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!!!!!

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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

Rippys Bar & Grille

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

Hatfield's Barbeque