Saturday, July 18, 2015
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint (Nolensville, TN)
This weekend I realized that, although my wife and I had been back in Nashville for a year now, somehow I hadn't yet eaten at Martin's. My head hung low, but I turned my shame into determination and drove down to Nolensville to bask in their barbecue-filled glory.
The smell of delicious pit smoke caught my attention before I'd even set foot outside my truck. This was a good sign. Martin's parking lot was already filling up, forcing me to head toward the back of the building. Fortunately, it was here that I found their enormous "Whole Hog Rig" mobile smokehouse, which I sincerely hoped was ready for action.
In true "barbecue joint" fashion, Martin's has a really lively and fun atmosphere. I don't think they could have possibly stuck more crap on the walls, although it didn't really feel that junky. The large lunch crowd already amassed at 11:15am told me that this was clearly a favorite amongst Nolensville locals. I was tempted to make use of their great outdoor patio space, but it was far too hot and muggy for that today.
Pat Martin's barbecue philosophy is right on the menu: "No freezer, no microwaves. We cook everything fresh every day." Good, because I expect nothing less. My eyes immediately zeroed in on the Big Momma Sampler, which the menu says feeds two people. That sounded like more of a challenge than a suggestion, and I was up for it. The Big Momma comes with four ribs, a quarter-pound of pulled pork, and a quarter-pound of brisket, as well as two sides. Hushpuppies were a no brainer, and for some bizarre reason I picked broccoli salad as my second side dish...on purpose. I opted for spare ribs over baby backs (dry rub, of course) and got my other meats sans the sauce.
The broccoli salad was pleasantly sweet, with a good tartness from the cranberries. Pine nuts were a welcome addition in terms of texture. I was also glad to see that the broccoli wasn't overrun with mayonnaise. It was tasty and light, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The hushpuppies definitely looked homemade. They were crisp on the outside with an amazingly fluffy center. Each bite had the right amount of seasoning, too. The side dishes were great, but it was time for the main event.
As a native Texan, I instinctively went for the brisket first. It had a nice dark crust and a beautiful smoke ring to match. There was also plenty of smoky flavor to go around, though the bark was especially good. A simple rub was all that was needed to enhance the natural beefiness. My slices were lean, but by no means dry. To put it mildly, the brisket was delicious.
There were smoke-kissed bits scattered throughout the huge pile of pulled pork. I was also glad to see large pieces of pork rather than chopped sandwich-style meat. There was a fair amount of black pepper mixed in, with a decent smoke level to boot. The pork was very tender, but the fattier portions were definitely my favorite. I considered adding some sauce for fun, though it didn't really need it.
I generally leave my ribs for last during barbecue outings, which was difficult since these looked incredible. Few things upset me more than to find overcooked ribs mistakenly described as "fall-off-the-bone tender." Martin's ribs, however, were cooked perfectly. The third-rack cut apart with ease, but still had just the right amount of bone retention. The juicy rib meat was beautifully pink and was definitely the smokiest of the three. While the ribs were great on their own, the awesome dry rub took things to a whole other level. It added some nice heat, too. I had inhaled three of my four ribs before I could bring myself to stop and jot down a few notes. They were absolutely phenomenal.
Despite being more food than any one person should consume, I'm proud to say that I ate every bit of my Big Momma Sampler. Martin's met, nay exceeded, every expectation that I had. Although I'm sure that their Mt. Juliet and Belmont locations are great, too, I'm glad that I got to try out the original joint.
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
7238 Nolensville Rd
Nolensville, TN 37135