Walking into Martin’s Bar-B-Que is like walking into a heavenly cloud of smoked meats. You can almost taste the air. If you walk past the dizzying array of tables filled with people enjoying their bounty off of metal trays lined with wax paper, you’ll see a menu that isn’t for the faint of heart (or those with serious heart conditions).
Yes, this is the infamous barbecue restaurant that inspired an episode of Master’s of None with their Alabama white sauce, as revealed by Aziz Ansari himself:
More on that later.
I don’t know about you, but when I walk into a barbecue restaurant, I want specifically want to try their brisket, ribs, and smoked chicken (a bit of everything). Pulled pork can often be dry so it isn’t my first choice, but I’ll gladly accept it. Luckily, for the curious and indecisive, they offer pit master combo’s, which can range from the Kid Brother Sampler ($16) with 2 meats and 2 sides, to the Big Poppa Sampler ($85), which feeds 6-7 and features a full rack of ribs, 12oz of pulled pork, 12oz of brisket, 1/2 a chicken, and 3 pints of sides. Of course, these combos don’t cover everything you might want, including smoked chicken wings, sandwiches, tacos, and more.
On this day, I wanted to try a bit of everything, including the famous Alabama white sauce (which later created a major conflict in said episode of Masters of None), so I opted for a dozen wings ($12) tossed in two different sauces and the Big Momma Sampler ($32), which includes 4 bones, 6oz pork, 6oz brisket, and 3 small sides. Enough to feed 3 hungry people easily.
The food arrived very quickly and I eagerly grabbed at the large spare rib before me. It had a nice coat of dry rub – but the initial bite was somewhat disappointing. Excellent flavor, but the meat wasn’t moist and didn’t fall off the bone like it does at several other places (I’m lookin’ at you, Peg Leg Porker!). However, a few bites in revealed other parts that were much tastier. Solid alternative when your favorite other BBQ place is closed on Sundays.
The brisket was tender and packed with flavor, the smokiness came through well on this one. It made me miss Texas styled brisket, topped with pickles and raw chopped onions but this one did the trick just fine.
The pulled pork was nothing to squeal about – same theme: good flavor but a bit too dry.
As for the sides, the green beans were definitely made better with the addition of pork in them: they adopted the smoky flavor gifted to them from their swine influences. The mac & cheese was fair, definitely could use a thicker, cheesier sauce (and even larger pasta would help with texture). The cornbread looked like a pancake so it was a bit of a surprise, but paired nicely with the barbecue.
Finally, onto the smoked chicken wings. The wings were definitely my favorite part of the meal: they were tender, moist, rich in flavor, smoky, and the sauces were mighty fine. The house sauce, Jack’s Creek (of which you can find bottles on every table), is sweet with a hint of vinegar. It is not a thick barbecue sauce, so there’s no molasses like sticky texture that covers it. Instead, it’s much more subtle and doesn’t overpower the smoked meat. I dumped it all over the pulled pork and found that it improved it. In fact, I started covering all of the meat from the sampler with it.
The Alabama White Sauce wings were delicious. There’s a slight tangy flavor from the mayo, a bit of pepper that comes through nicely too. It’s the perfect poultry sauce for barbecue. Is it worth missing a flight for? Definitely not. But it’s worth checking out if you want something different that isn’t just sweet, sticky, or a vinegar-based solution.
The meal was completed with some pecan pie (which was amazing here – crunchy, not overly sweet, yet soft filling) and paired up with their sweet tea (good, not too sweet and free unlimited refills), which was very needed for some of the drier meats.
Would I go here again? Absolutely! Is it my first choice for BBQ in Nashville? Not quite. But those wings are worth grabbing as a nice Sunday snack.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que – multiple locations in downtown Nashville, Belmont, Mt. Juliet, Nolensville, and Louisville, KY. See here.