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: 5/2/18

– Filipino food + whole hog barbecue = Awesomeness in June

– The barbecue sundae at OooWee BBQ in Pineville is worth a shot if you are in the area

– The Cheat Sheet’s top ten favorite barbecue styles certainly is a list

– Sad news out of Texas

– Home Team BBQ and Lewis Barbecue make this list of places to eat in the NoMo neighborhood of Charleston

– Haddock’s Barbecue is the latest featured barbecue joint in WNCT’s People and Places, but it only actually serves barbecue on Saturdays

– From the San Diego Union Tribune, the best barbecue chains in the US

– Barbecue: The food that has conquered, ruled and divided the South for decades

– The documentary film Barbecue won a James Beard Award last week

Barbecue Bros Film Club: Ugly Delicious – “BBQ” (S1E5)

Ugly Delicious is a new Netflix series brought to us by Chef David Chang of Momofuku and food writer Peter Meehan. Like many shows of this ilk, each episode explores a different food or concept – from tacos to fried chicken to pizza and more. Though technically titled “BBQ”, this episode does explore the food-over-flame customs of other cultures – Korean BBQ in Los Angeles, greens over flame in Noma in Copenhagen (huh?), Peking Duck in Beijing, and yakitori chicken from Tokyo. Those are nice and all (and well worth watching the entire episode) but I’ll focus on the barbecue I’m used to in this write-up.

The episode kicks off with Adam Perry Lang prepping and starting a beef rib smoke at 4am in the morning in Los Angeles. 10 hours later, he pulls the beef rib out of the smoker and serves it up to David, Peter, and novelist Amelia Gray. The conversation over the meat that ensues discusses traditional vs. new and whether barbecue is uniquely American, setting the table for later segments in the episode.

Choice quote from Adam Perry Lang:

“I think the traditional barbecue is freaking unbelievable and I don’t want to change that…but I really look at it as live fire cooking. Beef and pork with fire creates a super flavor.”

The episode then moves to the Whole Hog Extravaganza, a pitmaster convention at the famed 17th Street Barbecue in Murphysboro, IL with some serious talent in attendance from Asheville (Buxton Hall Barbecue), Nashville (Martin’s Bar-B-Q Joint, Peg Leg Porker), and Austin (Micklethwait Craft Meats).

At 8:50, they go back to the discussion in Los Angeles on the regionalization of barbecue but I honestly don’t understand the point that David Chang is making here:

“That’s what bothers me is that it became regional because someone decided to take a chance to do something a little bit different. And I hate when things become an institution”.

Huh? Is he saying that he wishes barbecue was somehow more homogeneous throughout the South? How does “things becoming an institution” fit into that at all? And what’s wrong with something becoming an institution? This is not a coherent argument to me.

The episode then takes a detour to Koreatown and Copenhagen from 9:55 until 16:21 before returning back to the Whole Hog Extravaganza in Murphysboro.

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You may recall that Carey Bringle railed against the True ‘Cue pledge in 2015, rejecting their claim that true barbecue is only smoked over wood only because he himself uses both wood-assisted gas smoker as well as wood-fired pits in his restaurants. Well, it seems as if he is still at it in 2017:

People get caught up in pits and people get caught up in fuels. And they get really passionate about it. I’m passionate about telling people: “Don’t tell me how to cook my shit.” It’s about what ends up on your plate.

Next, we get an extended scene of Elliot Moss breaking down a pig and explaining his story behind Buxton Hall and why he does what he does (“it’s always been in my heart”). He mentions that being in Asheville means people care about where their food comes from so he uses pasture-raised hogs which are quite expensive. Which for Moss, just means that he uses every part of the animal.

For the amount of labor and love and how many people’s hands touch it, it should be one of the most expensive things you can buy for food.

Continue reading

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: 8/30/17

– Thinking of Houston in the wake of Harvey

– In drier times (hopefully coming soon), could whole hog barbecue succeed in Houston?

– Glad to hear that the smokers at Franklin Barbecue made it through the smokehouse fire

– Art’s Barbecue and Deli and Bar-B-Q King make Charlotte Five’s list of 10 classic Charlotte restaurants you must try

– A barbecue-focused episode of House of Carbs this week talks Texas barbecue and Charleston as a barbecue capital

– Buxton Hall evening pitmaster David Phelps gets a mention in this article on third shift workers in Asheville

After coming in around 10 p.m., he spends the first two hours prepping the next day’s sauces and green beans. As he chops and mixes, Phelps is also building the fire up to the required temperature (225 degrees), in order to cook the two pigs nightly. By sunrise, he generally has around 350 to 400 pounds of pulled pork ready for the day crew.

– Buxton Hall’s also got great fried chicken too

– LOL

 

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue – Charlotte, NC (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Bill Spoon’s Barbecue
Date: 7/14/17
Address: 5524 South Boulevard  Charlotte, NC 28217
Order: Large chopped pork plate with slaw, baked beans, hush puppies, and sweet tea (link to menu)
Price: $13

Monk: As I was compiling the latest Charlotte Big Board update in March, I noticed a disturbing lack of NC-centric barbecue joints on the list. Four of the top 5 are Texas-style joints (Jon G’s Barbecue, Midwood Smokehouse and Smokeshack, and The Smoke Pit), and Boone’s doesn’t adhere to either eastern or Lexington-style tradition. Clearly, it was time to revisit some NC joints around town.

First on my list (once I got around to it a few months later) was Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, a whole hog eastern NC joint that is not all that inconvenient for me but which I tend to overlook. The last time we checked in was in 2015 and Speedy focused on the ribs which were a new menu item at the time. I considered the ribs but between the fact that the two-meat combo is a bit pricey and that Speedy wasn’t blown away by them last time, I steered clear and stuck with the large pork combo.

Looking back at old reviews, I think we underrated the pork at Spoon’s just a little bit. The chopped pork was tangy, flavorful, and moist. As I recalled, it was good on its own but was enhanced nicely by the table vinegar sauce. I gotta say, it was a nice change of pace to only get pork for once instead of getting all of the meats and having tons of leftovers.

The hush puppy basket was late in arriving, coming after our plates had come. But that likely saved me from overeating on the delicious, slightly-sweet cornmeal pups. I have come to appreciate the mustard-based slaw, even if it will never be my favorite style. And the beans were fine.

Me and the Monkettes got some naner pudding to go and if I’m being truthful, it was half the reason why I wanted to revisit Spoon’s. Just ridiculously good.

I left the meal full and satisfied, with a thought in my head. Bill Spoon’s Barbecue has been around for 54 years and will (hopefully) be there for many more, but on a Friday night the dining room hovered between 25-50% occupied. If I have anything to do with it, we need to make Bill Spoon’s more of a thing.

For more reviews, check out:
Marie, Let’s Eat! (2009)
Marie, Let’s Eat! (2016)
Big Wayner’s BBQ (2011)
Our original review in 2012
Speedy’s review in 2015

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

Bill Spoon's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque – Atlanta, GA (Monk’s take)

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Name: B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
Date: 3/31/17
Address: 2061 Main St NW, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: Two meat plate (brisket and pulled pork) with hash and rice, collard greens, and cracklin’ cornbread (link to menu)
Price: $18

Monk: In the past few months, Speedy has checked out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Atlanta twice and rubbed it in my face each time. Finally, I got sick enough of it and packed the Monk family in the car and made the 4 hour trip down to Atlanta just to shut Speedy up. Actually…the Monk clan just happened to be spending a long weekend in Atlanta so I arranged a lunch stop but that’s neither here nor there. And to be fair he wasn’t really rubbing it in my face per se, but it was at least a light brag that got under my skin.

Speedy: No. It was a face rub. Cause this place is awesome.

Monk: Guess my first instincts were right then….

Sitting 15 minutes west of downtown Atlanta in the Riverside neighborhood, B’s sits in an old house that used to be another barbecue joint named Hottie Hawg’s. Neither Speedy nor I have checked that place out but at B’s, you order at the bar and they bring it out to you. Speaking of bar, they do have a couple of solid beers on tap including local favorite Creature Comforts Tropicalia IPA, in which both Mrs. Monk and I both indulged. There is a decent sized patio and we tried to sit out on it but found that it was just a little too chilly in the shade on this particular late March day.

The whole hog pork at B’s is smoked from heritage hogs and was definitely the star of the show. It was served in coarsely pulled strands reminiscent of Scott’s Bar-B-Cue and was just downright excellent. Unlike Speedy’s visit, mine wasn’t on the dry side and each strand had a nice silky texture. I tried both the spicy vinegar and peach mustard sauces and while neither was essential, both complemented the pork well. Speaking of the pork, on our way out to the car, I even caught a worker carting a half of one of those heritage hogs from their annex to the main building, so I took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Speedy: I’m surprised you don’t have more to say about the peach mustard sauce. I thought it was excellent and unlike anything I’ve had before. I’m generally against mustard sauce on pork (it belongs on sausage), but this stuff is legit.

Monk: I only used it sparingly but did think it was good. I guess I’m surprised at just how enthusiastic you are about it. 

While not quite on the level of the pork, the brisket had excellent bark and a nice tug to it. On this day, it was slightly on the dry side perhaps due to sitting under a warming lamp for too long. Still, these were darn good slices of brisket.

The side of hash and rice was excellent. If you recall, in Speedy’s review of B’s last December, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! went for a double side of hash and rice and after tasting, I completely understand why. This stuff was just plain great and certainly in the upper rankings of barbecue hash I’ve tried in my life. The collards were good but had a different taste than your usual vinegary greens due to the addition of a heavy dose of minced garlic. Pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d go for them again here.

Being that it’s the only bonafide whole hog joint in town and that they also smoke a mean brisket, if you are in Atlanta I urge you to make the trip to the westside and check out B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque. You won’t be disappointed.

For more reviews of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque, check out:
Speedy’s take
Marie, Let’s Eat

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs
B's Cracklin Barbecue  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
B's Cracklin Barbeque