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.

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

Linkdown: 11/11/20


Even in the midst of a pandemic and all that 2020 had to offer, Tim Carman of the Washington Post went ahead with his annual “best barbecue joints in DC” list, with the main change being that he got takeout from every joint he tried. And he found that, even while getting more and more expensive, the state of barbecue in DC is strong and only improving. To wit, three of the joints in his top ten were brand new to the list.

Cheers to Tim Carman for pushing ahead!

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Shotgun Willie’s – Nashville, TN

Name: Shotgun Willie’s
Date: 10/14/20
Address: 4000 Gallatin Pike Suite B, Nashville, TN 37216
Order: Half rack of ribs, ¼ lb brisket, ¼ lb pulled pork and a Big Red (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Speedy: Shotgun Willie’s is a Texas style barbecue joint that opened up early during the quarantine. I had been hearing really good things about it, so was pumped to finally get a chance to sample the goods. 

I walked in early during lunch on a Wednesday (Shotgun Willie’s is only open Wed-Sun, 11-3) and was greeted by a Texas style meat-counter, which included a meat warmer, meat scale, and kept-warm sides. There were no tables inside however there were a few picnic tables outside; I’m not sure if that’s the long term plan or specific to Covid. 

I walked up to the slicer and placed my order – trying to sample as much meat as possible. The staff at Shotgun Willie’s couldn’t have been nicer (I think it was owner Bill slicing for me). Other than a lack of trays and butcher paper, it definitely felt like a Texas joint. 

Being a Texas joint, of course I started with the brisket. My quarter pound included three small slices of fatty brisket (I wasn’t asked), which had a nice bark and visible pepper seasoning. I’m on record as generally either loving or hating brisket, with rarely in-between, but this brisket defied that a little bit. The brisket was well cooked and moist, but the seasoning was not quite on point for me. Overall, it was good but not in the same league of some of the best. Still, I would order it again, though I would ask for a leaner cut next time.

Monk: I can’t believe we’ve found a “meh” brisket for Speedy! I’m also a bit surprised that they didn’t ask you for a preference of fatty, lean, or both based on your description of the place as a Texas joint. At least you know for next time.

Speedy: The pulled pork was also cooked well and moist with a nice bark. After pulling, a little finishing powder was sprinkled on, which enhanced the flavor. However, I have noticed one thing with Texas style pulled pork. Generally, the pork is pulled right in front of you. While that ensures freshness, I think it also increases the amount of grease in the pulled pork. Pulling (or preferably, chopping) the pork in advance of the order allows some of the grease to drain out. I also have a theory that cooking pork on the Texas style offset smokers does not render all the fat out quite as well. So while this pork had really good flavor, it was a little greasier than I would like. 

Monk: Hmm, I think that could make sense. Chopping ahead of time certainly allows juices/grease to flow out onto the board. If you are pulling or chopping fresh, those juices have simply been circulating within the cut of meat.

As far as the offset smokers, I’m not sure but perhaps you are onto something. Classic NC joints smoke the pork over direct heat (albeit a few feet above the coals) so the fat renders out and then drizzles onto the coals and enhances the flavor. The indirect heat from the offset may not allow for this. And while not an offset, I’ve noticed that the pork from certain joints with rotisserie wood smokers can be greasy sometimes, particularly in takeout. Again, not direct heat, but perhaps a similar principle applies. Maybe a reader more versed in thermodynamics can correct us here.

Speedy: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the ribs were cooked nearly perfectly and had good smoke, but to me, needed some additional seasoning beyond salt and pepper. Still, they were above average and enjoyable.

Monk: But what about the Big Red, Speedy!?!?!

Rudy: …Big Red is THE WORST!!!!

Monk: Remind me, was this your first? And, much like Rudy, did it make you wish you were drinking a Cheerwine instead?

Speedy: Calm down, Monk. This is a barbecue blog, not an obscure soft drink blog. 

Overall, Shotgun Willie’s is a good addition to the Nashville barbecue scene. It’s definitely got a different look and feel, and shows off Texas style barbecue nicely. It is not an elite Texas style joint, but it’s very solid, and I’ll definitely be back.

Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

The Gambling Stick – Nashville, TN (food truck)

Name: The Gambling Stick
Address: 501 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Order: Beef brisket, pulled pork, “pigsket”, beef back ribs + vegetable slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Speedy: A place I’ve wanted to visit for a while but just hadn’t gotten around to is The Gambling Stick, a permanent food truck in East Nashville. It’s conveniently located next to the Porter Road Butcher Shop, where they get all of their meat. There are a couple of picnic tables outside The Gambling Stick if you want to eat there, but it’s basically a food truck in a parking lot so I got my order to go. I made sure to try most of the meats available (skipping the hot link), as I’d read good things across the board. The meal was nicely packed, so I dove in as soon as I got home, hoping to continue my streak of good ‘cue lately. 

Monk: It looks like Porter Road Butcher Shop specializes in “local, pasture-raised, and antibiotic free with no added hormones” that is regularly visited by the butcher so kudos to them on getting their meat from an ethically responsible shop.  

I must say, I’m actually surprised you skipped the hot link, being the spice fiend that you are. Did it have dairy in it?

Speedy: I didn’t ask. Sometimes you just have to make tough decisions, Monk, and I felt four meats was enough for me that day.

Monk: I would say what’s one more meat but glass houses and all…

Speedy: I’ll start with the good: both pork products were good to very good. The pulled pork had a nice smoke flavor, but was just slightly dry. I was provided with some vinegar based sauce (available in regular and spicy); however, I didn’t find the sauce too appealing. It was thicker than I like in a vinegar based sauce and may have had some mustard in it. Overall, I didn’t think it worked.

Fortunately, the “pigsket” which I was told was “pork brisket,” did not need any sauce. It was moist and very well seasoned and just hit the spot. I’m not sure exactly what cut of meat this was – perhaps a tenderloin – but it was by far my favorite part of the meal. In fact, if I go back to The Gambling Stick, this will be the reason. 

Monk: This cut of meat really piqued my interest so I did a little digging. Based on the name I half expected it to be some sort of turducken-like frankenstein of pork tenderloin stuffed inside a pork shoulder stuffed inside a brisket but after some half-assed internet research, it appears to be cut from around the breastbone of the pig. It sounds incredible, though.

Speedy: The beef products were both disappointing. The brisket was quite dry and needed more seasoning (both salt and pepper). The need for seasoning also translated to the beef rib. You don’t see beef back ribs often, and I think there’s a reason for that. It’s a tough cut of meat to get tender, and unfortunately these beef ribs failed to hit the mark in taste and tenderness.

Monk: I must say, I’m happy to see you digging into the Nashville barbecue scene. Perhaps a Nashville Top Joints post is in the works? 

Speedy: Monk – spoiler alert!

Monk: …my bad…

Speedy: Overall, I was a little disappointed in The Gambling Stick, as I had read really positive things. Overall, I think the pork products were good, but the beef missed the mark. The “pigsket” alone makes it worth a visit, but I don’t see myself becoming a regular. 

Atmosphere – Not Rated
Pulled Pork – 3 hogs
“Pigsket” – 4 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Beef Back Ribs – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

The Gambling Stick Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato