The BBQ Roundtable: Five of Nashville's best pitmasters talk meat, sauce, smoke and style

Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 10:05pm
By Steve Cavendish, Chris Chamberlain and Jim Ridley
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From left to right: Jack Cawthon, Pat Martin, Will Newman, Molly James and Carey Bringle (Cawthon, Bringle: Eric England/SouthComm; Martin, Newman, James: Michael W. Bunch/SouthComm)


For people who care about barbecue, perhaps the easiest way to start an argument is to ask what exactly good barbecue is: Pig or cow? Sauce or not? Tomato or vinegar? A dry rub or salt and pepper? Hickory wood or mesquite?

Over the past decade, Nashville has developed a reputation as not only a great food city but also a place for great barbecue. We decided to get a few of the city’s best pitmasters together for a no-holds-barred discussion about those issues and more. In a roundtable with City Paper editor Steve Cavendish, Nashville Scene editor Jim Ridley and food writer Chris Chamberlain, we explored these issues with an all-star panel. And don't forget to check out the Scene's half of this one-two barbecue punch.



Jack Cawthon Owner of Jack’s BBQ. Cawthon graduated from catering to his first restaurant 37 years ago and has been producing great pork and beef ever since.

Pat Martin Owner of Martin’s BBQ. A former bond trader, Martin opened his first place in Nolensville in 2006, followed by Morgantown, W. Va., Mt. Juliet, and a new joint coming this fall to Belmont Boulevard in Nashville.

Will Newman Owner of Edley’s BBQ. Newman finished law school and decided he would rather work in the world of barbecue. His 12South place opened in 2011 and recently expanded to East Nashville.

Molly James A local owner of four Jim ’N Nick’s restaurants, the highly regarded chain based out of Birmingham, Ala. James came from the service side after college 15 years ago, learning her way around a pit in Jim ’N Nick’s places in Alabama.

Carey Bringle Owner of The Peg Leg Porker. A decorated veteran of the competition barbecue circuit, Bringle opened his first restaurant this summer in the Gulch.





What’s your first memory of barbecue, and what made you decide you wanted to do this for a living?

Will Newman: My first moment, like the moment where I can really remember just falling in love with barbecue … I was probably 7, and we were in Memphis. I remember we walked down and took a right, started walking down this dark and crazy alley, dumpsters everywhere. And of course, we walk in, and it’s Rendezvous. And Memphis downtown wasn’t a cool place to be. There’s the people that were just hanging on, that was about it. And I just remember it vividly, and I can remember everything about it and just, you know, wishing I was 21 just so I could drink beer. My parents ... it looked like it was so much fun. But just the feel of the place and just how much fun my parents had, I’ve just always remembered that, that moment.

Pat Martin: Yeah. Mine was in Memphis, too. I was — my mom and dad would go out to — they’d go out to eat on Friday nights, and my Uncle Robert and Aunt Elaine would take care of me. And the first memory I had was going to Gridley’s. That was back when Gridley’s was — I guess it was ’75, ’76, yeah. We just went to Gridley’s every time Mom and Dad went out. And what got me, when I decided I wanted to do it, I think was a mixture of conscious and subconscious. Because when I went to college — we’re all Church of Christ, so I went to Freed-Hardeman [University in Henderson, Tenn.], actually going through and playing basketball. It was either Michigan State and go down there, and my dad played ball at Michigan State, and I wasn’t good enough to play there. But I wanted to play, and, you know, they told me I could come up and try to walk on. So I went on up, and I had already started grilling. My dad and my grandfathers, both grandfathers, were all from the same town in Corinth, Miss. And they did everything methodically. There was never — they didn’t barbecue, but they were big on the grill with burgers and steaks, the classics, and never a gas grill. There was never lighter fluid.

And so, I don’t know, you always want to be like your dad or your male figures in your life. And I went to school in Chester County, and that’s the — one of the last few whole-hog pockets in America, and it flies under the radar. I mean, the Carolinas get all the attention, but I’m emotionally partial to West Tennessee. So I started going down to a place called Thomas & Webb. There was an old guy named Harold Thomas. He would let me come in at night and hang out with the two old black guys that were pitmasters down there. You just hang around. Then I became the guy who cooked whole hogs for all the fraternity parties and all that, around Jackson and all that. You know, I just would trade beer. And that was it. After that, Freed ended up kicking me out for drinking beer twice, and Lipscomb took me in. They were a little more liberated. And we stayed in — they didn’t go behind me trying to figure out if I was drinking beer, but I was.

I always knew I wanted to do this. I just thought I’d go and trade corporate bonds until I was about 45 and make a ton of money and then go open up a barbecue joint with no risk. That didn’t quite work out that way. That was it.

Carey Bringle: My first memories were sitting beside my uncle or beside my granddad Jack on the other side of the family. So my mom’s dad would cook when he did burgers. He actually smoked burgers. And it’s funny because both sides of the family had PKs, or portable kitchen grills, which is the old cast-aluminum grill; they used to take them on the frontlines of Vietnam. It was one of the best grills ever made. I’ve still got them. I still have the grills from both sides of the family. And …

Pat Martin: How come you don’t ever bring that [stuff] out, man?

Carey Bringle: Well, it’s at the house. It’s sitting in my backyard.

Pat Martin: Carey lives on Tyne Boulevard, man. It looks like Sanford and Son.

Carey Bringle: I’m sitting next to [granddad] Jack, and he would — he would methodically, you know, build a pile of coals on one side of the grill and feed hickory chunks on it and smoke these burgers for about 45 minutes. And then also with my Uncle Bruce, he had a signature smoked turkey that would be stuffed with oranges and onions. And he would smoke that thing and sit out there for hours. And we called him Uncle Juice, and I thought that was because he drank a lot of orange juice, until I found out later he was a raging alcoholic. As a kid, you think it’s because he likes orange juice, but they called him Uncle Juice for the different reason.


You know, I can remember restaurants or places like Lewis’ Store that, you know, had silver dollars all over the floor, it was a barbecue place in West Tennessee. And I remember going in there with my grandmother and getting a real warm welcome, you know, from the family because they knew us. And so, you know, it was just about the culture and about the — and then I cooked in college, like Pat, for the fraternity and for friends. And so that makes you pretty popular. And my grandmother, all throughout high school and throughout college, would clip articles and send them to me, whether they were about the Cotton Carnival or about Memphis in May or about John Will’s barbecue place or whatever. Anything having to do with barbecue that came up in the Commercial Appeal, my grandmother would clip the article and mail it to me. And so it was a constant reminder that, hey, this is something that we think is important.

So like Pat, I thought, well, I’ll never do it if there’s any risk. I’m going to make my money, and then I’m going to open my barbecue place, and I’m going to be able to enjoy it and not have to worry about money. And it just didn’t work out that way.


Couldn’t wait that long?

Carey Bringle: You know, I couldn’t wait that long. And, you know, I decided to pull the trigger and, you know, build the place that I wanted to build, and that’s what I’ve got now.


Jack, how about your first place and what got you into bricks and mortar?

Jack Cawthon: All right. I’ve been hearing a lot about West Tennessee and Memphis, which I love, but take it back in Nashville. In the ’60s, I was raised in Nashville. I was in Franklin. I went to Franklin High School. But in the ’60s, though, there were three barbecue places in Nashville that were real famous. You know, people talk about Nashville didn’t have good barbecue, but in the ’60s they did, and it was Charlie Nickens. It was down at Jefferson Street and Second Avenue, it was a famous place, and they did open pit. And it was Nick Varallo’s out at the fork at Highway 100 and 70. And then there was Jimmy Coursey’s over at the fairgrounds on Fourth Avenue. And these three places, they did open pit, and they was real famous. And all the high schools kind of, back in the day, back during then, we’d all ride around, became friends, different high schools, west, east. We all met at these barbecue places.

But anyways, over the years those famous guys, the sons and the others didn’t take it on. They didn’t hardly make it past a second generation. I think they got in the second generation with a lot of them, but third generation they didn’t make it. So it became a big void in Nashville. And that’s when I came along. I was doing my catering and all, and then when people kept talking about why don’t we have some barbecue, you know, and I kept going back to my old memories, you know, that good old barbecue. And I had some connection with Nick Varallo and talked to him about it before he died, and he helped me with my first original barbecue sauce.

But then I started traveling and trying to come up with my method, and I found out there’s a lot of Texans in Tennessee, in Nashville. And that’s when I come up with a cross between Texas and Tennessee in my style barbecue. And so it’s an indirect. We smoke it. It’s not open pit. So it puts a pink in the meat, and Nashville wasn’t used to that at all. And then we had to educate them to beef brisket and the pink in the meat, and they thought the meat wasn’t done and all that. ...

But I really think Nashville — you know, I’ve done everything. I’ve tried to raise the bar for barbecue for Nashville. And as we come along, we — Nashville is becoming a destination for barbecue, just like the Carolinas and Kansas City, Memphis. Nashville is getting on the map, too. We kind of — and y’all may want to talk about that, but we kind of like it all. You know, any type barbecue can really work, as long as it’s good.

Molly James: I’m from North Alabama. I think it’s pretty standard that every year you have the whole family get together, and all the men would get together the night before and either bury a hog or, you know, get up at 5 in the morning and smoke chickens and make stew and do all that kind of stuff every year. And, you know, all my uncles and great-uncles that I had, everybody with a funny name or that looked weird to me, were the ones who got up and did all that stuff. “Uncle Boney.” I remember that whole day and everything surrounding that, the big buffet of food. And I think everybody just — the whole day, the whole event, everything it brought together, people you don’t see all year long sitting around eating baked beans and potato salad, you know, those two things at every single one of them. You can’t have barbecue without one of those being present, pretty much.


How’d you get started?

Molly James: I got started looking for a job out of college. I had experience at a bar and I had friends working at Jim ’N Nick’s, and so I was looking for a real job. And I was bartending there, and I worked at the Homewood [Ala.] store, which was one of the first ones that converted Jim ’N Nick’s. And we had an open pit, and I worked in the bar. And where it sat, right through the door where we got our to-go food was the pit. So any time I had to go through the swinging door, I was right there at the pit. That’s where I learned a lot about the cooking process.


Is there a specific Tennessee barbecue? Like if you were trying to explain it to somebody else, what would you say it is?

Pat Martin: I’m going to say West Tennessee whole hog. I mean, again, I’m partial to it. And Memphis — I mean, Memphis is already known, so I’m assuming we’re not going to talk about that. Memphis is one of the five major regions. It’s just — once you cross the Tennessee River, basically until you get the Shelby County line, you know, it was all whole hog, especially around Lexington and Henderson and Savannah and all down through there. That’s my two cents.


Has Nashville put any unique spin on barbecue in any way?

Pat Martin: I think Jack’s right in the fact that Nashville has a lot of transients, L.A. and Texas. And I think it’s way more accepted here to serve brisket than you could probably get away with in like, say, Knoxville and some of those places. I mean, I think you can — I’m with Jack in the fact that you can pretty much serve everything here; and as long as it’s good, they’ll buy it.

Jack Cawthon: And you’ve got the variety of sauces, too. I remember when I first started my barbecue, I almost was going to have mutton. I traveled up to Owensboro [Ky.], and they had a big name, you know, for mutton up there, and everybody swore by it. And I chose — in my final decision, I chose brisket over mutton, which I’m glad I did. That’s when I found out there was a lot of Texans in Nashville. But once you get outside of that area up there in Kentucky, nobody knows what mutton is.

Carey Bringle: I think in Nashville, everything goes. If you ask me what I think Tennessee barbecue is, I’m going to say pork. I think that it’s straight-up pork. Growing up, if you asked for brisket in a barbecue place, say in West Tennessee or Memphis, they’d say, one, it’s not barbecue — and I’m not saying I agree with that. But that’s what I was taught growing up, is that’s not barbecue.


Carey Bringle: Two, you know, go to Texas. I mean, that’s kind of — that was the reaction. Now you see a lot of the Memphis places are offering brisket, and most everybody offers both. But that was the reaction when I was growing up. I don’t even think I saw a brisket. I don’t think I saw one, physically, until I was out of college.

Will Newman: I didn’t.

Carey Bringle: You know, and then cooking one, I didn’t begin to — you know, I couldn’t begin to tell you.

Jack Cawthon: It’s the most complicated meat, too, to try to cook.

Carey Bringle: Yeah. And now I love brisket. But we’re not serving it. We are an exception to the rule. We made a choice not to, against the advice of a lot of people that I respect; but we’re just doing pork barbecue. I mean, we’re doing chicken as well. But I think that most people would say Tennessee barbecue is pork barbecue, first and foremost, but I think that, as Jack and Pat have both pointed out, in Nashville you’ve got a very cultural/mixing/melting pot, and you’ve got people that want a variety. Pork will always be king.


Talk about the conscious decisions you make. What is going to be on this menu? What to you is barbecue? And are you doing it for what you love or what you think your customers need?

Will Newman: So Bret Tuck is my chef and a partner now over at Edley’s East. And he and I went back and forth on brisket just a tremendous amount. And much like everyone else here, you know, I was aware of brisket, I like brisket, but brisket is so freaking tough. And you’ve just got to know —you’ve really, really got to spend a lot of time and learn the nuances of it and really how to trim it. Now, that’s really kind of the key I think. And so Bret and I argued just a ton about it, just absolutely a ton. And while we were building the place out, he started just mentioning different ways with, you know, trimming it up. And he finally made a brisket that was just freaking out of sight, and he remembered exactly everything he did, and we did it again, and we did it again. We were able to do it consistently, and I was like, well, if we can make this brisket like this, then we’ll do it. But we were somewhat intimidated by it.


Is it just Nashville that’s this crossroads? I mean, Molly, you can probably speak to barbecue attitudes in lots of cities around the South.

Molly James: I would definitely agree that people are accepting of a lot of different meats and different styles. You know, Denver is beef; pork is definitely not high on their list. And pork is the best seller everywhere else; but, you know, in Nashville I do see a big call for different sauces, much more than other places. They like their sauce. It’s either red or white or it’s vinegar, one or the other. It’s not a big happy medium. And because Nashville does have such a big mix of people, you know, we appeal to a large variety of people.


Is that what we’re missing, that there’s not a single Nashville sauce? You know, that we do offer all those different sauces to everybody to try to hit all the sweet spots that everybody likes. Some people want a white sauce or a vinegar sauce or a sweet sauce or a hot sauce, but if you go to North Carolina you’re not going to find six sauces unless you’re at a Famous Dave’s.

Carey Bringle: I’d say we’ve got one sauce, and I say that then knowing that, we serve a white sauce. And we have a white sauce, which is mainly for chicken or poultry, but for us our barbecue sauce is one sauce. And that’s — it’s the style that I grew up with that I like, and that’s a tomato-based, traditional sandwich sauce. And, you know, people want a hot version. So, you know, it’s the same sauce, we just added some hot stuff to it. And to Molly’s point exactly, I mean, for me, that attitude is from what I grew up going to. In Memphis, you had one sauce, and they’d have a mild version and a hot version, but it was one sauce that was — that went with that restaurant. We can talk about the meat standing on its own all day long, and I think we all agree that the meat has to be able to stand on its own. But I’ll also tell you the sauce is boss. People want sauce. You know, I’ve had a lot of great sauces in Nashville that are a lot different than mine.

Jack Cawthon: Well, I did a TV show one time, and I was displaying all my sauces. And a lady asked me which sauce did you start with first, and I said the original. It kind of broke the ice, but that’s true. You know, I mean, I started with one sauce, my original. But here I am 37 years later, and I’ve got six.

Pat Martin: I started with one, and my — if you take my white sauce out of it, the one sauce I’ve got, what I call my Sweet Dixie, is a classic West Tennessee whole-hog sauce. My slaw is a sweeter slaw. And so I don’t want people to have those without the other. You know, I’m about to start charging people that don’t get slaw on their sandwich. I’m not. So — but then I’d start — you know, ribs are a big thing, and that sauce — my sauce is not a sweet sauce. It’s a very semi-sweet sauce. And so I just threw some molasses and honey in there to sweeten it up. And, you know, then our — my mop I use for the hog is our vinegar-based sauce, and that’s all it — it wasn’t even designed to be a sauce. People just started asking for it and wanting it, and wanting that on the sandwich, and so it just kind of happened, you know. But you run into — I mean, you might be able to comment on it, but you really — it’s a good and a bad, having a bunch of different sauces. You know, you can appeal to people who come from those five major regions better, but, you know, your identity, it seems to me it’s a headache. It’s a real pain in the ass to have more than one. But the customer’s always right, you know, so I decided to not argue.

Carey Bringle: Well, then you come to do you put it on foil or do they put it on? If you’re going to have all them sauces, you’ve got to let them do it.

Pat Martin: See, I don’t do that.

Carey Bringle: You can’t do it for them.

Pat Martin: I draw the line. I say I can’t do that.

Carey Bringle: But go back to — you know why we’ve got all these different sauces? Because if you get the map out, you know, Nashville is like in the middle of all these, and it’s just kind of the center. They all come through here. We’re kind of like the crossroad, and so we tend to satisfy everybody. Everybody leaves happy. You know, I had some good barbecue in Nashville, that’s what I’m after.


I’m interested in the two people who spent a lot of time in Alabama and about white sauce, because it’s something that’s come into Nashville, but it wasn’t here.

Will Newman: Hog Heaven started white sauce [here]. I mean, it’s a hole in a wall out here at West End, but everybody writes them up about their white sauce. It’s an excellent sauce. But in Alabama, my wife’s family is from there, and it’s been — you know, it started I guess up in North Alabama.

Molly James: I’m from a little place called Rogersville [Ala.], which is, you know, about 30, 40 minutes west of Athens. I didn’t come in contact with it a whole lot because it’s a chicken sauce. And, you know, if you didn’t do a lot of that or if that wasn’t the barbecue you got, that wasn’t — so I didn’t come in contact with it a lot. And then for Jim ’N Nick’s, we didn’t have it for a long time, like in the past four years kind of thing.



Molly James: So 26 years after we started, we didn’t get it. And I think the sauces also come along. Getting different sauces comes along with people trying their hand at different meats and different — and I think a lot of that just — it’s not only dictated by the customer, but also by someone, you know, when you’re back there cooking or you have a passion for that and you’re trying — I mean, Jim ’N Nick’s didn’t have anything but pork for years, and then, probably 10 years after we opened, added turkey. And then added beef. It wasn’t one of those things where we had everything under the sun all the time.

Pat Martin: You know, I want to say something to Jack’s credit, because Jack probably was the one who made it OK for the rest of us to serve other stuff, honestly, because I’m sitting here, while y’all were asking that question trying to think about when I first had brisket, and I honestly think the first time I ever even had a brisket sandwich was when I was working for Morgan Keegan [investment firm] and I worked in the First Union building. I would walk — I would go down and eat at [Jack’s] place literally three times a week and walk back up that damn hill bloated, you know. But I started eating brisket there more than I did the pork sandwich, and the pork sandwich was off the charts. But I wasn’t in Nashville when, you know, the other guys were here. I mean, we’d go out to what’s-his-name’s out in Franklin, old what’s-his-name.

Jack Cawthon: Lewis and Herbert’s?

Pat Martin: Herbert’s. We’d go out to Herbert’s, you know, before — it was either Jack’s or Herbert’s, but Herbert didn’t have brisket, or I don’t remember him having brisket.

Jack Cawthon: No, he just did pork.

Pat Martin: Yeah. And so Jack was really the one that made it all right to say, “You know, all right, we’ve come out of the closet, start selling some other stuff.”

Will Newman: You asked about Alabama earlier. I still go down there all the time to visit family and a couple friends. They still just are — a lot of the people that have been there forever, just brisket is appalling to them, that it’s even considered and sold. And then when it comes to white sauce, they use white sauce for their French fries. Places that aren’t even barbecue places have white sauce. Like people would buy it, you know. Billy’s Sports Bar serves white sauce; and then Miss Myra’s in Vestavia, that’s a pretty good barbecue joint, it had awesome white sauce. I mean, you go to people’s refrigerators, they’ve got freaking Billy’s white sauce. It’s a sports bar. That’s how big it was when I was there.

Jack Cawthon: You know, 25 years ago Luther’s BBQ came to Nashville. Dave Wachtel, he was with Shoney’s, and they came in, and I guess they just thought everybody’s just going to go crazy about brisket, and nobody knew what it was. And it didn’t last about two or three months, and he got pissed off and he closed them all and turned them into O’Charley’s. And he didn’t even give it a chance, but brisket is something that you’ve just got to ease, introduce people to and give them bites of it. Some thought it was rare. They didn’t think — they saw the pink, and they thought it wasn’t cooked. And so I had to, you know, educate them to it. Like take a chicken and pull it off the bone, it’s pink but it’s done. So, you know, it’s kind of a process that Nashville had to go through over the years. In fact, I’m glad to see whole-hog come to Nashville. I never did a whole hog because, frankly, it took up too much room on the pit. But some people in Nashville do that.


Have you all had to teach people what good stuff really is?

Jack Cawthon: Well, yeah. After that void, you know, when those families died out, somebody came through here with an electric pit. I didn’t mention that, to help put them all out of business. I’m trying to think whoever that guy was, but he sold all these good barbecue places that sweated with this open pit. And the sons said, “give me an electric pit and I can cook it in half the time, and I can go do whatever else I want to do.” And that just drove their business — it drove them in the ground. You know, people knew the difference.

Pat Martin: I mean, look at [the Nashville Scene] Readers’ Poll. They go for Whitt’s every year, and Whitt’s sucks. I mean, let’s just say it. Let’s just say the big elephant in the room — everybody wants to say Whitt’s sucks. It does. Nobody wants to say it, and I’ll say it. I’ll say this though: Barbecue used to suck, and barbecue has gotten a lot better. I get people all the time that come and talk to me about how they grew up on Whitt’s. My fear is that back then Whitt’s was doing a much better job than they are now, OK? When I look at Birmingham for Nick — Nick Pihakis has the greatest operation in the world. Birmingham is down there with two-thirds the amount of people we have in the city, and Jim ’N Nick’s and Full Moon [Bar-B-Que] do $50 million a year. Is it more than that now? Fifty-odd-million [dollars] in sales with 700,000 people. You know, we — our collective here is in the 20 [millions]. I’ve been educated on this fact over the past three or four years, that Birmingham has definitely flown under the radar as far as having really good barbecue. And, you know, people here are still just Whitt’s, Whitt’s, Whitt’s, and that’s because they’ve had a footprint in this area for so long and they were the go-to. The biggest thing I have to try to educate people now is that I’m going to charge you $4.50 for this sandwich in Nolensville, and you’re either going to like it or you go to Whitt’s. I’m not selling my damn sandwich for $2.25. I’m not.

Molly James: Well, I think, too — I mean, I think the other thing that goes along with that is if you don’t cook barbecue or it is that — if your taste for it is that it was brought to a family reunion or the church or something like that, you don’t know what goes into cooking barbecue at all. And it is not an easy — I mean, we still educate people, we at least once a day, if not more, talk to somebody about the smoke ring and, you know, it’s not raw, and things like that. I don’t think people necessarily understand everything that goes into it. So there’s a lot of educating on barbecue.

Pat Martin: Let’s come at it from a different angle. Let’s compare Jim ’N Nick’s and Famous Dave’s. Jim ’N Nick’s cooks theirs onsite, doesn’t have a freezer or microwave; Famous Dave’s is a commissary.

Carey Bringle: That’s what — Famous Dave’s is great, it had some good stuff, but when you get right down to it you don’t walk out of there saying, “God have mercy, that was off the charts.” I mean, it doesn’t — you know, you might walk out of there and say on a scale of one to 10 it’s a six or seven. But barbecue is the one thing you cannot — you can’t cook this stuff in a commissary and then go over here and reconstitute it. If you do, you’re making a conscious decision that “I’m going to be OK with average barbecue.” Period. There’s no — you can’t get around that.


What’s the worst thing you can do to a piece of barbecue?

Molly James: Like you can take shortcuts. Just like he’s saying, “I’m going to cook it, chop it, and freeze it; I’m going to put it in a bag, and I’ll pull it out when I need it.” I mean, that’s horrible.

Pat Martin: Well, it’s double whammies here, because they cook it at a commissary and then reheat the stuff.

Molly James: I mean, you just do a huge disservice to it. The smoke and all the flavor that goes into that meat, every step along the way — you do anything to it, you hurt that just a little bit, every step along the way. You cool it and you reheat, everything you do to it takes away from that flavor and the tenderness and the juices in it, every little bit. And you have those people out there that do cheat and think that they’re going to, you know, call themselves a good barbecue place, and they’re going to add water to it, they’re going to steam it up really nice. No, it’s not good, it’s chopped up. “Here’s what I’ll do, is I’ll chop it up really fine and they won’t know the difference.”

Jack Cawthon: People that are well-traveled now, they do want the difference. You know, … like what you’re saying. I mean, just like I told [Carey Bringle] the other day, I went to see him, and I said as long as you serve that barbecue, you ain’t going to have no trouble with me. The people that don’t serve a good product is the ones I have trouble with. And that hurts Nashville.

Carey Bringle: It gives the city a bad name.

Jack Cawthon: That hurts Nashville because we’re trying to raise the bar for Nashville for a barbecue destination.

Pat Martin: The bar is being — it’s been raised/it’s being raised. You know, man, when I — I go and eat at these two guys’ places [Edley’s and The Peg Leg Porker] more than I do yours only because I don’t feel like going downtown. But when I was close to your place, when I was working downtown, I would go down there all the time. But I like eating barbecue outside of my own. Not to go down there and test them out and — I already know their [stuff’s] good. I go down there because I want to go have a good sandwich. I mean, you know, it’s just — I don’t do that when it comes to Whitt’s and Bar-B-Cutie, really. Really Whitt’s. I’ll tell you right Bar-B-Cutie has got a badass breakfast. They’ve got freaking great biscuits. And of course, Jim ’N Nick’s, but I just think that, you know, the bar — Jack’s right, the bar is being raised, and it needs — it just needs to keep going higher. And as long as we all continue to not waver from our standards, man, the sky’s the limit.


If I’m sitting at home reading this, what should I be thinking about to make my barbecue better?

Molly James: Time.

Carey Bringle: Yeah, it’s time and temperature. I mean, it really doesn’t — I mean, it’s not rocket science. People want to make it harder than it is. The problem is most people just aren’t patient, and that’s the bottom line. They want a shortcut, like Molly said earlier. I mean, it’s — they’re just not patient. You can go buy an electric smoker and you can put chips in it and you can put it as great barbecue if you’ve got the time. You can’t set it to cook in four hours and expect it to be like something that was cooked in 14. And so, you know, there’s all kinds of pits on the market. You know, we build pits.

Pat Martin: You can cook barbecue on anything.

Carey Bringle: You can cook it in a trash can.

Pat Martin: Absolutely.

Carey Bringle: It’s about time and temperature. And it’s about putting in the time. I think we all understand that in this room, that you just — we cooked on every damn kind of pit there is. It doesn’t matter the kinds of pits we’ve cooked on or more, it just takes the time.


6 Comments on this post:

By: PKVol on 7/5/13 at 11:26

This is 4 guys and a gal laying it on the line. It's nice that they have a respect for each other, they realize that rising tides raise all ships.

By: courier37027 on 7/5/13 at 8:31

Try Bailey and Cato in Inglewood for soul food and barbecue shoulder.

By: courier37027 on 7/5/13 at 8:33

I agree with their Whitt's comment...ugh. Rippe's downtown is steamed barbecue shoulder, ack. You can see why there is a line at Jack's downtown and not a Rippe's across the street. By the way, Jack does great work on brisket.

By: wiseguy1 on 7/5/13 at 8:35

You could read this? I didn't learn a blinking thing, other than most can't hold a thought very long and ... was that supposed to be English they were speaking?

Credit Big Bob Gibson for the white sauce. I ate many a Sunday dinner after church at Gibson's in Huntsville.

By: kacia on 7/5/13 at 8:37

My son had his first taste of pork and brisket at Martin's and Martin's is the standard by which even he compares everything. We are loyal Martin-ites. There is not much their brisket taco can't fix! FAVORITE!!!!!!!

Jim N Nicks now has my favorite potato salad, but Martin's has our favorite everything else. I would rather have a microwaveable cheeseburger from a gas station cooler than a whitt's sandwich...

By: 742180 on 7/10/13 at 11:21

With all this publicity, you would think that BBQ is a new food group. BBQ is a staple food through out most of the South, yet these discussions indicate an undeveloped taste for a true southern food.
When I get home my wife doesn't ask what I had for lunch, she asks where I had BBQ today. I have tried them all, through out the South, and some are good some are not so good.
BBQ is SUCH a regional, and personal taste food. It can not be mass produced to any degree of quality, which is why it is so localized. There are no successful multi store multi regional BBQ's. I Know, there are such stores but few make the list for a true BBQ lover.
Once again Tex's BBQ on Foster Ave Nashville has as good a reputation and BBQ as any of the newer guys. Over 30 years, only BB Cutie is older, of people lining up to have lunch at Tex's.
Think about it, you have 21 meals a week to serve. Tex's serves 5!! (11 to 2 M - F) and has been for 30 years. That didn't happen by accident, the food is good and a great value. Lots of folks are getting REAL proud of their BBQ, ie it's pricey as heck. Over and BBQ experts can tear this post apart now. Go.....