Friday, April 15, 2016
East Nashville BBQ Co., one of the newest players on the Nashville barbecue scene, represents the continued revitalization of Nashville's once-ailing eastern borough. When I was in college here a decade ago, one did not venture over to that side of the Cumberland River, especially not at night. Now things are looking up, and I've been eager to experience more and more of what East Nashville has to offer.
The big covered patio was perfect for a beautiful, cool day like today. I'm not sure what this building housed in its former life, but I like what East Nashville BBQ Co. has done with the place. It's a simple counter-order joint, no fuss. That being said, the lively red/black/gray paint scheme gives it a more modern feel.
Options for smoked meat are pretty limited here, with the choice being confined to pulled pork or barbecued chicken. The menu board says "More Coming Soon," although they've been open for six or seven months, so I'm not sure what the holdup is. As their logo features a pig rather than poultry, I decided on the showcased offering and ordered a BBQ Plate of pulled pork. They were sadly out of potato salad, so I settled for baked beans and mac and cheese as my two sides. I also received a cornbread muffin and a portion of their spicy slaw (which I originally thought only accompanied the barbecue sandwiches).
The macaroni was standard blue-box mac and cheese. I don't have any major complaints about it, other than being fairly boring. The beans had a decent sweetness to them but not much else. Some black pepper and/or jalapeño would really make this dish pop. It, like the macaroni, just sort of fell flat. I'm not normally a coleslaw person, but I gave theirs a try anyway. The slaw had a great spiciness. It also tasted fresh and had an equally fresh crunch to the veggies. My cornbread muffin was just as tasty. There was a pleasant sweetness to the muffin, which crumbled nicely without being dry or dense. If East Nashville BBQ Co. put as much effort into the beans and the mac as they had the cornbread and slaw, they'd be in good shape.
I made sure to request my pulled pork sauceless so that I could get an accurate feel for their barbecue prowess. My taste buds kept searching for both salt and smoke, but were thwarted on both counts. I couldn't find any bark, pink/red smoky bits, or anything that would remotely suggest seasoning. The pork itself was also fairly watery. Not juicy, watery. At least it was tender.
After I'd finished as much of my meal as I was able, it occurred to me that there was no smell of delicious smoke in the air, inside or out. I peered through their fenced work area on the side of the building, and I could make out a pit and a few cords of wood, though none of it appeared to be in active use today. More troubling, one of the pictures featured on East Nashville BBQ Co.'s own Facebook page (they don't have an official website) includes the caption, "BBQ Chicken fresh out of the oven!" Wait...oven??? Surely this is just a poorly-conceived figure of speech, but sadly I have my doubts. Regardless of the cooking method employed here, the end result is disappointing.
East Nashville BBQ Co.
829 Lischey Ave
Nashville, TN 37207
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Apparently I'm five years old, because one of my coworkers insisted on setting up a play-date with me and one of her friends. Sigh. Knowing my affinity for smoked meat, she decided that barbecue would be the best ice breaker. It was hard to argue with that. Hog Heaven is easily the closest barbecue joint to our office building, and even though I wasn't exceptionally impressed with it on my first encounter, I'm always willing to give places a second chance.
Despite its prime real estate next to Centennial Park and being a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump from Vanderbilt University, Hog Heaven is quite literally a barbecue shack. There isn't really any way for them to spruce things up at all either, unless they could somehow manage to hang pictures on a porch screen. That's ok, I came here for the food and the company more so than the ambiance (which is good, because there isn't any).
Having been disappointed by the spare ribs during my initial Hog Heaven visit, I thought it best to try a Pulled Pork Plate this time. Since I already was mixing things up meat-wise, I decided to opt for some different sides as well. I picked their BBQ Beans and Mac and Cheese, along with the mandatory cornbread pancake. Patrons are also presented with their choice of sauces. Here, I stood firm with the tasty white barbecue sauce that I had sampled before, on the side of course.
Last time 'round I received a mediocre, dry cornbread pancake with my meal. This time was no different. Maybe it needs more butter, I don't know. The beans had an interesting flavor. I found them slightly spicy, but the base was far too viscous for my liking. They could have used a little more salt as well. As expected, the macaroni and cheese was gooey and comforting. It was tasty enough for a quick lunch, but nothing to get overly excited about.
As for the pork, color me disappointed yet again. I struggled to find the taste of delicious smoke, but came up empty. The pork was also somewhat waterlogged, which was odd but probably indicates that it was left to steam itself inside of a large container prior to serving. There was no discernible salt or other seasonings, even on the few pieces of bark that I received. The one saving grace was their homemade white barbecue sauce, which added a depth of flavor and spiciness to the void. As I recall, this was the only thing that halfway salvaged the subpar ribs on my first trip here.
The adage "three strikes, you're out" comes to mind, but this ain't baseball. Two unsatisfying meals at Hog Heaven are about all that I can endure. Oh well, at least the company and the conversation were enjoyable.
115 27th Ave N
Nashville, TN 37203
Sunday, March 20, 2016
I had a college buddy in town this weekend, and we needed a good lunch spot to watch some March Madness games and knock back a few cold ones. Neither of us were really in the mood for a traditional sports bar, so that made things challenging. My first thought: Edley's. I've been to Edley's original 12 South location, but I really wanted to check out their newer Edley's East spot for a little compare-and-contrast. Plus, it was a great way to show my buddy how much East Nashville has changed since our college days nearly a decade ago.
The place was absolutely packed at 12:45pm with a few boozy stragglers left over from brunch. There was a fairly long line, but it wasn't a horrible wait by any means. Edley's East has a great atmosphere. It's lively and welcoming, yet it doesn't seem to embody all of the hipsterness that's common to East Nashville. I especially loved all of the natural woodwork, which is a hallmark of Edley's original locale as well.
After the big bowl of Captain Crunch I had for breakfast, I probably didn't need an appetizer, but I couldn't resist an order of their BBQ Nachos with pulled pork.
In addition to the pulled pork, these BBQ Nachos were loaded to the brim with pico de gallo and cheesy goodness. Every part was delicious in its own way. The pulled pork was smoky and fantastically tender, and it had just the right amount of simple salty seasoning. I really enjoyed how the spiciness from the jalapeños offered an interesting juxtaposition with the gooey cheese and sour cream. There was just a drizzle of sauce across the plate, which added a nice accent as well. Best of all, the thick-cut homemade potato chips were a perfect substitute for the usual blasé tortilla chips.
With my palate thoroughly warmed up, it was time for the main event: the Brisket Platter with cornbread, grits casserole, and black eyed peas. Heck yeah!
Every one of my side dishes had a layer of spiciness hidden within. The cornbread was toasty and buttery. It was also quite dense, but not the least bit dry. Jalapeños were sparsely scattered throughout, though just enough to add some good zip. Black eyed peas are one of the most Southern sides you can find, and these were quite tasty. I really liked the peppers mixed in, both the sweet and the spicy variety. The grits were the best of all. They were fiery and delicious. I found a great crunch from the added crumble, which paired well with the otherwise creamy texture.
The brisket was beautifully smoky, and the midnight-black bark was absolutely packed with flavor. There was also a prevalent smoke ring that matched the taste. Well-rendered fat made each bite melt in my mouth, and the meat itself was also very tender. The sauce was nice and tangy, but didn't mask the natural beefiness. In short, the brisket was phenomenal.
As much as I enjoyed my meal at the original Edley's, I think the barbecue at Edley's East might be even better.
Edley's Bar-B-Que East
908 Main St
Nashville, TN 37206
Sunday, February 28, 2016
When Kolacny Bar-B-Q (pronounced co-lotch-nee) first opened its doors in Hallettsville, Texas in 1989, I was but a six-year-old chap in neighboring Schulenburg. It's hard for me to fathom how I spent the next twelve years of my childhood a mere hop, skip, and jump away from Kolacny's and never even knew of its existence until a few months ago. If you scour the Internet, you'll barely find mention of Kolacny's on any of the usual sites. In fact, before Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn reviewed the joint back in September, its presence on the World Wide Web consisted of a dummy Facebook page, a blank Yelp profile, and one brief nod on a Czech food blog from 2013. My dad had never heard of it either, and my mom was only vaguely familiar with the operation through a friend. Had we all been living under a rock this whole time? This was an oversight which I was hell-bent on rectifying as soon as humanly possible. I flew back to Texas to help celebrate my grandma's 87th birthday, a worthy reason in and of itself, but I won't pretend that the smoky allure of barbecue didn't play into my calculus as well.
Its Saturday and Sunday-only hours make Kolacny's a bit of a barbecue unicorn, as does its off-the-beaten-path locale. The bright pink building isn't what you'd expect to find in a town of 2,500 people, and it certainly doesn't scream "barbecue" by any means. Kolacny's isn't so much a restaurant as it is a place to house a counter and some pits. In a town like this, however, the general idea isn't to provide customers with a ritzy dining experience, it's meant for you to pick up good food to enjoy at home with friends or after church with family.
Their 'que is cooked via direct heat over the pitmaster's own felled oak trees. That's some serious dedication right there. Kolacny's is literally a "mom and pop" operation, both of whom are incredibly friendly and welcoming (although Mom is decidedly more talkative than Pop, who stays hard at work out by the pits). They're some interesting characters, that's for sure. Not wanting to miss out on any of their tasty offerings, I made sure to call my order in a day ahead of time. It's a good thing that I did. When we arrived at 11:30am to pick everything up, the only meat which hadn't been spoken for was one chicken, some sausage, and a little pork steak. Bottom line: if you want barbecue from Kolacny's, plan ahead.
I had ordered a meat-tastic buffet to get a true sense of Kolacny's expertise: pork steak, brisket, pork ribs, and a few half-chickens. Head sausage was also available from the deli case, but I chose not to partake today. We also snagged sides of potato salad and coleslaw for good measure, even though we had plenty of side dishes left over from the previous night's dinner.
Not being a big fan of coleslaw in general (particularly the heavy mayonnaise variety), I stuck to the potato salad. It was nice and creamy, with just a hint of mustard to jazz things up. The small-diced potatoes were just right, with a good crunch of pickles in each bite.
The pork steak is certainly Kolacny's specialty. It had a great char from the pit, and the rosy pink meat beneath was perfectly cooked. The tender and juicy pork had a great smoke level, which was all the more evident in its well-rendered fat. I would have liked just a touch more seasoning on the crust, though.
I have to say, this was some of the best, juiciest barbecue chicken I've ever had. I liked that the skin hadn't been cooked to a rock-hard crisp, and it was packed with flavor. I found just the right amount of saltiness to satisfy my palate without being overpowering. The meat itself was very juicy and much smokier than I had expected.
When it came time for pitmaster Ervin Kolacny to slice up our order of brisket, it was readily apparent that we were getting the very last of today's allotment. This ended up being a glorious fatty chunk of the point. Spectacular! The brisket was beautifully smoky, especially the jet-black bark. A simple salt and pepper rub was more than sufficient here. Flavors aside, the meat was a little tough for my liking, but it was otherwise fantastic.
The big, meaty pork ribs came with a nice dose of black pepper that permeated each bite. They were decently smoky, although there wasn't much bark to speak of. I also thought they were a tad on the dry side. The meat, however, still came away cleanly with just a slight tug. Direct heat tends to be a bit hard on moisture, so I chalked this one up to the cooking process itself.
In a digital age where even the most obscure information can be uncovered in the blink of an eye, it's astonishing that a place like Kolacny's could exist for nearly three decades in relative seclusion. I find comfort in the knowledge that there are still some surprises to be found in small town America. Kolacny Bar-B-Q might be hard to come by, but it's certainly worth the effort.
100 S. Russell
Hallettsville, TX 77964
Saturday, February 13, 2016
One week ago, Jack and Jameson's Smokehouse opened up shop in the former home of Mickey Roos Barbecue down in Franklin. The owners of this joint are new to the barbecue arena, but you'll likely recognize them anyway. Television stars Jonathan Jackson (Nashville, General Hospital, The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Steve Burton (The Young and the Restless, General Hospital) joined forces to bring this restaurant/bar/music venue to life. I can imagine that Jack and Jameson's will become a tourist hotspot, so I wanted to check them out before word officially spread to the masses.
With most of the open tables adorned with "reserved" signage, my seating options were limited to the bar or a large communal table. Not having the slightest desire to dine with strangers, I settled for the bar, which was only slightly better. High barstools and no foot rail made things a little uncomfortable for a tall person, my knees aching by the time I left. The large flat screen TV mounted above the beer taps would have been perfect for a little lunchtime athletic entertainment. However, it's sole use seems to be as a digital list of their available draft beers, all of which are local and craft beers (none of the usual domestics). On that topic, I think they're being a little too heavy handed with the faux Southern charm; everything does not need to come served in a mason jar.
The atmosphere here is about as rustic-chic as you'd expect. The plank wood that lines the walls gives this place a homey, welcoming feel, while the large windows bring in plenty of nice natural light. Near the rear of the dining room is a large music stage, which I assume they intend to make frequent use of (although not today, I was told). I'm also sure that the outdoor patio space will be hopping once Spring has sprung.
The vast majority of their offerings were burgers and patty melts, with more choices for salad than for smoked meat. For a restaurant with "smokehouse" right in its name, I was rather aghast to see only two barbecue entrees on the menu (not including a burger that you have the option to stuff with pork or brisket). With no multi-meat combos either, I settled for a brisket plate with loaded baked potato salad and mac-n-cheese on the side. It took just over 20 minutes to receive something that should have only required slicing and plating. By the time my order finally came, I was both starving and irritated. Not a good start.
The potato salad was inelegantly slopped down right into a puddle of grease and/or juice draining from the brisket. It did have a great flavor though. I could definitely taste the bacon, and it was delectably creamy. Braided noodles were an interesting choice for macaroni and cheese. It was nice and cheesy, but didn't have much flavor beyond that. I'm not sure what type of shredded cheese they put on top, but it was certainly not one of the good melty ones (e.g. Gouda, Fontina, Gruyere). In the end, it just kind of sat there adding a hard texture to an otherwise gooey side dish.
Chopped brisket? Seriously??? Ugh. Once I got past my initial disdain, I explored the pile-o-meat further, only to find even more disappointment. It had a slight touch of smoke, but not nearly enough. There were plenty of red bits of smoked meat scattered throughout, though they seemed to have only picked up the smoke's coloring and hardly any of its savory deliciousness. The brisket was tender, but its juiciness came mostly in the form of a liquidy au jus poured over the top. Frankly, this tasted more like a pot roast or what I'll call "Hanukkah brisket" than real barbecue.
My favorite part of the meal was their potato salad, by a very, very wide margin. I overheard the bartender say that their grand opening isn't until March, which I suppose makes this a soft opening. The other customers sitting near me seemed to really enjoy their burgers. That being said, I hope these guys add some new barbecue menu items between now and March, otherwise they might as well rename it "Jack and Jameson's Burger House". Either way, I doubt I'll be back.
Jack and Jameson's Smokehouse
509 Hillsboro Rd
Franklin, TN 37064
Friday, February 5, 2016
Even though the primary goal of my Vegas trip was to find a black bear hunt at the Safari Club International convention, I also couldn't resist hunting down some delicious barbecue while I was in town. When we visited last year's convention, we ventured far into North Las Vegas on a barbecue expedition, but this year I decided that something a little closer to the Strip would be more logical. At a mere mile away from our hotel, Rollin' Smoke made perfect sense. It also had the highest ratings of any Vegas barbecue joint I researched, which was just icing on the cake.
This joint opens its doors bright and early at 10:00am, although I'd suspect that most of the usual tourists are still in bed at that hour. Vegas is a town built on hospitality, and the guys and gals over at Rollin' Smoke are some of the friendliest you'll find. When you combine that with their Arkansas roots, it's impossible not to feel welcomed here. The pitmaster, who I understood to have had some Le Cordon Bleu training, invited us to tour their smoking operation. If we'd had a little more time to kill, we definitely would have taken him up on that.
In true Las Vegas fashion, Rollin' Smoke offers an all-you-can-eat meal option which encompasses their entire menu! Tempted as I was, my stomach didn't feel quite up to the challenge (partially due to the prior night's "festivities"). I set my sights a little lower and ordered their Pit Special: brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends (instead of the advertised quarter-chicken), spare ribs, and hot links with bacon potato salad, cheesy mac n cheese, and kick'n bbq beans on the side.
The potato salad was, in a word, magnificent. Bacon and green onions give this side a great crunchy texture that brilliantly compliments the creamy mayo base. I'm going to have to steal this recipe and make it at home. The beans were nice and sweet, with a great spicy kick on the black end. They certainly weren't lacking for black pepper, that's for sure. There was also a good amount of shredded meat mixed right in. Large-size pasta noodles allowed the gooey cheese to get embedded in each nook and cranny of the macaroni. The extra layer of cheddar on top was just what it needed, too, adding another degree of cheesiness.
Rollin' Smoke's brisket comes chopped unless otherwise requested. Ordinarily I would have asked for slices, but today I decided to live dangerously and sample my beef the way that the pitmaster intended. Chopped or not, there was a ton of bark to go around. I also found a great smoke level in each bite of the incredibly tender brisket. There was just a hint of sauce drizzled on top, which allowed me to taste both it and the delicious meat at the same time.
The rosy smoke-kissed pulled pork looked exceptionally inviting. Upon closer inspection, it came with a smokiness that mirrored its appearance. The meat was also really juicy, with very flavorful chunks of bark throughout. As a Texan it pains me to say this, but I think that I enjoyed their pork more than the brisket. Shocking, I know.
I'm not sure what the source of their sausage is, but the hotlinks were damn good. They had a great snap to the casing, with a char that added to the crispness as well. The heat of these links catches you a little off guard. It also masks any potential smokiness (at least for those of us with more delicate palates), but that's to be expected.
Burnt ends aren't something that I get to enjoy all too often, so I was happy to find them on Rollin' Smoke's menu today. These were worth every bit of the $3.00 upcharge, and then some. Melt-in-your-mouth tender doesn't quite do them justice as a descriptor, but it's the best that I can muster. Essentially, these are barbecue's answer to pork belly. There was a great smoky flavor, coupled with a somewhat spicy glaze. I could have easily eaten a whole plate of them.
The ribs were cooked perfectly, with only a slight tug needed on each bite. Rollin' Smoke managed to produce tender and juicy ribs without cooking them into "falling off the bone" oblivion, which in my opinion is nothing more than a euphemism for overcooked meat. The crust had a great blend of spices that combined both heat and sweet. Each bite of rib meat also contained a good smoke level that kept bringing me back for more.
In a town known for celebrity chefs and Michelin-star restaurants, Rollin' Smoke offers a blue-collar alternative so indulgent that you'll forget all about the glitz and glamour of the Strip.
Rollin' Smoke Barbeque
3185 S. Highland Dr
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Friday, January 29, 2016
Truth be told, I had intended to try out Drifters BBQ a few weeks ago when I had the morning off from work, but I am sad to report that I lazily fell asleep on the couch instead. That's not really an excuse, just an explanation. Shamed by my slothfulness, I was determined to check Drifters off my list today.
From the exterior, Drifters looks more like a hole-in-the-wall biker bar than a purveyor of smoked meats. The inside mostly mirrored my initial impression, except that it was much more inviting than I assumed. Located right in the heart of Nashville's booming Five Points neighborhood, I'm sure that Drifters gets packed once happy hour rolls in.
When I ordered a sweet tea to quench my thirst, I was immediately asked, "How sweet?" God bless the South. Despite my amazement at seeing over half-a-dozen vegetarian options on Drifters' menu, I suppose that's probably a smart move given the changing demographics in East Nashville. Vegetables aren't really my thing, so I opted for their Hickory Smoked Sampler Platter: a third-rack of ribs, and three ounces each of pulled chicken, brisket, and smoked sausage. This bad boy also comes with baked beans, coleslaw, and fries, though I humbly subbed in hushpuppies for the slaw. I do wish they served pulled pork with this sampler instead of poultry, but c'est la vie.
The beans were somewhat sweet, but not overly so. I don't particularly care for mushy beans, so I was delighted to find these perfectly al dente. Drifters' fries were fairly standard, although I loved the seasoning blend dusted on top. It gave things a really nice zip. The hushpuppies were the standout winner of my side dishes. Their beautiful, golden crust had a great crunch and was equally tasty. Some hushpuppies can be a bit on the dry side, but these were fluffy and delicious. I also liked the slight spiciness to them, which was even better with the accompanying remoulade.
Not surprisingly, the Texan in me was expecting sliced brisket, but sadly their beef comes shredded. Even so, there was plenty of scrumptious bark to go around. The meat had great flavors from the marinade and a decent smokiness to boot. It was also very tender, which I always appreciate. The brisket wasn't quite what I hoped for, but pleasant nonetheless.
My split-face sausage link was regrettably store bought, though I didn't really anticipate housemade sausage at Drifters. It did have a nice sear from the grilltop, but no real smoke that I could taste. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy dipping it in the hushpuppy remoulade. Perhaps they should just make that their standard pairing for the sausage.
There was much more flavor in the chicken than most of the smoked poultry I've tasted. It was tender and not at all dry. The chicken had only a modest hint of smoke though. I did receive a good mix of white and dark meat, but personally I find dark meat to be the juiciest, and therefore best part of the bird.
Dry-rub ribs were just what I wanted, and Drifters delivered in spades. The rub was sweet and spicy at the same time, giving each bite an interesting flavor profile. I think that the mild smokiness also allowed the spices to stand out even more. The ribs had been cooked a little longer than I would have liked, yet still not quite falling off the bone. The flavors definitely made up for any texture issues though.
Drifters may not be one of the usual barbecue stops for Nashville tourists, but it definitely should be.
1008 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206
Monday, December 21, 2015
My in-laws generously offered to take me out to eat for a celebratory birthday lunch during our most recent visit to Little Rock. Obviously, I picked barbecue. My mother-in-law spoke highly of Lindsey's Hospitality House up in North Little Rock, and I certainly wasn't going to argue with her recommendation.
Lindsey's feels more like an old-school family restaurant than a true barbecue joint, but the smell of delicious pit smoke alleviated my concerns. Their sweet tea and apple pie-themed artwork was spot on, and I loved the unpretentiousness of it all. Judging by the large lunch crowd, this place must be rather popular amongst the locals.
I really wanted to try their 1/2 Combo Platter, but none of my lunchmates were interested in splitting it and I didn't feel up to eating two-and-a-half pounds of meat all by my lonesome. With no other multi-meat combos on the menu besides their gigantic family packs, I was left to create one of my own. I ordered a half-pound of chopped pork and a half-rack of pork ribs, with a side of potato salad. As soon as we sat down, I realized my mistake in not requesting sauce on the side for my ribs, so I dashed over to the kitchen and rectified that error. I suppose I could have requested the same for my chopped pork, but I decided to live dangerously today.
The potato salad was both creamy and delicious, with a good mustardy tang. It didn't have as much crunch as I would have liked from veggie mix-ins, but still very good.
Lindsey's big, meaty spare ribs were really juicy and awesomely tender. I found a great flavor on the crust, which thankfully wasn't overpowered by salt. The meat beneath was perfectly pink. The ribs had only a moderate smokiness, but it was an acceptable level. Only a slight tug was required to separate meat from bone, precisely as it should be.
The chopped pork was also tender as can be, and the few bites of bark that I found were extra flavorful. I'm not a big sauce fan in general, but Lindsey's vinegary-tomato barbecue sauce was quite tasty. It also added a nice acidity to the dish. Although the sauce did mask any potential smoke flavors, I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I'm glad I listened to my mother-in-law's recommendation (which is probably a good rule of thumb in any circumstance). Lindsey's might be closer to 3.5 stars, but I was full of Christmas spirit and rounded up.
Lindsey's Hospitality House & Barbecue
207 Curtis Sykes Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72114
Saturday, December 19, 2015
It's nearly impossible for me to drive through Memphis without stopping for some tasty 'que. My wife's sole requirement today was that I pick a spot with a Chik-Fil-A nearby for her. Fair enough. Barbecue sandwiches don't often find their way onto my plate. That being said, I couldn't resist grabbing a pork sandwich from Payne's, which is heralded by many as the best there is.
Their "cash only" business model is a bit behind the times, although it doesn't seem to be deterring any would-be customers. Payne's is a simple counter-order joint with limited seating options. It also has all of the ambiance of a DMV waiting room, but that didn't bother me whatsoever.
I ordered my obligatory jumbo chopped pork sandwich, complete with Payne's famous mustard slaw, no sauce. I really really wanted to tack on a smoked sausage dog, but my mother-in-law had an early family Christmas dinner planned and I promised her that I wouldn't ruin my appetite. That didn't stop me from tempting fate and adding a side of beans though. I got everything to-go and headed for Chik-Fil-A, hoping that they wouldn't mind me eating my outside food in their establishment.
The beans were sweet and flavorful, with chunks of delicious meat mixed right in. I also found hints of what tasted like cilantro, but whatever it was, it was dang good.
Payne's chopped pork sandwich is fairly messy to eat, which actually makes it more satisfying. The pork itself was very tender, though only slightly smoky. A lot of the pieces did have some char on them, and they were even more spectacular. Most of the flavor came from the mustard slaw, which added a sweet acidity and a great crunchy texture. It had an interesting spice blend that I couldn't quite identify. The onions also gave this sandwich a nice bite. I do think that a homemade bun would have elevated things here nicely, but that's really my only major complaint.
I was the envy of every person in Chik-Fil-A, who stared longingly at my barbecue sandwich the entire time. Payne's is definitely a must for any Memphis barbecue bucket list.
1762 Lamar Ave
Memphis, TN 38114
Thursday, December 3, 2015
If there are two words that exemplify barbecue, they are most certainly "slow" and "low". With that in mind, it was almost impossible for me to resist a lunchtime excursion to Slow & Low BBQ Bistro, especially since this was one of the first rainless days Nashville has seen in nearly a week.
You'll find Slow & Low in a renovated and converted house in far west Nashville, something that instantly gives the joint a rather cozy feel to it. Couple that with a full-size pig costume (which I sincerely hope they put to use) in the corner, and you've got a very welcoming atmosphere. Parking is a big snug here, and tables, at least the inside ones, are also limited. I guess that's why they call it a bistro.
Hickory appears to be the wood of choice at Slow & Low. I grew up accustomed to oak and pecan, but hickory does a great job, too. In fact, hickory often tends to impart a little saltiness on the meat, which is a good thing despite what my doctor keeps telling me.
For some bizarre and yet undetermined reason, many of the Nashville-area barbecue joints I've investigated don't offer multi-meat combos on their menus. Not Slow & Low. These guys have a glorious Four Meat Feast! Of the five available meats, I selected pulled pork, wings, brisket, and ribs, with Mama's tater salad and beer-battered onion rings as my sides. I could hardly contain my excitement while my meat-tastic meal was being prepared.
Even though Slow & Low had only been open for twenty minutes by the time I arrived, I received their very last portion of potato salad. I was perplexed, but glad to have it nonetheless. The potato salad had a great mustard flavor and plenty of black pepper to go around. All of the onions and pickles also gave it a nice crunch. The onion rings came out crisp and full of flavor. They were also seasoned well, and the onions themselves tasted really fresh. I didn't even dream of ruining them with ketchup.
I wasn't sure where to begin with the meats, so I just picked the pulled pork at random and dug right in. It was tender and had a decent amount of smoke, especially in the fattier pieces. There was also a good seasoning on the bark. I briefly considered sampling their sauces, but it seemed altogether unnecessary, so I passed.
Hot wings were an obvious consideration, but I got mine naked so that I could give the true flavors a fair shake. The skin had a fantastic char and an equally tasty blend of spices. I found only a moderate smoke level, which is fairly typical for barbecue chicken. The meat itself was moist and quite enjoyable.
The fatty layer right on top of the brisket had obviously soaked a ton of smoke, which I was more than happy to eat. There was also a good crispness to the bark that I don't find all too often. The meat was certainly tender, though maybe just a tad dry at times. It was difficult not to inhale all of it at once, but I wanted to leave some leftovers for the next day's lunch.
My ribs were covered in a beautiful black crust and just a light drizzle of sauce. As soon as I bit in, I immediately got a big punch of delicious smokiness, almost as much as I found in the brisket. There was also a slight spiciness in each bite from the sauce. I'm not normally a big fan of sauced ribs, but it really worked well here.
Slow & Low BBQ Bistro may be a bit off the beaten path as far as Nashville barbecue goes, but it's absolutely worth the trip.
Slow & Low BBQ Bistro
333 54th Avenue N
Nashville, TN 37209