This just says it all. The smoker inside Martin’s BBQ in Nolensville. It is open on one side of the dining room so that, if you wish, you can just immerse yourself in a cloud of sweet smelling smoke. I am in love.
I resist BBQ restaurants. I used to love them, but once I started judging competition BBQ it was impossible to go back to commercially produced ‘que. I am a snob in that regard and I freely admit it. But I now have to reconsider.
Patrick Martin, a former bonds trader, opened his first restaurant a few years ago. I began to hear the buzz. Then Martin opened a bigger restaurant. More buzz. Then he got invited to cook at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, a not inconsequential achievement. But what really got my attention was when I realized he was hanging with the Southern Foodways Alliance. He made the pilgrimage to Oxford for cow’s head tacos this year. I decide I need to take a twenty minute ride to Nolensville.
To set the benchmark, I order a pulled pork sandwich. The basic building block for any BBQ joint. It is moist and succulent and smoke-laced. And it comes on a soft bun that has been kissed with butter and grilled. Noah who is my lunch companion, notes that I put a lot of stock in bread that comes with a sandwich. I do. Bad bread can ruin a good sandwich and there’s no excuse for that. I am mildly surprised that the sandwich comes sauced. Most do not. But then I pause and realize that the sandwich is sauced because that’s the way Patrick Martin wants you to eat it. And he is right.
Noah gets the brisket taco. He swoons. Noah has picked up the fine art of food appreciation and swooning is definitely part of the package. There is a sort of tomato jam on the taco that I will have to investigate further when I return to Martin’s. And that just might be next week. If you read about Patrick Martin you will find out that he is one of a dying breed of whole-hog cooks. He learned the art from an old stick burner and he will pass his knowledge down to others to keep the tradition alive. I appreciate that dedication. As I said, I am in love.