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Saturday, October 17, 2015
Tom's Blue Moon Bar-B-Que (Lebanon, TN)
It's been quite a while since I've taken a random barbecue road trip, and today seemed like as good a day as any to break that streak. I set my sights on nearby Lebanon, Tennessee and headed east to Tom's Blue Moon Bar-B-Que.
Although I arrived at Tom's just a few minutes past 11:00am, there was surprisingly only one other table of customers inside. I realize this might be a tad early for some folks, but I assume they don't just open up at 10:30am for the fun of it. Customers or not, Tom's has a lively and inviting atmosphere. There was an older gentleman setting up a Peavey amp in the corner, so apparently they do have live music from time to time. I'm sure that helps bring in larger crowds.
I was happy to see several combo plate options on Tom's menu. The prospect of four meats was tempting, but I decided on a three-meat plate of brisket, pulled pork, and ribs (for which I gladly paid an extra dollar), with potato salad and fried green tomatoes as my sides. Given the name of this joint, it also seemed quite appropriate to add on a bottle of Blue Moon, even if it was technically still morning.
The tomatoes came out piping hot, but I didn't see anyone battering them, so I'm guessing that they started out in the freezer. Their uniformity and general lack of flavor suggested that my assumption was correct. At least they were crisp. Thankfully, the potato salad was miles better. It tasted like a mustard/mayo combination, which lent both a zesty acidity and a good sweetness.
My first few bites of the pulled pork were a little dry and a little bland. I did find some rosy pieces of bark, and they were much tastier. That aside, the pork had only a mild smokiness at best. It wasn't all bad, but could have used more seasoning and more time in the smoker.
Tom's advertises their brisket as "Texas-style," and it certainly looked it. I had watched my piece being cut, and the sight was enough to make my mouth water. This fatty cut had plenty of bark to go around. Unfortunately, there was only a slight hint of smoke, and not even the fattier portions seem to have soaked up much of it. I kept waiting to uncover a punch of flavor somewhere, but to no avail. The beef was rather tender, so I suppose that's something.
To be honest, the ribs looked pretty gnarly on my plate. I've been pleasantly surprised before, so I didn't let their appearance stop me. Sadly, both the crust and the rib meat were tough to chew. I had hoped that these ribs would have more flavor than my first two meats. No such luck. Even a little more salt would have helped tremendously. I hate to waste food, but I didn't have it in me to eat more than one rib.
I really wanted to like Tom's Blue Moon Bar-B-Que, and considering all of the glowing reviews online, I figured that I would. Instead, I left feeling rather disappointed. Tom's has a lot of potential to create some really spectacular barbecue, but they're not quite there yet. Godspeed.
Tom's Blue Moon Bar-B-Que
711 Park Ave
Lebanon, TN 37087