I'm making it my personal mission to single-handedly eat my way across the nation, one delicious animal at a time. Fire up the pit, here I come!!!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Music City BBQ Festival 2014 (Nashville, TN)

When I heard it was time for the annual Music City BBQ Festival, I couldn't resist checking it out. My wife graciously agreed to be my wingman for the festivities. We haven't had much time for outdoor activities lately, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity for some fun.

First, I'd like to note that this event was severely lacking in terms of communication and organization. Since I anticipated a large turnout, I wanted to get tickets a few weeks in advance. The official festival website provided a link where interested folks could procure tickets ahead of time. Problem is, the link took you to some info about the 2013 festival, with no place to buy tickets. I emailed the information address - no response. I sent a Facebook message to the official page - no response. I made two Facebook comments to their own posts - no response. Finally, I discovered a third-party website that had tickets available. Sheesh.

Tickets were only $10 per person for a two-day admission pass, which seemed reasonable enough. Since the majority of the festivities were slated for Saturday and I had no desire to fight end-of-week rush hour traffic, at the last minute I decided to forgo my Friday passes. Mrs. Barbecue Fiend was also pretty tired from working all day, so I thought I'd let her get some rest so we could go full force on Saturday. Besides, the two-day pass was only a dollar extra anyway.

This summer in Nashville has been amazingly mild, though the BBQ festival landed on what was probably the hottest day thus far. Apparently this weekend at the fairgrounds was also some sort of giant flea market and/or swap meet. We had to wade through a swamp of $2 socks, homemade honey, and used mannequins to find the right part of the grounds. Finally we found an oasis of tents and smokers.

From some initial research, it seems like there are only 3-4 commercial barbecue vendors from which to procure meat. Weird. Apparently there aren't many joints willing to pay for the health inspection necessary to be a festival vendor. I hoped maybe this year's festival would be different, but sadly not. This event is mostly just a barbecue cook-off and not really much of a festival. In fact, all of the regular brick-and-mortar Nashville barbecue joints I saw there were competing rather than selling. What a shame. At least some of the teams had hilarious names. Here are some of my favorites: Porkasaurus, The Ashholes, Master Basters, Smokin' Hot Butts, and Rub Down South. Brilliant, just brilliant.

Savage Catering
(931) 397-4411

Savage Catering was the first barbecue vendor we came across upon entering the festival. I scoured the Internet for almost an hour, but couldn't find any reference to this operation whatsoever. Perhaps they're new to the food game. The guys running this booth were incredibly friendly, so I was happy to give them a shot. Although it's not my normal barbecue order, I decided to try their BBQ Nachos, which are made with Boston Butt rather than basic pulled pork. My wife got an ear of grilled corn, as if that's what a normal person eats at a barbecue festival.

What I received was a massive pile of shredded pork butt atop normal nacho fixins. The meat was tender, though bordering on mushy. It likely had been steaming itself to death in a warming pan for quite some time. Needless to say, there was no smoky taste whatsoever. The sweet, vinegary sauce was decent enough, but tasted a little odd when coupled with the canned nacho cheese sauce. Looks like I should have opted for grilled corn, too.

Paradise Ridge BBQ
(615) 202-8636

Next up was Paradise Ridge, which is another Nashville-area catering operation. Apparently they also serve up 'que at the Green Door Gourmet CSA farm (community-supported agriculture) from time to time via a run-down food truck. Their signage referenced a reserve grand champion win from some barbecue cookoff in Shreveport, Louisiana, though I'm not sure how long ago that particular competition was. Just to be safe, I went with a small order of three pork ribs, no sides.

I understand that large-scale, off-site barbecue is much more difficult to perfect, but the mangled ribs I received looked completely unappetizing. They were drowning in sauce, though I've come to expect as much in this region. There was some evidence of a smoke ring, but absolutely no smoke that I could taste. The meat fell apart at the slightest touch, meaning they were completely overcooked. I was also pretty unimpressed with the sauce, which was more like sweet ketchup. These definitely were not award-winning ribs.

There was one other barbecue vendor that I didn't try, but after an hour and a half of sweltering heat, bad barbecue, and sheer boredom, my wife and I were both ready to leave. This was a really disappointing "festival". Honestly, the best-tasting thing I had came in the form of a 12-ounce can:


Music City BBQ Festival 2014
Tennessee State Fairgrounds
500 Wedgewood Ave
Nashville, TN 37203

Monday, August 11, 2014

Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que (Smithville, TX)

About two months ago I left my native Texas behind and moved to Tennessee. I've been having brisket withdrawals ever since. Even the brisket I do find is often trimmed of its delicious bark and fat, although I can't figure out why. When I had the opportunity to come home for a visit, the first item on my list was some old fashioned Czech-style 'que. Today was my grandmother's 90th birthday, which is an amazing accomplishment. She's still quite the spring chicken at her age and seemed rather pleased at the prospect of celebratory barbecue from Zimmerhanzel's in Smithville. Done and done.

Zimmerhanzel's has been serving up delicious meat since 1980 (with only a brief hiatus), but finally made the Texas Monthly Top 50 list in 2013. They also got honorable mention nods in 2003 and 2008. Personally, I think their spot on the actual list was way overdue.

I had called in my order three days early just to be safe. Since there were eighteen mouths to feed, we grabbed quite a bit of everything: five pounds of brisket, four pounds of sausage, three slabs of ribs, and, against my better judgment, three barbecue chickens (quartered). Hopefully twenty or so pounds of meat would be enough, but you can't be too careful. We also added on some potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and pinto beans for good measure.

Their parking lot was packed at 11:45 when I arrived, and there was a line 15 deep between me and the counter. Zimmerhanzel's is a pretty no-frills establishment, unless you count all the deer mounts that is. The older gentleman six spots ahead of me asked for ribs, but sadly was denied because of a "large order" they had to fill. I felt bad for him, though not bad enough to give up any of my ribs. Good thing I planned ahead. The folks here were nice enough to help carry everything out to my vehicle, which was much appreciated.

Even though we weren't officially eating barbecue until dinner, it all looked and smelled too good to resist an advance lunch-size "sample" for myself. Ok, so maybe it was a large sample. Don't judge.

The potato salad was creamy, though not whipped or mashed. It had a great crunch and a great taste. I'm not usually a fan of coleslaw, but this was pretty tasty. I liked the finely-shredded veggies, as well as the pleasant sweetness. The macaroni salad came in the form of unpretentious elbow mac and was also interestingly sweet. My two-year-old niece absolutely inhaled it (seriously, she almost choked), so clearly it was good. The pinto beans had a nice flavor, with just the right amount of salt. All in all, this fearsome foursome of side dishes was terrific.

Sides thoroughly sampled, it was time for the meat. I started with the brisket, which looked fantastic. Naturally I helped myself to the fattier slices. Each one had a quarter-inch smoke ring, as well as a great smoky taste. The fat was rendered beautifully and melted in my mouth. Each bite was very tender. I could have easily eaten another ten or twelve slices, but decided against it.

The individual links of sausage weighed in at about 1/6 of a pound each, give or take. Zimmerhanzel's homemade all-beef links had big chunks of black pepper scattered throughout, which I could definitely taste in each bite. I loved the coarse grind on the meat. It reminds me of home. The casings also had a great snap, further evidencing the perfect cooking time.

Barbecue chicken isn't generally my favorite. I thoroughly enjoy the skin (who doesn't?), but I find that the meat is often way too dry. This chicken, however, was really juicy. The dark meat was especially tender. The skin was delicious, as expected, and had soaked up plenty of smoke. I might have to rethink my aversion to barbecue chicken after this.

The thick, meaty spare ribs were coated with a nice salt and pepper rub, which made them look extra delicious. Sometimes the simplest seasoning blends turn out the best. The red smoky hue went almost all the way to the core. Each bite of tender rib meat came away cleanly and was packed with smoke. It was hard to stop eating once I had built up some inertia.

Everything we had from Zimmerhanzel's was absolutely amazing. As happy as I was with our meal, the birthday girl was even happier. I'm glad that I (and Zimmerhanzel's) could help give her the special day she deserved.


Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que
307 Royston St - Loop 230
Smithville, TX 78957
(512) 237-4244

Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Gambling Stick (Nashville, TN)

Lately I've been searching for a good butcher shop. Nothing fancy, just something better than the Kroger meat department. When I discovered that a small barbecue venture known as The Gambling Stick operates out of east Nashville's Porter Road Butcher on Saturdays, I had no choice but to check things out.

What exactly is a "gambling stick"? Well, according to their Facebook page: "The gambling stick is an old Appalachian name for a stick used to hang a pig from the limb of a tree or staked down sapling. The stick is threaded through the heels of the pig and supports its weight while being harvested. The gamble is whether or not the stick can support the weight of the pig, if not the whole contrivance could come crashing down on the butcher's head." While this certainly makes for a fun anecdote, I was more interested in their Dueling Brisket: beef brisket vs. pork brisket (pigsket). Pigsket generally isn't a commercially-available cut of meat, but one of the guys (possibly both of them) works at the shop, so he saves himself the pigsket out of each pig they butcher. I'm sure that means all of their other meats are prime cuts as well. Well played.

The Gambling Stick is a pretty simple operation: smoker, table, coolers. What more do you need? I'd love to see these guys get their own brick-and-mortar shop, but for now their beach canopy setup at Porter Road Butcher works just fine. It's a pretty symbiotic relationship anyway, so maybe that's better. The butcher shop has some picnic tables on their patio, which works great for lunch. The smell of delicious smoke was almost too much to handle. I had to get my hands (and lips) on some barbecue ASAP!

Each week The Gambling Stick has a slightly different menu. Today's special Barbecue Plate came with two meats, a summer vegetable salad, baked beans, cornbread, and sauce. Considering my third option was pulled pork, the choice of two meats was a no-brainer: brisket and pigsket.

Their summer salad had quite the assortment of julienned veggies: zucchini, squash, green beans, red onion, bell pepper, and probably some other stuff. I'm not a big vegetable person, but it was actually really nice. The light, crisp vegetables were a good pairing with the heavy meat. I also really enjoyed the baked beans, which had only a slight sweetness to them and were more savory than typical baked beans. There were big chunks of meat mixed right in, coupled with just a touch of heat. The cornbread came straight from a cast iron skillet. Mmmmmmm. Sweet, buttery, fantastic.

For a native Texan, brisket was a welcome sight in a land of pulled pork. I asked for mine extra fatty, just to be sure. The crust was black as night, with a deep red smoke ring beneath. It was extremely tender, and each bite was packed with smoke and their tasty rub. I can easily say that this was some of the best brisket I've had in Nashville so far.

Even though I knew this pigsket was likely coming from the lower portion of the pig's shoulder, I still wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Overall, it tasted similar to a pork loin, except way better and much more tender. No surprise, the pigsket had a great smoke level. The combination of crisp bark and well-rendered fat was awesome. This might be my new favorite cut of pork.

The meat was so good on its own that I completely forgot to try the sauce, which is exactly the way it should be. Despite the 25-minute drive, I will definitely be back. Since I was planning on firing up my charcoal pit this weekend anyway, I also snagged a few links of beef kielbasa and some massive quarter-pound shortrib hotdogs from the butcher shop. Score.

UPDATE (August 3, 2014): As happy as I was with The Gambling Stick's barbecue, I thought I'd also share the fruits of my own labor. The shortrib hotdogs and beef kielbasa I got from Porter Road Butcher were spectacular, as were the bone-in pork steaks I had acquired elsewhere.


The Gambling Stick
Porter Road Butcher - East
501 Gallatin Ave
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 650-4440

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rippy's (Nashville, TN)

Downtown Nashville is an awesome place for live music, but surprisingly there aren't just too many barbecue joints to pick from. Jack's has a prominent place on Broadway (Nashville's main drag), and although their 'que is delicious, the line usually stretches halfway to the Cumberland River. I found Rippy's across the street and hoped it would be good, too. As expensive as property must be in this area of town, I'm sure they have to sell tons of meat to stay in business. Fingers crossed.

Not to be outdone, Rippy's had live music going tonight. The old 90s country was actually really good. Nashville is the kind of city where it's not at all unusual to see folks two-stepping in the middle of a restaurant. Rippy's is big enough that there are actually multiple sections with separate live bands. The walls must be pretty well insulated, because I couldn't even hear the other band from my side of the restaurant.

I was dining alone and they seemed pretty busy, so I just grabbed a seat at the bar. It was right next to the open doors in front, which put me in a prime position to feel the amazing cool breeze blowing through. The bartender was friendly and really attentive. All in all, this place had a really pleasant atmosphere.

Although it's clearly the norm for this region, pulled pork isn't really my thing. I also had no interest in barbecue chicken. By process of elimination, that left me with pork loin or ribs. I rolled the dice and ordered a Half Portion Dinner (6 bones) of Rippy's Signature Ribs. The ribs come with two sides, so I picked potato salad and onion rings. The menu didn't specify whether the ribs were wet or dry, but I hoped for the latter.

The potato salad was nice and creamy. It had a great flavor, and I thoroughly enjoyed the crunch from the pickles, etc. I also liked that the mustard base wasn't overpowering. The onion rings looked fresh rather than frozen. They had a great batter and were fried nice and golden. This was an excellent pick for a side dish.

Much to my delight, the ribs came with a dry rub. I was able to cut them apart with minimal effort, suggesting that they were slightly overdone. It seemed like the ribs were more suited for a fork and knife, so I acquiesced. They had a great smoke level, which matched perfectly with the evident smoke ring. My main issue with the ribs was the inconsistency. The first bite was fairly spicy, coupled with just a touch of sweetness. It was also decently tender. Other bites were more bland and weren't spicy at all, and the meat nearest the center was a bit dry. I was surprised to find so many differences in only seven inches of meat.

Rippy's wasn't the best barbecue I've ever had, but it was certainly passable. I'd go back for the drinks and music, although I'd likely order a burger instead.


429 Broadway
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 244-7477

Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 4, 2014

Music City Hot Chicken Festival 2014 (Nashville, TN)

I don't really remember "hot chicken" being that big of a deal when we last lived in Nashville 8 years ago. Apparently now it's the bee's knees. We had some new friends competing in the amateur cook-off at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival, so I gathered up my trusty Tums and we headed to East Park to scope things out. After all, it was Independence Day, and fried chicken is about as close to apple pie as you can get.

Today was 80 degrees and sunny, which made for a beautiful Fourth of July. While there is live music throughout the afternoon, the main focus at this festival is clearly food. All of the lines for the various food and drink stands were unbelievably long. The beer line was the longest of all, so I decided to abstain under the circumstances. Interestingly, the shortest line was the one for free watermelon. Weird.

With lines of eager chicken-loving patrons stretching from one end of the park to the other, I knew I'd only have enough patience for one round of hot chicken. But which one to choose? Hattie B's is new on the Nashville hot chicken scene, and has apparently exploded out of the gate. Bolton's is supposed to be awesome too, but isn't quite as spicy as some of the others. 400 Degrees sounded like too much heat for me to handle. In the end, we decided to go with the originator of the entire hot chicken genre: Prince's Hot Chicken.

Prince's Hot Chicken
123 Ewing Dr
Nashville, TN 37207
(615) 226-9442
Prince's Hot Chicken Shack on Urbanspoon

The line for Prince's Hot Chicken was clearly the longest, but if you're going to wait, you might as well wait for the original. Prince's has been featured on Man v. Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and has also apparently won a James Beard Award somewhere along the way. We stood in line for 50 minutes until it was time to place our order, after which we got an order number and waited another 40 minutes. Sigh.

According to the small menu sign, the only option was for an order of Chicken Tenders and Fries. Upon inquiry, I was told that the heat level was "medium," unless you wanted to wuss out and beg for plain chicken. After paying for a standard order, I saw a few people with onion rings, which I wasn't aware was an option. Oh well. The staff all wore t-shirts imprinted with the slogan, "And you thought it was hot going in!" I hoped they were joking, but I was also prepared for the worst.

You know when something's so spicy that you can't even taste it? Yeah, that's what this was. It could have been seasoned tree bark for all I could tell. There was an overpowering amount of cayenne and probably a dozen other kinds of pepper...and it was only their medium heat level! Hot chicken is traditionally served with pickle slices, which are meant to temper the heat a little. They did help, though I'm not sure why exactly. The batter was nice and crisp, and the chicken was pretty juicy. By the end I had developed a little bit of a tolerance, so I could actually taste what I was eating. The flavors were decent, but still an asinine amount of heat. Part of the problem was that the chicken itself was so hot from the fryer that my mouth had trouble differentiating between temperature heat and spice heat. Scorched taste buds aside, I did enjoy the seasoned fries. They were fairly standard crinkle fries, but the seasoning blend was pretty awesome. I'm sure the seasoned onion rings would have been even better. All in all, I'm glad I tried the hot chicken, although I'm still in disbelief that I intentionally waited an hour and a half just to torture myself with two chicken tenders and some fries.

Once I had regained some feeling in my mouth, we were on the hunt for a non-spicy food option. We hoped there would be a few four-legged animals represented here, too. It's the South, so of course barbecue can be found almost anywhere. The once-gigantic line for B&C had slowed to a trickle by the time we were done with the chicken nonsense. I also noticed a sign for peach sweet tea, which sounded like a perfect way to cool down.

B&C Catering
2617 Franklin Pike
Unit 112
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 457-3473
B & C Melrose BBQ on Urbanspoon

B&C (Bacon & Caviar) has operations in Nashville's Berry Hill neighborhood (B&C Melrose) and in the farmer's market (B&C Market). I've been dying to try out their barbecue since we moved back, and this was the perfect opportunity. It's a little unfair to judge a barbecue joint by mass-produced meat that has been sitting in warming pans for hours, so I also want to sample their brick-and-mortar 'que sometime for a true assessment. Our only option for barbecue today seemed to be Pulled Pork Sliders. Good enough for me.

I have to say, pulled pork and peach tea was an awesome change of pace after the torturous hot chicken. These sliders consisted of pulled pork (obviously), coleslaw, pickles, and just a touch of barbecue sauce. The pickles really stood out as the most dominant flavor, followed by the semi-sweet sauce. I liked the tender pork, but I was hoping for more smoke. There also weren't any smoky bits or bark. The crunch of the slaw was nice. I generally don't eat coleslaw, although barbecue sandwiches are the main exception. The sliders were definitely tasty, but could have been better in my opinion. That being said, I'm sure the vast majority of barbecue joints would have trouble maintaining their usual quality in such massive quantities. Now I have an excuse to try B&C's bbq again.

Nashville can keep their hot chicken. I'll take a nice brisket any day of the week. Regardless, the Music City Hot Chicken Festival was a fun way to celebrate Independence Day. Go 'merica!


Music City Hot Chicken Festival 2014
East Park
700 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hatfield's BBQ & Country Deli (Nashville, TN)

Today I was in need of both lunch and a study break, which was a perfect excuse for barbecue. My initial trek to Ron's BBQ & Fish was a disappointing bust, so I decided to try Hatfield's instead.

As their name implies, Hatfield's also offers deli-sliced meats and cheeses. I had no need for deli food at present, so I stuck to the barbecue portion of their business. The decor here is really cool. It's basically an artsy history of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. Despite the atmosphere, this place was completely empty at 12:30pm. That was a bad sign, but I was feeling adventurous.

I ordered Hatfield's Meat Combo Meal, which comes with three meats and two sides. Brisket and ribs were easy picks, and I decided to go with the pork butt for my third meat. As for the sides, I settled on potato salad and cheesy tater tots. They were sadly out of the tots, so mac and cheese would have to do.

The sole front-of-house employee went in the back to work on my order. It was at this point that I could hear the telltale "dings" of a microwave hard at work. I noticed the same process when the customers who came in just after me placed their orders. Shameful. I can microwave all kinds of stuff at home, but I came to a restaurant expecting fresh food.

The potato salad had tons of visible black pepper, which unsurprisingly translated into a nice peppery kick. I liked the crunch of the veggies, but the overall texture was odd and grainy. There was also an unusual aftertaste that I couldn't quite pinpoint. As for the mac and cheese, it looked suspiciously Kraft-like. It tasted that way too, and wasn't worth more than a couple of bites. The accompanying cornbread muffin crumbled at the slightest touch. I felt no compulsion to eat what was obviously dried out cornbread.

My slices of brisket were buried under the giant ribs. There was only a slight crust on the slices. I couldn't find a defined smoke ring, but I did catch a big hit of smoke in each bite. The brisket also had a pleasant spiciness to it. Despite the flavors, it had more of a roast beef texture: pretty chewy, with severely under-rendered fat. It definitely needed more time in the smoker, which is odd considering the hefty smoke flavor. I hate to accuse Hatfield's of using liquid smoke without actual proof. That being said, something didn't quite add up.

Since the menu made no mention of pulled pork, I was expecting sliced pork butt. I suppose I should have known better. The pork butt was the only one of the three meats actually plated in front of me, so I had higher hopes for it. I saw a few smoky red pieces, but didn't taste much smoke. Actually, I didn't taste much more than pork and salt. The meat was tender and juicy at least. I tried out their house barbecue sauce out of pure necessity. My options were "Mild", "Hot", and "Hatfield's BBQ & Country Deli". The vaguely-named third sauce looked more like a vinegar-based one, so I opted for that. I was wrong, but it was still good - slightly sweet, but somewhat spicy at the same time.

The huge spare ribs honestly didn't look very good. There was a moderate crust on the top, but the underside was pretty mushy. I'm pretty sure the membrane hadn't been removed. Normally it gets really crispy in the smoking/grilling process and can just be peeled off, but the fact that it somehow softened was exceptionally concerning. The ribs also weren't cut, which is poor form considering all I was given was a plastic fork and knife set. Doubts aside, I tried them anyway. I found a little smoke in the crust, but few other flavors.

It's no wonder this place had almost zero lunch rush. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I wandered around back to check for a smoker.

I was honestly surprised to find a decent-sized smoker in operation. I was glad, but also even more confused. I'm not quite sure how to reconcile the quality of the meat with the smoke level. It's possible that they're smoking their barbecue for the correct length of time, but at too low a temperature. I don't know. Whatever they're doing at Hatfield's, they're doing it wrong. I probably would have given them two stars had it not been for the microwave. That was the real nail in their coffin.


Hatfield's BBQ & Country Deli
559 Stewarts Ferry Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 232-2335

Hatfield's BBQ & Country Deli on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fat Boy's BBQ (Antioch, TN)

Moving to a new city is always tough. You have to find a new dentist, a new barber, and, of course, a new favorite barbecue joint. I'd prefer my teeth and my hair to come out perfect the first time around, but I don't mind a little trial and error when it comes to tracking down good 'que. I noticed Fat Boy's BBQ just a few short miles from our new home, and I thought I'd give them a try.

The combination of a giant pink pig and a smoker right out front was a good omen. It also told me that pork would likely be the focal point here. This isn't Texas, so I suppose I shouldn't be shocked to find beef playing second fiddle.

Fat Boy's has a rather divey atmosphere to it. The first thing you notice upon arrival is a presumably load-bearing web of duct tape over a crack in the front door glass. Inside, you'll find a hodgepodge of assorted booths, tables, and chairs. It's a fairly small dining area, with enough seats for 31 dine-in customers by my count. Decor was minimal, at best. I hoped this meant their attention was fixed squarely on the meat.

To get a good feel for their food, I ordered the FB's Sampler: three meats and two small sides. For my meats, I picked brisket, ribs, and pulled pork. Ordinarily I might have selected sausage as the third member of my meaty trio (had it been available, that is), but pulled pork is a much more popular barbecue option in Tennessee. Oh well, when in Rome. Despite the regional preference to the contrary, I did, however, ask for my meat without sauce. Picking side dishes was a bit more difficult. My usual order is potato salad and pinto beans, but I like to venture out of my comfort zone from time to time. I had seen numerous reviews online which raved about Fat Boy's mac and cheese, so I thought I'd give it a shot. For my second side, I decided to try the white beans, which isn't a side dish I've encountered thus far in my barbecue travels, but appears to be a provincial favorite.

The mac and cheese came out piping hot. It was pleasantly creamy and tasted like actual cheese rather than Velveeta. I liked the addition of black pepper, although I would have preferred more of it. This wasn't the best mac I've had, but it was still very good. The beans looked rather intriguing. They had a creamy, soup-like texture: slightly mushy, with plenty of in-tact beans remaining too. I'm not overly familiar with legumes, but they tasted like either cannellini beans or navy. The beans had a nice seasoning and big chunks of meat (ham, I think) mixed in. I'm glad I tried them.

Once I had thoroughly sampled the side dishes, it was time for the main course. The brisket came in thick, Texas-style slices. It had decent bark and a slight smoke ring. Sadly, the fatty layer near the edge looked a little under-rendered. The meat itself had good seasoning and a great smoke level. It was also very tender. Upon closer examination, the fat was more rendered than I had initially thought, but it was still too rubbery. Properly cooked fat should melt in your mouth. All in all, the brisket was pretty good, but it could have used an extra hour or so in the smoker, or perhaps just a touch more heat during the cooking process.

In my admittedly non-expert opinion, a perfect serving of pulled pork should include fairly even amounts of bark, plain pork pieces, and pink-to-red smoky pork pieces. This pulled pork had only plain pieces, which resulted in a fairly bland portion. It had minimal seasoning and almost no smoke. The meat was also a little dry. I guess that's what the tabletop array of sauces is for. Their regular mild sauce was a pretty run-of-the-mill sweet, tomato sauce. The vinegar-based sauce was much tastier, but I feel like I shouldn't have needed it. The pork was actually quite good with the accompanying cornbread-esque pancake though, which is an interesting substitute for rolls and bread.

The big, meaty ribs had a good crust and a nice smoky hue, but here again the fat looked under-rendered. It was better than the brisket fat, though still not translucent enough. The ribs were tender and juicy, with the meat coming off the bone perfectly. I also enjoyed the hefty smoke level as well as the seasoning. These were probably my favorite of the three meats.

Fat Boy's homemade banana pudding seems to be fairly popular as well, so I thought I'd try it despite my exceptionally-full stomach. What can I say, I'm a sucker for good 'nana pudding.

The pudding had a great flavor. It wasn't too runny, nor was it too thick. They also don't skimp on the Nilla wafers or the bananas. My one complaint is that the wafers were a bit soggy, which is probably because they make the pudding a little too far in advance.

Fat Boy's has the potential for really phenomenal barbecue, but they're not quite there yet. Maybe their meat is just specifically designed to be covered in sauce. After all, this region's barbecue style definitely seems to favor sauce much more than Texas does. That being said, ice cream should taste good regardless of whether you pour chocolate syrup on top, and I feel like barbecue should work the same way.


Fat Boy's BBQ
2729 Murfreesboro Pike
Antioch, TN 37013
(615) 360-9969

Fat Boy's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon