce that came with the tray.

Speedy: The wings were good – using the same dry rub as the ribs (other flavors are available, but we went with the dry rub). They were smoked well, but could have stood to be a little meatier. Like everything at Martin’s, the wings were very good. Smoked wings can be a little difficult to find, so I appreciate a place that does them right, and Martin’s is that.

Monk: There were literally no complaints about any of the sides we got. Some of our group raved about the mac and cheese, others loved the green beans, and I thought the hush puppies were solidly above average. But I was most intrigued by the cornbread hoe cakes, an item I’ve not ever seen on a barbecue menu before. In western NC, our cornmeal comes in the form of hush puppies whereas in the east you’ll see cornsticks or more traditional cornbread. The hoecakes were savory and not overly sweet  but I would definitely get them again – I know Speedy gets them most times he visits. Oh, and they have Cheerwine and Sun Drop in glass bottles! So awesome.

With Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Downtown Nashville, all of the meats are consistently above average, the sides were great, and the space was awesome. One more thought on the space – after we finished our meal, our group stuck around for another hour or so, grabbing another pitcher while playing darts. I would have gladly stuck around for several more hours, but alas we were headed to Third Man Records before throwing axes in East Nashville (side note – Speedy showed the guys a great time that weekend in Nashville). I can see why Martin’s is Speedy’s favorite joint in the city and I would gladly go back for another meal at this or any of the other locations.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Chicken – 3.5 hogs
Wings – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Linkdown: 3/14/18

– Just a few more items from the #BrooklynBBQ controversy last week

– A Brooklyn paper defends Brooklyn barbecue; so does The Houston Chronicle

– Attention Nashville:

– Ribs from Big Bob Gibson was a favorite dish at SoBe Wine and Food Festival in Miami earlier this month

– Evolution of a Filipino Barbecue Cookbook

– [thinking emoji]

– Damn, the food in the Bomb-Ass Biscuit Pop-Up at B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque does indeed look bomb-ass

They opened B’s doors at 9 a.m. on those days (the Riverside restaurant usually doesn’t open until 11 a.m.), slinging Council’s biscuits stuffed with country ham and apple butter or Furman’s fried chicken or sausage gravy. “If you come to a barbecue joint looking for a healthy breakfast, you’re in the wrong place,” Furman says. “We do not do gluten-free here!”

At some point, they added brisket hash to the menu. Then, they started selling beignets. And almost every morning, they sold out.

– WSOC-TV, the local ABC affiliate in Charlotte, has an odd “Best and Cheapest Barbecue in Charlotte” list that almost seems to start like an alphabetical list before stopping after 5

– Congrats to Our State Magazine, writer of some of my favorite barbecue articles

Guest Photo Gallery: Papa Turney’s Old Fashion BBQ – Hermitage, TN

Mrs. Monk recently took a weekend trip away to Nashville with some friends and while she was able to escape me for the weekend, she wasn’t so fortunate when it came to barbecue. Mind you, this wasn’t intentional and the only reason she ended up here was because her and her friends happened upon Papa Turney’s Old Fashion BBQ after making a wrong turn on the way to a ropes course outside of Nashville.

While she didn’t offer a full review, here were her ratings:

Atmosphere/ambiance – 2 hogs (they told us to sit but its really counter service)
Pork – 3 hogs
Chopped Brisket – 3 hogs
Sausage – 1 hog (really just a fat hot dog)
Sides – 3 hogs (they were out of collards and the mac and cheese portion was tiny)
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Linkdown: 10/11/17

More on fair food at the NC State Fair (which starts tomorrow) and whoops:

Only one of the dishes I tried was outright bad, and that was the barbecue-and-coleslaw waffle sandwich. It was somehow extraordinarily greasy, even by fair food standards, and the barbecue mostly just tasted like smoke.

– The Polar Pig Cook-Off, formerly held in Mount Pleasant (NC), will be held at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center on November 10 and 11; the event will feature vendor tents, a Kids Zone, a beer garden, live music, and the barbecue competition (including a people’s choice award)

– People Food and Zagat have named Skylight Inn the most popular restaurant in NC

– Filing away for future potential use:

– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ explores west Tennessee whole hog and discovers Ramey’s Whole Hog Bar-B-Q in Parsons, about 90 minutes outside of Nashville

– 45 years ago Monday:

Linkdown: 8/16/17

– Way to go, Ace Biscuit & Barbecue: owner Brian Ashworth kicks Nazis out of his restaurant in Charlottesville

Jamie Foxx made a stop at Stamey’s last week while in town for a Global Entrepreneurs convention at the Greensboro Coliseum across the street

– Carrboro’s got a new upscale yuppie-que joint called CrossTies Barbecue, which is housed in a vintage refurbished railroad car

– As we North Carolinians have known for centuries, barbecue needs acid not sugar

– Tasting Table: American Barbecue Is the Next Big International Food Trend

– Aaron Franklin has no plans to ever open a second location; there just aren’t enough cows

It takes 53 cows per day to keep up with current operations, and these are a special kind of cow. “I even struggle now to get enough [brisket],” he adds. The market is so small that when fast-food chain Arby’s hopped on the brisket trend, it drove up the cost of brisket for Franklin by $2. “We don’t use commodity brisket at all,” he explains. “But once the commodity supply runs out, then people start trying to upgrade, and that’s where we got into trouble.”

– Eater Nashville has a preview of Pat Martin’s new fast food burger and barbecue restaurant, Hugh Baby’s BBQ and Burger Shop opening in late August

– Marie takes over for Grant on their visit to some old favorite joints in Athens, GA

– The “metro Greenville, NC” area (LOL) get’s a shoutout in SI’s Andy Staples and his “America’s Best College Town Meals” column; there are also a few other barbecue spots highlighted for other college towns

If you want to really do it right, spoon some of that pork between two pieces of cornbread. The bread lives somewhere between loaf and cake, and a bite that mixes that bread, that pork and those delectable cracklins is about as close to heaven as we can get here on Earth.

Friday Find: Whole Hog BBQ is Alive and Well in Nashville Thanks To Pat Martin’s Bar-B-Que

Eater’s How We Eat video series takes a trip to Nashville to talk with Pat Martin of Martin’s Bar-B-Que.

In West Tennessee, whole hog barbecue is a dying art, but pitmaster Pat Martin is working to change the story. How We Eat visits Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Nashville this week to learn about the smokey tradition, how it differs from other barbecue methods around the country, and what Martin and his team are doing to preserve the practice.

 

Linkdown: 1/25/17

– BBQ Hub has a peek inside the pit room at Swig & Swine, the new whole hog joint in Summerville, SC

– Speaking of whole hog, looks like Kentucky is getting more whole hog in the form of a monthly event from Red Barn Kitchen BBQ in the Louisville suburb of Lydon

– Want:

– Marie, Let’s Eat! stops in B & C Melrose BBQ in Nashville

– Charleston’s getting more barbecue: Wild Hare Barbecue opens in February in the West Ashley neighborhood and will be smoking with an onsite stick burner

– Would love to make the trip to Garland

Linkdown: 1/18/17

– Backyard BBQ Pit is listed on Eater’s 10 Indispensable Durham Restaurants

– Also from Eater Charleston, Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ makes the winter edition of the Essential 38

– Gotta say, I know pretty much nothing about East Texas-style barbecue which is primarily “ribs and links” joints

– Which is not actually too dissimilar from Chicago-style, whose “holy trinity’ is ribs, rib tips, and hot links

– Marie, Let’s Eat! tries Lil’ Choo Choo BBQ in the Tennessee capital

– Clark’s Barbecue is reviewed by the Greensboro News & Record’s Go Triad blog (our review here)

– Charlotte-based food truck OooWee BBQ will be opening a brick and mortar location in downtown Pineville

– Want to turn barbecue into a breakfast item? Put an egg on it, according to BBQ Hub.

– The barbecue’s not great (our review here), but that shrimp burger is legit

Linkdown: 11/30/16

– A few more stops in the Carolina’s for Grant: Stephenson’s Bar-B-Q in Willow Spring, Skylight Inn in Ayden, and Sweatman’s Bar-B-Que down in Holly Hill, SC

– Robert Moss has an introduction to Georgia BBQ to kickoff Georgia BBQ Week, which Grant will surely love

– Coming to West Nashville soon from Pitmaster Pat Martin

– Daniel Vaughn of TMBBQ muses on a couple of easy rules for barbecue line etiquette

– From last month, Destination BBQ has an interview with Daniel Doyle of Poogan’s Smokehouse in Charleston

– The highly-anticipated Scott’s BBQ has broken ground at its Charleston location

– John Shelton Reed has a pretty out there barbecue theory on why Donald Trump carried the state of NC and I’ll just let him have at it

The latest, he told me the other day, was Hillary Clinton’s choice of a barbecue stop in Charlotte at the end of the presidential campaign. She and President Obama ate at the Midwood Smokehouse. It has a varied and upscale menu, but it is not a traditional barbecue eatery. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was buying one of those $3.50 barbecue sandwiches at Stamey’s in Greensboro.

“Maybe Clinton’s choice sold in Charlotte,” Reed said, “but the rest of the state was thinking Drumpf was eating at a real North Carolina barbecue stop, a big reason he won and she lost.

 

Linkdown: 11/25/15

– CNN calls the combination of barbecue and  football a “rapturous experience” and calls out places in some rivalry games this coming weekend including Allen & Son, Stamey’s, and Raleigh’s The Pit

– “Dipped” chicken is available at some some barbecue restaurants in NC including Bar-B-Q King in Charlotte and Lancaster’s BBQ in Mooresville and Huntersville

– Missed this a few weeks back but Southern Foodways weighed in on Calvin Trillin’s New Yorker article on NC barbecue

– We’ll lay off him since the Panthers are 10-0 and he only joined the team in week 4, but Jared Allen favors KC barbecue over NC

CM: You played in Kansas City for a while. Let’s talk barbecue.
JA: I know Charlotte’s probably going to hate me for this, hands down I think Kansas City has the best barbecue in the world. They have a variety. You can go to Arthur Bryant’s up there and get kind of the Carolina style, the more vinegar-y, and I’m not huge on the vinegar. Although it is nice because it’s not as smoky, but for some reason when I think I’m going to get barbecue, I plan on being really miserably full at the end of it. You know? [Editor’s note: The Panthers are 9-0. Nobody here can hate you. Unless you talk smack about Price’s.]

The good part out here is that I’m not miserably full. It’s not that heavy; it’s a lighter barbecue. But yeah, barbecue is great.

– In “so what” news, eastern NC barbecue is ruled healthier than its Lexington counterpart

– Making the South Carolina specialty