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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