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Monday, December 21, 2015
Lindsey's Hospitality House & Barbecue (North Little Rock, AR)
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
Payne's Bar-B-Q (Memphis, TN)
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
Slow & Low BBQ Bistro (Nashville, TN)
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
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Hungry Bear BBQ (Gatlinburg, TN)
The Smokey Mountains are quickly becoming one of my favorite spots for a nice weekend getaway. Our last excursion to Gatlinburg, Tennessee was back in January when the morning temperatures were around 17 degrees. Thankfully we were treated to much better weather this time around, and the color-changing leaves made things extra scenic. After a morning of hiking, my wife was gracious enough to let me replenish my spent energy at Hungry Bear BBQ.
There are two Hungry Bear locations in Gatlinburg, but the one farthest outside of town seems to be the original joint. I much prefer experience over convenience, so this was an easy decision to make. Plus it was right on the way to our scheduled afternoon hike trailhead. Cast iron pans and various bear-themed knickknacks adorn the walls here, adding to the already rustic charm of it. I could see a small smoker hard at work just out our window, which is really all the ambiance you need for barbecue.
The more food I can eat, the more accurate an opinion I can form about a place. With that in mind, I ordered their Combo Four: ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and brisket. This dinner plate also comes with two side dishes, for which I selected potato salad and mac and cheese.
Hungry Bear's gooey mac and cheese didn't blow me away, but it was excellent comfort food on a cold, rainy day. A little bit of black and/or chile pepper would have jazzed things up a bit. The potato salad was fairly bland and served ice cold. I was hoping for pickles or maybe some mustard in the mix, but no such luck. My wife sampled both of my side dishes and echoed the same sentiments without any prompting on my part, so I feel fairly confident in my analysis.
I dug into the chicken first, mostly because if its convenient placement near the top of my meat pile. It had a great flavor, especially in the well-seasoned skin. There was just a hint of smokiness, although that's fairly typical of barbecue chicken. My wife ended up with mostly white meat in her chicken sandwich, which she found a bit dry, but my serving was all dark meat and all tender.
The ribs sadly disintegrated with only minor prodding from my plastic utensils. As expected, the rib meat was also sort of mushy, which is far too often the unfortunate byproduct of striving for a "falling-off-the-bone" quality. I liked the flavors well enough, but the lack of any smoke left me wanting.
My chunks of brisket had the texture of a pot roast and were a little tough to chew at times. I found only minimal smoke here as well, despite the prevalent rosy smoke ring. The flavors were passable in general, but not quite up to par.
The pulled pork was definitely the best of my four meats. It was very tender and rather juicy to boot. The pork had soaked up much more smoke than the rest of my combo, and the saltiness was right on point. The few pieces of bark that I found were exceptionally good.
Toward the end of our lunch, I saw the pitmaster (if you can really call him that) taking slabs of ribs out of the smoker. They looked amazing and visibly had just the right amount of give to them. In short, they were perfect and ready to eat. To my dismay, however, he then slathered on a thick layer of sauce, wrapped them in foil, and back in the smoker they went.
This obvious faux pas explains precisely why my barbecue plate was severely lacking in terms of both texture and flavor. The meat continues to steam itself to death inside the foil, which also prevents any additional smoke from penetrating. I had initially considered rounding Hungry Bear BBQ up into three-star territory, but when their core problem stems from such a fundamental error, I simply can't abide.
Hungry Bear BBQ
2263 East Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Slick Pig BBQ (Murfreesboro, TN)
Even though it's only a 45-minute drive south of Nashville (and even closer to my side of town), I really don't know that much about Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I figured that the best, or at least the tastiest way to find out what the place is all about was by sampling their barbecue. One of the town's most well-known joints, Kirkenburt's Smokehouse, closed up shop back in March, although no one on the Interwebs seems to know why. Who then would show me the glories of 'Boro barbecue? Today I gave that honor to Slick Pig. With twenty years of meat-smoking experience under their belt, they were sure to be a worthy contender.
This being Halloween, the employees were having a bit of fun in their costumes. The woman who took my order was a giant banana, and her fellow cashier was a flight attendant. Well done, ladies. Slick Pig's setup is rather simple, which I hoped meant that they were focusing their energy and their cash on the barbecue instead of the ambiance. That being said, everything from the chairs and barstools to the walls and tablecloths was appropriately Middle Tennessee State University blue and white. No doubt the proximity to the Blue Raider campus does a great job of bringing in large crowds.
Slick Pig has several lunch specials to choose from, although they're actually available all day. Most are of the usual sandwich-and-chips variety, but their massive #5 Combo Platter includes six smoked wings, a half-rack of pork ribs, a quarter-pound of pulled pork, a quarter-pound of brisket, a half-pint of stew, coleslaw, and garlic toast. Of course, it also costs $25.00 and is meant to be shared by two or three people. Well, at least I'd have some leftovers to take for lunch on Monday. I politely substituted potato salad for the slaw and anxiously awaited my excessive lunch order.
The potato salad was homemade and rather tasty. You wouldn't guess by looking at it, but there was a ton of flavor to go around. It was mostly mayo-based, with just enough mustard to make things interesting.
Growing up in Central Texas, I've certainly eaten my fair share of stew. Brunswick stew, however, is something with which I'm relatively unfamiliar. While Brunswick traditionalists might opt for squirrel or possum as their meat of choice, Slick Pig thankfully uses a chicken/pork/beef combination. It is essentially a thick soup of meat, tomatoes, and corn (and some purveyors might include okra and beans as well), which I was happy to have on a cold, rainy day like today. There wasn't as much of a spicy kick as I had hoped for, and the shredded meat inevitably kept juice running down my chin the whole time. All in all, it was a decent accompaniment to my lunch, but I think I'll stick to the customary beef, carrots, and potatoes-type of stew.
Slick Pig's hickory-smoked wings are by far their biggest seller, and for good reason. The crispy skin was well seasoned and delightful, as was the tender meat. I could definitely taste the smoke, which isn't always the easiest accomplishment when poultry is involved. These are surely a favorite of the MTSU coeds.
I wouldn't really say that the pulled pork was pre-sauced, though it does come with a drizzle of runny, Carolina-style vinegar. That actually made the pork extra tender and very flavorful. The vinegar didn't mask the natural pork or the smoke either, but instead amplified things nicely. While a little more bark might have made the pork even better, it wasn't altogether necessary.
When I see the word "brisket" on a barbecue joint's menu, I obviously expect my beef to be served in slices or, at the very least, chopped. Instead, I received large cubes of beef which ironically would have been better suited for the stew I'd eaten earlier. When in Rome, I suppose. Despite my hesitation, there was a good hit of black pepper in each bite. The brisket was also tender and not the least bit dry or greasy. I couldn't pinpoint any evidence of smoke, either visually or on my palate, but it was still tasty enough.
The ribs fell apart with very little effort at all. Many folks see "falling-off-the-bone" as a positive attribute for ribs, but I do not (and never will) share their sentiment. Most of the ribs had a decent texture, though some bites were noticeably on the dry side. The sugary rib glaze was by far the dominant flavor here, and just a hint of smoke was all that I could find outside of that. A good dusting of salt, cracked black pepper, and maybe a little chili powder would have done wonders.
On Tuesdays, Slick Pig offers all day 99-cent pulled pork sandwiches. I can't wait to go back and see how many of those bad boys I can scarf down, perhaps with a side of smoked wings for good measure. As for the rest of their barbecue, I'll pass.
Slick Pig BBQ
1920 East Main St
Murfreesboro, TN 37130
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
Saturday, September 26, 2015
One & Only BBQ (Memphis, TN)
It's nearly impossible for me to drive through Memphis without stopping for some tasty 'que. My wife, who had just come off of an all-night shift, was sleeping soundly in the backseat as we made our way to Little Rock for the weekend. That gave me free reign to pick any lunch spot that my heart desired. Jackpot. There are still a few of the well-known players to check off of my Memphis barbecue list, but today I set my sights on One & Only BBQ, in part because they would have some non-barbecue options for my wife should she waken from her slumber.
Ironically, One & Only is really "two and only," with dual locations in east Memphis' Audubon Park and River Oaks neighborhoods. I'm pretty sure that River Oaks is the original spot, but I opted for Audubon Park since it's just a little ways off of Sam Cooper and involved the shortest detour. Practicality doesn't always yield the most delicious results, but we had a lot of miles left to cover.
The wifey was still half asleep when I stopped for lunch, so we just ran in and snagged some quick carry out. Much like Liam Neeson in Taken, I have a very particular set of skills that I've acquired over a long career, except that while he's quite adept at murdering kidnappers, I'm just good at eating while driving. A sandwich probably would have been the appropriate to-go choice for the road, but I much prefer my barbecue in plate form.
Their combo options were limited to two- and four-meat platters, as opposed to my customary three-meater. The two-meat barbecue plate is pretty expensive at $16.99, so four meats would likely break the bank. I had briefly considered a two-meat combo that included ribs, but the $22.99 price tag quickly cured me of that notion. I settled for a 2 Meat Platter of sliced brisket and pulled pork, with deviled eggs and sweet potato fries as my side dishes.
Potato salad is one of my standard side dish choices, but today I decided to live dangerously. Fries would also be easier to eat while I drove. These weren't overly crisp, and I actually don't think that sweet potato fries should be. They were cooked well and tasted homemade, although I can't be certain of that. Deviled eggs, which somehow eluded my picture-taking process, were another strategic driving choice. The eggs were creamy and mustardy, with just the right amount of salt and paprika and whatever other deliciousness they had sprinkled on top. There was also a slight sweetness that I really enjoyed. I doubt very many people besides me have driven around the Memphis ghetto while eating deviled eggs, at least I sincerely hope they haven't.
One & Only's pulled pork gets smoked over hickory for fifteen hours straight. That much time in the smoker was sure to produce fantastic results, which it did. Most of the meat had only a moderate, yet unmistakably-hickory smokiness. My plate contained only a few pieces of bark, but they were awesome and packed at least double the smoke level I had found initially. The meat itself was tender and very juicy, as well it should have been. No sauce needed here.
Rather than just being seasoning and smoked like most barbecue, their brisket gets marinated, smoked, sliced thin, and then finished on the grill with some extra seasoning. Honestly, I was a bit weary of the advertised thin-sliced beef, which can often be a devious way to counteract a pitmaster's dry meat. To my delight, the brisket was spectacular! It tasted like thin, smoky strips of steak, especially with the added steak marinade. I also loved the rub, which brought out even more flavor. The best way that I can describe it is that it's kind of like a barbecue/steak/shawarma fusion. Their thin slices also allowed me to wrap the brisket around my fork like spaghetti noodles, which was perfect for driving. This was clearly not a Texas brisket, but it was awesome nonetheless.
My wife, who ordered a pulled chicken sandwich despite my efforts to accommodate her barbecue apathy, said that it was probably the best she's ever had. That's certainly high praise coming from her, and I share her sentiment. I managed to eat my entire plate without making a mess of my clothes, except for the piece of pulled pork that I found later in my shirt pocket. Totally worth it.
One & Only BBQ
567 Perkins Extended
Memphis, TN 38117
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Curley's Carryout (Nashville, TN)
A few weeks ago, I discovered a new purveyor of pulled pork near my house called Curley's Carryout. To be honest, I didn't exactly have high hopes for this carryout restaurant, but I decided to give them a shot anyway. Besides, investigating barbecue in all of its forms is why I began writing this blog in the first place.
You'll find Curley's in a small strip mall, sandwiched between a dry cleaner and some sort of urgent care thing. Despite the "Carryout" name, there are in fact four small tables inside. There weren't many customers when I came in though, but Curley (the man himself) was extremely friendly and upbeat nonetheless. He also seemed to take pride in his food and the mom-and-pop nature of his business, which I always appreciate.
The menu I had seen on Yelp was mostly focused on burgers, hotdogs, and wings, with no plain barbecue as an option. I did see a "Pulled Pork Burger" and a "Pulled Pork Dog" that sounded interesting, but they were nowhere to be found on the in-restaurant menu. In fact, there were no longer any hotdogs on the menu at all. Luckily, I did find a decent combo: a pulled pork sandwich, 8 wings, and fries. Curley wasn't making smoked wings until Tuesday, and he was also out of the smaller wingettes, so I received 4 large honey barbecue wings. Not perfect, but it would have to be good enough. I upgraded my fries to their Garlic-Parm variety, which I was sure would be worth the small upcharge.
During my thirty-minute wait for food (it seems to be just a two-person operation), I was asked for my preferences on barbecue sauce. Normally I wouldn't even bother, but since I saw no evidence of an actual smoker anywhere, I feared that I might need the sauce today. I picked mild over spicy and Carolina-style over honey barbecue. Curley was nice enough to put the sauce on the side at least.
The handcut Garlic-Parm fries were fantastic! As their name suggests, this "Super Side" comes loaded with garlic and parmesan. They were crisp, flavorful, and infinitely better than the standard frozen crinkle fries. I should have ordered more of them.
Smoked wings would have been more my style, but I still looked forward to trying their honey barbecue version. These were coated in a thick layer of sauce, which was sadly a little bland aside from its pleasant sweetness. The wings themselves were cooked well and had a crispy skin. Maybe a sauce like lemon-pepper would work better, so I'll have to remember that for next time.
I tried to keep an open mind about the "pulled pork." The bun tasted homemade (well, homemade by someone), but the pork inside definitely had more of a crock-pot quality to it. There was a decent amount of flavor from their seasonings, though no smoke whatsoever. As expected, sauce was necessary here. It ended up being a runny vinegar-based sauce rather than the Carolina Gold I had hoped for. I liked it ok, but I'm just not a sauce guy no matter how hard I try to be.
Some of the toughest reviews to write are those which require me to balance the friendliness of small business owners with subpar barbecue. I will say that the burgers I saw coming out of Curley's kitchen looked as phenomenal as my fries had been, so perhaps that's really their forte. Curley's also has a great selection of homemade milkshakes, including salted caramel and a red velvet "cake shake" made with actual chunks of cake. I'll definitely be back to try those, but I probably won't be back for more barbecue.
2275 Murfreesboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37217
Saturday, August 22, 2015
B & C Melrose BBQ (Nashville, TN)
Some friends of ours came to town for the weekend, along with their beautiful eighteen-month-old daughter. The adult lady-folk were otherwise engaged, so we had a "Two Men and a Baby" thing going on for lunch. I couldn't think of a better pick than B & C (Bacon & Caviar). Although they have neither bacon nor caviar on the menu, the food is still incredible. We didn't want the hassle of, or the drive involved with, the farmer's market, so we headed for their Melrose location in search of some phenomenal 'que.
Wood-paneled walls and modern/rustic decor give B & C a rather inviting atmosphere. The dining area isn't the largest I've encountered, but I'm sure it serves its purpose just fine. They weren't very busy when we arrived at 11:00am, though that was precisely why we chose to go at opening time. They actually had highchairs, which made the little one happy, or at least it made her less mobile. Having the dining room mostly to ourselves was also perfect for those few high-pitched squeals from time to time.
Sadly, there are no multi-meat combos on the B & C menu, although I did my best to create one of my own. I ordered a 1/4 Rack St. Louis Style Ribs Plate, as well as a half-pound of Brisket and a half-pound of Pulled Pork. My plate came with two sides, for which I selected their Mac N Cheese and the Grit of the Day, which happened to be Buffalo Chicken Grits. It was clearly more food than I (or anyone else for that matter) needed, but this way I'd have some barbecue leftovers to take to work on Monday. Win-win. Knowing my intentions, I had the good sense to request my a la carte meats in to-go containers.
As advertised, the Buffalo Chicken Grits had a distinct buffalo sauce flavor. They were decently spicy and really, really tasty. The grits themselves were just slightly al dente, which I loved. Far from basic grits, these had pulled chicken mixed right in. It was very tender and added a great texture. The gooey, melty Mac N Cheese was equally spectacular. I'm not sure what combination of cheeses were used, but they worked great together. Their choice of spices also gave this comfort dish an excellent zestiness. Shells were clearly a better choice than elbow macaroni, mostly because they trapped big gobs of cheesy goodness inside.
The brisket wasn't exactly chopped, but it had gotten broken up slightly in order to fit inside the cylindrical styrofoam to-go container. My luck with brisket has been somewhat hit-or-miss since moving from Texas to Tennessee, so I was extremely pleased to find some glorious black bark on these slices. The bark was packed with seasoning and a smokiness that matched the red hue beneath. The fattier pieces were beyond compare and just melted in my mouth. I could have eaten this brisket all day long, which made it exceedingly difficult to leave any for leftovers.
Pulled pork is slowly growing on me, especially when I eat some as good as this. There was a great saltiness which made each bite a pleasure. I found plenty of smoke-kissed bits of meat scattered throughout and a decent smoky flavor. The pork was also amazingly tender and juicy, yet still had a substantive meaty texture. There was absolutely no reason to adulterate this meat by adding sauce. I was really glad that I had gotten extra for work lunches.
The big, meaty spare ribs were cooked perfectly. They cut easily enough with my plastic knife, but it still took a slight tug to remove meat from bone, as well it should have. Each bite of the ribs was very tender and very juicy. There was a nice smoke level here as well, but not so much as to mask the natural pork flavors. A hefty dusting of black pepper gave the pork a great spiciness and a great taste. The ribs had more of a glaze than a sauce coating. It was a mild semisweet tomato-based kind, which actually added to the other flavors rather than overpowering them.
Our tiny lunch companion loved her pulled chicken too. I think she ended up dropping a half-dozen plastic spoons on the floor in the process, but at least she had fun doing it. We had a great time giggling both with and at her, and having delicious food made things even better. Thanks, B & C!
B & C Melrose BBQ
2617 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37204
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