Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bar-B-Que Authenticity Reaches its Limits in the Exurbs of Nashville

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
7238 Nolensville Rd.
Nolensville, TN

The name of this place is Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint.

So what do we know about this place right off the bat?

Right. It’s not going to be an authentic bar-b-que joint.

Because authentic bar-b-que joints don’t call themselves “joints”.

It’s kind of like the difference between my authentic redneck friends and the ones that call themselves rednecks.

My authentic redneck friends don’t even know that they are rednecks. In fact, they might even be mildly insulted if I referred to them as such.

So I don’t.

Of course my nouveau redneck friends would take it as a compliment.

Another reason I walked through the front door of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint with a mind full of suspicion was the address.

Nolensville, Tennessee.

This is Exurban Hell, USA.

Twenty-five miles south of Nashville, Nolensville is one of those quiet rural towns that have the misfortune of being within commuting distance of a big city.

Exurbs like Nolensville are where white Republicans flee to when they tire of the indignities of urban and suburban life.

Or when they have kids. And they’ve convinced themselves that the government schools in the exurbs have vastly superior ability to shape their children’s’ young minds of mush, ignoring the fact that higher test scores are nothing more than a reflection of the demographics of the kids being tested, not any competence on the part of the government.

Yep. Southern exurbs like Nolensville are the types of places where the 22% of the registered voters who actually voted for Obama won’t admit it to the other 78%.

Where Republicans move to when they want the simplicity of rural living but can’t bear to give up Home Depot or Starbucks.

Drive in a circle 30 miles around any major Southern city and you will notice the trend too.

Cookie-cutter brick McMansions on three-quarter acre lots. Minivans and SUVs. Applebee’s and Panera Bread.

In my opinion, exurban living is the worst trend since heterosexual men started wearing jeans with those faggity ass swirls on the pockets.

My problem with the exurbs is they lack authenticity.

The whole point of rural living is to slow down and immerse yourself is a culture that is genuine and timeless.

Where everyone knows everyone.

Where the old man at the mom and pop hardware store speaks with such a thick drawl you can only comprehend every third word – but you nod your head anyway.

Where the local pitmaster runs a bar-b-que joint that really is a joint, has been a joint for decades, and he would be somewhat offended if you told him so.

But in exurban towns like Nolensville such remnants of genuine rural living quickly become displaced by urban refugees and relocated Yankees willing to commute two hours per day to get a taste of country living, no matter how inauthentic.

I mean it’s fun to claim you’ve moved out to the country as long as you don’t have to smell cow manure, ride behind a slow moving tractor or get your Range Rover repaired by some toothless yokel.

Situated in a modern suburban strip mall, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is a perfect metaphor for the town in which it resides.

Or so I thought.

Sometimes you have to let the bar-b-que speak for itself.

The first thing I noticed is that there is nothing inauthentic about the smoke billowing out of the big black smoke pit smack dab in the middle of the restaurant.

That’s a smell, my friends, that can’t be faked.

Martin’s slowly smokes its pork and beef over hard wood for hours.

This place might be as polished as the granite counter tops in the custom homes popping up down the street, but the bar-b-que is strictly old school.

I ordered the “Redneck Taco” -- which in reality is neither.

While no authentic redneck would ever order it, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious.

The “Redneck Taco” is a slab of corn bread with pulled pork, cole slaw and tangy bar-b-que sauce piled on top.

While Martin’s offers a variety of sauce, it chooses to ladle its thin vinegary tomato-based sauce on top of the cole slaw. The result is a tangy, crunchy condiment for the pulled pork below.

Meanwhile the base of this “taco”, the corn bread, soaks up the drippy tasty remnants from the pork, slaw and sauce.

The pork itself benefits well from all these complimentary flavors and textures. It was a bit dry and bland by itself.

The baked beans were top notch, spiked with green pepper and lots of brown sugar.

The walls of this exurban “joint” are decorated with Southern kitsch -- rebel flags, license plates, trucker caps and portraits of pigs and Hank Williams, all carefully staged in a deliberately haphazard arraignment.

A steady stream of kick-ass Outlaw Country poured from the restaurant’s sound system. You just don’t hear the authentic sounds of Merle Haggard, David Allen Coe and Loretta Lynn on the radio anymore.

This is the brand of music the Music Row suits 25 miles north of here banished from the light of day. These are the people responsible for shoving unartistic pop country crap down our throats and out across America’s airwaves.

And I’m quite sure many of these are the same people responsible for turning the dairy farms around Nolensville into house farms -- and after their long commute home from Music Row come to Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint where they can get themselves some authentic bar-b-que while listening to authentic country music.

For some people this is as authentic as they want to get.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint on Urbanspoon


  1. Whitt's has the best BBQ in Nashville... it is no frills, but pretty good. Jack's and Edley's are pretty good too.

    1. Thanks for the tips! We've already reviewed Jack's:

      I've always been suspicious of Whitt's just because of its prominent airport outpost. But I'll have to check out Edley's next time I'm in

  2. this is amazing post and as always good place of smoking food.