Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Jack’s Bar-B-Que

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Jack’s Bar-B-Que
416 Broadway 615-254-5715
And 334 W. Trinity Lane 615-228-9888

Jack Cawthon has been in the barbecue business since 1976. He started with a catering operation and opened his first restaurant, downtown, in 1989. He followed in 1991 with the Trinity Lane location. I prefer Trinity Lane. There are less tourists and the staff is quite fun.

If you hit enough barbecue joints you start to notice strengths and weaknesses. Rarely does any place do it all. One or two items usually stand out, while others are more pedestrian. This is the case at Jack’s, where I will argue you can get some of the best, if not the best, ribs in town. Okay, I know I just started a fistfight and barbecue purists will probably snub their noses, because Jack’s is a popular spot with the tourist crowd. I would suggest that if you laid out a portion of ribs from every joint in town and served them up to big barbecue eaters, Jack’s would win, or at least come in near the top.

The ribs are St. Louis style. They’re fairly smoky, moist and close to falling off the bone. Close, but not falling off, and this is important. They also have a bit of fat to them, which I think brings out the flavor. They always have a hot, smoky batch ready to go. If you arrive at 11 a.m. it’s nice to know you are getting meat right from the smoker and not microwaved leftovers. I’m sad to say I’ve run into the microwaved ribs problem a bunch of times in Nashville. It’s probably because I tend to eat lunch early. The solution is to find a place that does enough business, so that they have a fresh batch of ribs ready to go at all hours. Needless to say microwaved ribs should not even be served.

The chopped pork shoulder at Jack’s is good, but not spectacular. It’s moist, tender with just a hint of smoke. The chicken has a bit of seasoning on the skin, light smoke and decent flavor. The smoked turkey seems to have more smoke to it, which I tend to like. You can get an entire smoked turkey for Thanksgiving. We’ve done it before and the smoky flavor is a nice change of pace for the traditional bird. Jack’s also serves up beef brisket and smoked Texas sausage.

Jack’s sides are nothing terribly creative. They are a good accompaniment to the ribs. The mac and cheese tends to need a little spicing up. I usually throw a bit of the hot barbecue sauce in it. The cake-like corn bread is excellent.

Speaking of the barbecue sauce, it’s the other specialty of the house. The smoky, sweet Kansas City style sauce is an awesome tomato based sauce, probably one of the best around. The hot and smoky sauce has a pleasant kick to it. They also have a great Carolina mustard based sauce and the more traditional Tennessee vinegar sauce. Jack’s sauces have won a bunch of awards and for good reason. We usually buy a bottle or two when we visit.

Veggie Eater: Not exactly a vegetarian’s dream spot, but a reasonable compromise for a vegetarian in a relationship with a meat eater. They typically have many tasty sides available that are vegetarian. Mac and cheese is acceptable. Corn bread is good. Creamed corn is good. Fills me up and all the stuff is pretty high qualify sides to a meat and three menu.

Meat Eater: We paid $25 with tax and tip for the veggie plate, my combo meat plate with three meats and three sides, and a bottle of sauce to go. If I could eat only Jack’s ribs for every meal and for the rest of my life I probably would. However, I don’t think my wife or my doctor would like it very much. I might only live a few years, but those would be happy years.

Jack's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon


Lannae said...

LOL. Last weekend, before my veggie friends came to visit us for the week, we went to Jack's on Trinity for dinner. In my mind, Jack's is the opposite of local organic veggies (that we dined on all week at my house). I love the brisket. I am telling you, we probably have crossed paths, and didn't even know it. I have found myself looking at dining couples to see if they have a camera, and trying to figure out if they are you!

Eric and Katie said...

Wow...we will most likely run into each other at some point. I've been eating seafood all week on the South Carolina shore. I'll post about it next week. Also, we just ate at the best little pub I have ever experienced. It's in Asheville, NC where we spent the night. Asheville is a foodie paradise! We counted ten organic/locally oriented grocery stores.