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Last week, an article that former Charlotte Observer food writer Kathleen Purvis did for Charlotte Magazine appeared online. It digs into Chef Jim Noble and his complicated stature in Charlotte’s restaurant landscape. On one hand, he is a well-respected and successful chef and restaurateur whose philanthropic pursuits include his King’s Kitchen restaurant that employs people who are under normal circumstances considered unemployable due to poverty, homelessness, or addiction. He is also a reverend who leads bible study at that same restaurant. On the other hand, he has a religiously conservative view on gay rights and was one of only two restaurateurs who officially supported House Bill 2 (or HB2) passed by the NC Legislature in 2015 that required transgender people to use the bathroom that conformed with the gender on their birth certificates, essentially wiping out a nondiscrimination ordinance enacted shortly before by the Charlotte City Council.

From there, Purvis zooms out to explore some of the history of discrimination in the south in both the past and the present. I won’t recap it here, but it’s definitely worth a read.

It should be noted that while Noble declined to be interviewed for Purvis’s story there is no record of Noble’s restaurants discriminating against anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. But that doesn’t mean that potential patrons of his restaurants (which, in addition to Noble Smoke includes two Rooster’s Kitchen locations and Bossy Beulah’s) won’t take his views into account in deciding whether or not to spend money there, regardless of whether they are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not.

I haven’t made a decision either way, but it certainly has been and will continue to be on my mind going forward.

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ICYMI, our Nashville Top 5 Posted on Monday

HOG POT

The Five Best Barbecue Joints in Nashville – December 2020

Speedy: When you think barbecue in Tennessee, your mind naturally goes to Memphis. While that city has a much richer barbecue history, Nashville is no slouch. After living in Music City for 3 years, I felt like it was time to put together the Nashville top 5. So, without further adieu, here are my top 5 favorite ‘cue joints to visit in Nashville:

5. Shotgun Willie’s (review)

New to the Nashville scene, Shotgun Willie’s is a Texas style joint that does everything well, but didn’t blow me away with anything in particular. Still, a very solid meal in a place where good brisket is hard to come by.  4000 Gallatin Pike Suite B, Nashville, TN 37216 sgwbbq.com

4. Peg Leg Porker (review)

One of the more well known Nashville spots, owner Carey Bringle is known on both the competition and television circuit. For my money, these are the best ribs in town. 903 Gleaves St, Nashville, TN 37203 peglegporker.com

3. Jack’s Bar-B-Que (review)

The true Nashville OG, no get no frills when you visit Jack’s, but you do get a damn good barbecue meal. This North Carolina boy considers this to be the best pork in town. Multiple locations jacksbarbque.com

2. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (review)

A year ago, I would’ve pegged Martin’s number one for sure, but as they’ve expanded, I’ve noted some inconsistency. Still, all the meats are good to great, the sides are top notch, and the atmosphere (especially at the downtown location) can’t be beat. A must visit in Nashville. Multiple locations martinsbbqjoint.com

1. The Oak Texas BBQ (review)

I had my first experience with The Oak earlier this year, and have made a point to find their tasty food truck two more times. Each meat I’ve had has been extremely good, including the best brisket I’ve had in Tennessee. Trust me when I say this is one food truck that’s worth seeking out. Food truck facebook.com/theoaktxbbq

Honeyfire BBQ – Nashville, TN

Name: Honeyfire BBQ
Date: 11/13/20
Address: 8127 Sawyer Brown Rd #304, Nashville, TN 37221
Order: Three meat combo – brisket, pork, ribs, baked apples, fries (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: I recently heard about Honeyfire BBQ when talking to a friend about restaurants with good whiskey selections. Honeyfire sits in the Bellevue neighborhood, which is in the western part of the city. I don’t frequent this part of town too often, but I found myself with a leisurely Friday afternoon and decided to bring back one of my favorite work traditions – long lunch Friday.

Honeyfire sits in a pretty sizable shopping center, which is a bit of a red flag for me from a barbecue perspective (where do they do the smoking???), but seeing a sizable woodpile walking in made me feel better.

Monk: But is the wood pile for show or for realsies? If its all the way in the front of the restaurant then surely its not the wood they are using for smoking. My guess is they are probably using a Southern Pride (or similar gasser) and throwing in a stick or two occasionally from a similar wood stack in the back to get a little wood smoke on the meats.

Speedy: The restaurant is sleek and clean, so I walked up to the counter and placed my order. I was asked wet or dry ribs (dry, duh) and fatty, lean, or mixed brisket (mix), which I also consider to be a good sign. 

The food was brought out quickly and it was time to dig in. I’ll start with the ribs. The three bones that came were St. Louis style cut, dry with visible rub sprinkled on. They were meaty and cooked well (maybe slightly overdone), but the rub was a little challenging to me. This will be a theme of the review, but the rub was just very sweet. It seemed to be brown sugar based and mixed decently with the flavor of the ribs, but the sweetness was just too much to handle. The pulled pork was a similar story, as it was finished with a dusting of the same rub. The pork was tender, had some good bark mixed in, but was just too sweet for my liking. There was a sauce provided on the side, so I thought maybe some good vinegar sauce would offset the sweetness. Well one taste and I learned this was no vinegar sauce – it was actually a honey barbecue sauce. So what started as a little too sweet became way too sweet. 

Monk: Wonder if the folks behind Honeyfire have a competition background, where the winning flavor profile tends to be on the sweeter side. Sounds like they could stand to add a vinegar sauce alternative.

Speedy: The brisket was a different story. Rubbed with just salt and peppery, there was (thankfully) no sweetness. The bark on the brisket was tasty and the overall flavor was good. The brisket, like the ribs, was slightly overcooked, so just a touch dry, but overall, it was a pretty nice effort.

As far as sides go, mine were fine. However, one reason I like to get baked apples with barbecue meals is to have a little sweetness to go along with savory meat. In this instance, the meat gave me all the sweetness I could handle, so the apples remained unfinished.

Overall, Honeyfire BBQ is a tough one to rate. I think they actually do a pretty good job hitting the flavor profile that they want to – it’s just not the right profile for me. However, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs (.5 point deduction for the sauce)
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Jack’s Bar-B-Que – Nashville, TN

Name: Jack’s Bar-B-Que
Date: 11/11/20
Address: 1601 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN
Order: Three meat combo – brisket, pork, sausage, collards, baked apples, cornbread (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Speedy: One place in Nashville that does not get nearly enough love (including from yours truly) is Jack’s Bar-B-Que, a true OG of the Nashville ‘cue scene. Jack Cawthon opened his first restaurant on lower Broadway in 1989, and now has three locations including a different spot on Broadway, in the North Gulch on Charlotte Ave (where I visited this day), and in North Nashville. I have visited the Broadway location several times, but usually weekdays during lunch (back when people went to offices), or weekends while honky tonkin’ (back when people went to bars). I always told myself I’d write a review when I had time to visit and order more of the meats, and that time finally came.

Monk: I remember offices and bars…

Speedy: The Charlotte Ave location is much more spacious than on Broadway (I haven’t been to the North Nashville location), but in both places, you walk up to a cafeteria style line to order. Like a good Texas joint, the brisket and sausage is sliced right in front of you, but the pork has been pre-chopped. The sides, likewise, are in warming bins. The order of a three meat combo was an obvious one, though I was sad to leave out the ribs. Alas, next time.

Before diving into how everything tasted, let’s talk about value. The three meat combo is $17, which includes generous portions of each meat, two sides, and cornbread. If that was weighed out and served by the pound, you’d be paying close to twice that. Their by the pound prices are several dollars lower at each meat, including only $16.25 for a pound of brisket.

Great, so the barbecue is priced like it’s 2013, but how does it taste? Damn good. The brisket has a nice pepper flavor, and plenty of bark. It’s moist and tender and tastes great. It doesn’t quite melt in your mouth like the top-tier Texas brisket, but overall, it’s very good.

The pork at Jack’s is Tennessee pork shoulder. This may not be a popular opinion, but I prefer the shoulder to whole hog. The reason? The outside brown. The shoulder from Jack’s has plenty of outside brown chopped in. I didn’t taste any dip chopped in, but it was not dry at all. They call it Tennessee pork, but this is the closest I’ve come to finding Lexington-style pork shoulder (which we all know is the best) in Tennessee. Truly outstanding.

Monk: Now this Tennessee pork shoulder is intriguing, and something I gotta try the next time I’m in Nashville.

Speedy: The sausage was the one meat that was a slight disappointment to me. While smoked well, the flavor was a little plain. Next time, I’ll skip the sausage.

I don’t talk about sides much in my review, but I enjoyed the apples and the collards and absolutely loved the cornbread. Just a nice stamp on a great meal.

All the times I’ve been to Jack’s Bar-B-Que, it’s consistently been quite good. While not the sexiest place in Nashville (and certainly not the newest), it remains one of the best.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 2.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Jacks Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato