It’s my favorite time of the year! Every March, my best friends and I go on an adventure to a different city in search of great BBQ. We got started 8 years ago on our first “Mancation” to Memphis, TN. I got tired of talking about going somewhere to eat BBQ and finally challenged my friends to do it. I gave them some dates, costs of hotels and possible places to eat ribs. I’ve found that if you do all the leg work for people, you take away their excuses for in-action. That was 2009 and here we are still doing it. We have traveled to every major region of the country in search of great BBQ: Memphis Dry Rub, Kansas City, North Carolina (Eastern and Western) and the entire Texas BBQ Trail.
This year, we planned a trip to Nashville. This was a special trip to me because my son turned 13 this year and was able to join the men eating BBQ. Hopefully you can detect that these trips are about more than BBQ. It’s about staying connected with friends and making memories for our sons when they come with us.
Our first stop of the weekend was a lunch visit to Center Point Pit Barbecue. I saw this placed featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” The beans and mac-n-cheese were absolutely outstanding. The atmosphere inside was what I like to see; photos of country music celebrities, old sign and dated furniture. Sadly, the meat was really not that impressive. The turkey and pork were both dry and lacking in much flavor. The brisket had been smoked but may have been finished in the over. Short-cuts like this hurt the quality rating our group was able to give Center Point.
Dinner on Friday evening turned out to be the crown jewel of our trip. We went to Edley’s Bar-B-Que at 908 Main Street. This place had an upscale feel to it and was quite busy on a Friday night. It had a full bar and seemed quite popular with the “hipster” crowd. There was outdoor seating for expanded dining capacity during better weather. The ribs were a dry rub finish with a beautiful sweet / spicy outer bark. Let me just say, after 8 years of traveling to eat BBQ, this was my favorite rib. I would rate them a 9.5 or possibly a 10. The smoked chicken wings were a no doubt 10. The sides were not bad at all but the quality of the ribs, chicken and brisket far overshadowed the sides.
Saturday morning started with a trip to the Opryland Hotel. This is a must-see for any visit to Nashville. WARNING: Parking is now $24 which is really steep. Spend the money to see the grandeur of this place, it’s cheaper than staying overnight. Lunch time took us to Martin’s BBQ. Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures of my rib and chicken plate. I was so excited to tear into my food, I forgot the pictures. In summary, this may have been my favorite atmosphere inside. Hickory smoke hanging in the air, t-shirts for sale, blue music echoing, the Pit Master raking coals into the whole hog pit and wood stacked out back. In my opinion, these are all the quintessential elements I like to see in a good BBQ joint. The food did not disappoint! I would rank these ribs only slightly behind Edley’s. Just an excellent chew on the dry rub ribs. The brisket was also outstanding. I nice bark on the outside, very moist and a wonderful flavor. The sides were solid but not as good as Center Point. That’s two great joints in a row.
After a tour of the Ryman Auditorium ($20 tickets) and a disappointing walk through the Antique Archaeology store, it was time for dinner. I say disappointing because I love the show and expected the store to be much larger. The picker’s store is really small with a limited inventory. I just throw out that little fact just to set your expectations in case you were thinking of visiting.
Our final stop on Mancation 2016 was Peg Leg Porker. This place was jam packed at 7pm. The bar was full and the line was literally out the door. We waited over 30 minutes to get to the counter to place our order. Regular Guy Warning: Peg Leg sold out of wings, pulled pork and fried pies by the time we ordered. When I ordered my ribs, they announce that there were only 10 racks of ribs left. Once again I forgot to take pictures but it was another 9.5 rack of ribs. The dry rub was sprinkled over the finished ribs giving them an orange color. I recommend you get there early and be prepared for crowds. The place is noisy and the alcohol was flowing. It wasn’t out of control or anything, but seating is limited on the weekends. My son and I had to eat at a 2-top table next to the line with people looking over our shoulder. This detracted from the overall experience but takes nothing away from the outrageously good ribs. Three top shelf bbq joints in a row. Hopefully I have convinced you to make the journey to Nashville and eat at one or all these places.
I can hear the voice of people out there saying, “I would love to do a trip like that.” To those people I would ask; what’s stopping you? Make it happen! Get busy living and quit talking about it. The Regular Guy has been living by this philosophy for over 10 year and have no regrets.