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

Friday Find: How to Butcher a Whole Pig

An extremely thorough and efficient breaking down of a whole pig into cuts found in butcher shops as well as some that aren’t.

Butcher and author Bryan Mayer shows Bon Appetit how to butcher an entire pig at Wyebrook Farm and explains every cut of pork. There are five sections of the pig that yield edible cuts: pork shoulder, pork belly, pork loin, pork butt (or ham), and the head. From those sections, the butcher can offer sausage, bacon, spare ribs, brisket, ribs, steaks, pork chops, pork cutlets, coppa, presa, secreto, and tenderloin.

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

The 10 best NC barbecue joints in Western NC – Honorable Mentions

Monk: Last week I posted my list of the 10 best joints in western North Carolina. Here’s my list of honorable mentions.

Please note: For the purposes of this list, I’m defining “western NC” as west of, but not including, Raleigh. In essence, I am dividing the state geographically by the two styles of barbecue but not limiting this list to purely Lexington-style/Piedmont-style/western-style barbecue joints. Make sense?

Johnson Family Barbecue – Durham (review)

Outside of my usual digging for barbecue joints I had never heard of Johnson Family Barbecue, so it was a pleasant surprise that the barbecue was as good as it was. The makeshift smokehouse shed around back only adds to the charm of the joint, which is connected to a gas station on Wake Forest Highway between Durham and Raleigh/Wake Forest. 5021 Wake Forest Hwy, Durham, NC 27703 johnsonfamilybbq.com

Midwood Smokehouse – Charlotte (review)

As the story goes, if Frank Scibelli can’t get a certain food in Charlotte, he tends to open a restaurant to fill that gap. With Midwood Smokehouse, that gap was wood-smoked barbecue; primarily central Texas brisket and sausage but also but also pan-regional smoked meats such as eastern NC pulled-pork, burnt ends, and ribs. With the latest Park Road location in Charlotte, Midwood Smokehouse is now looking to fill in the gap for wood-smoked whole hog barbecue in Charlotte. various locations midwoodsmokehouse.com

Picnic – Durham (review)

As with Buxton Hall and Old Etowah Smokehouse, Picnic was part of a trend of new whole hog joints outside of eastern NC a few years back. While I found it to be a little on the pricey side, the whole hog was still quite good and worth a return visit whenever I get another chance. 1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705 picnicdurham.com

The Smoke Pit – Concord, Monroe, Salisbury (review)

What began as a combination butcher shop and barbecue joint has developed into a small chain with locations in Salisbury and as of earlier this year, Monroe. The Smoke Pit does serve pulled pork but is a good bet for the some of the best brisket from a restaurant in the Charlotte-area. various locations thesmokepitnc.com

Smokey Joe’s Barbecue – Lexington (review)

Speedy Lohr’s BBQ – Lexington (review)

Someday, I hope to be able to properly assess all of the 18 or so Lexington barbecue joints and create a comprehensive list. In the meantime, I will say that Smokey Joe’s Barbecue and Speedy Lohr’s BBQ are quite good and in my current top 5 for the small town of approximately 20,000. Smokey Joe’s Barbecue: 1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292 smokeyjoesbbqlexington.com; Speedy Lohr’s: 3664 NC-8, Lexington, NC 27292

Well, what do you think? What joints have I missed the mark on or left off on either this list or the 10 best list entirely? Let me know in the comments below.

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: 2/14/18

– The upcoming Randy’s Barbecue in Statesville will utilize a type of three-dimensional sign that was just approved by the city’s zoning ordinance in December

– The Michelin Guide to the 4 best barbecue restaurants in NYC includes Arrogant Swine’s eastern NC whole hog

– Tuffy Stone’s barbecue book gets a good review

– The more you know:

– A few photos from the late 50’s at the former Harrill’s Bar-B-Q in Charlotte

– A review of Prissy Polly’s in Kernersville

– Deets on a barbecue panel at SXSW 2018 in a few weeks

– The Whole Hog Barbecue Summit is Feb 24 in Kinston

– Can you find real barbecue in New Hampshire? Now that’s a question.

– Smaller menu, location in Plaza Midwood or Belmont or NoDa, and Cheerwine on the menu? WELL I’M INTERESTED:

Linkdown: 1/31/18

– An oldie but goodie from Our State

 

– Travel and Leisure stops in Charleston and checks out the barbecue scene while they are there

Southerners have long nurtured a debate over whether Carolina-style pork or Texas-style brisket is the true king. Charleston has decided you can have it both ways. On Upper King Street, one year ago, Rodney Scott opened Rodney Scott’s BBQ, a brick temple to the low, slow, whole-hog style that put South Carolina barbecue on the map. Less than half a mile away, at Lewis Barbecue, you can sit in a gravel courtyard under the shade of a live oak and enjoy some of the best brisket in the country, Texas-style.

– John Shelton Reed has a guest post at Barbecue Bible to remind folks about True ‘Cue

– Guy Fieri recently spent some time filming “Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives” in the Wilmington area and apparently learned some things while he was there:

When asked if he favored Eastern or Western North Carolina barbecue, Fieri said he pleaded the fifth.

– From last summer, Food and Wine on where to eat and drink in Charlotte includes Midwood Smokehouse

– Seoul Food Meat Co is one of the restaurants in Southend where you can eat lunch for less than $10

– Kathleen Purvis preaches on Charlotte barbecue