There’s a certain mystique to a barbecue joint that only the locals know about. Word of mouth is the only form of marketing. That’s all it takes if the food is good enough to create some country gossip. Robert Head’s Bar-B-Q is out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a day trip worth making and for one reason: chopped pork butt with a real kick.
Robert Head and his wife Fuzz used to operate the restaurant out of their barn. They moved into a building that looks like a machine shed from the outside. Inside it’s warm, homey and about as friendly as you could imagine. You sit down with a plate of barbecue and watch the horses across the pasture munching on hay. Neighborhood families fill the little dining room and spill out into the heated addition.
And then you take the first bite: this is some serious barbecue. There’s a strong smoky-salty taste that sets Head’s apart. This isn’t wimpy pig. The chopped Boston butt is plenty juicy and that flavor comes ripping through in each bite. It’s all about the sauce. The Head’s vinegar sauce is super thin, with a hint of hot sauce and something salty. It’s a bit too much on its own, but combined with the succulent pig it takes on a more mellow tone. Mr. Head puts a bit of the sauce in the chopping process. You can add more with bottles on each table. A nearly clear cousin is practically just vinegar.
The ribs have the same smoky-salty flavor, although on this day not to the same degree. They’re flavorful, greasy and good; perhaps not up to the level of that barbecue. The chicken is also good: pink from smoking, juicy in parts and perhaps just a tad dry in the breast.
The slaw and potato salad prove fairly generic as sides. Spicy white beans and sweet brown beans are a much better bet. The skillet fried corn bread pancakes are crispy, tasty and a must-do.
This would be an excellent road trip in the summer. The bucolic surroundings make for a pretty drive. Head’s is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6pm. It is actually fairly easy to get there. Just take I-24 north to exit 19, which is one exit north of Pleasant View. Take a left. At the Shell Station cross 41A and jog just a little to your left to get on Dorris Winters Road. Head’s is about a half mile on your left. It’s about 40 minutes north of Nashville.
I paid $12.75 on one visit for a rib plate, two sides, a drink and a half pound of barbecue to go. On another visit I paid $11.75 for the chicken plate, two sides, a drink and a half pound of barbecue to go (I had to get some for the freezer.)