Monday, March 19, 2012

First Bite: Papa Turney's Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked BBQ

Posted By on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 at 6:05 AM

When Mike Turney first opened his barbecue business back in 2009, it was little more than a trailer with a smoker behind it parked next to a gas station on Old Hickory Boulevard in Hermitage. His hours were long on the days he was open, but irregular. Lucky diners who found the smoker smoking and the window open at the front of the trailer were rewarded with some of the best barbecue on the east side of town.

You may recognize Papa Turneys's last name from Mama Turney's Pies, a side business that grew out of success of the pies that Turney was selling out of his restaurant's previous location in Whites Creek. A true entrepreneur, Turney has grown the pie company into a million-dollar business supplying stores such as Kroger, Publix, Piggly Wiggly and convenience stores, as well as Robert Orr Sysco and several restaurants like Swett's and Jack's Bar-B-Que.

Papa Turney now spends Thursday through Saturday behind the counter of his new restaurant location at the back of the parking lot where his smoker is still located. The small dining room is next to Shooter's Sports Bar and Grill at 5835 Old Hickory Blvd. With only a few tables available for dining in, Turney is not afraid to juggle a few seats around to accommodate larger parties. Still, much of his business is carry-out, and it's good to call ahead to see what specials are coming off the grill that day and to get your order in before he runs out.

The specials are what really makes Papa Turney's stand out. A whole lot of interesting things percolate in that smoker all day long, limited only by Turney's imagination. The expected pulled pork, ribs and brisket are especially smoky and benefit greatly from the house-made sauces, especially the hot version and the "hottest" sauce that Turney keeps behind the counter for special masochistic requests. Because the meats spend so much time in the smoker soaking up that hickory flavor, the ribs and brisket literally fell apart under our attacking forks. Some diners at the table really loved the tenderness, but I personally like a little more fight in my meat.

The rotating daily specials can be anything from a smoked ribeye stuffed with bacon (yes, please) to smoked turkey legs and catfish. The smoked bologna was thick-cut and delicious, but you might not want to make it the last thing you eat at Papa T's, because that flavor will linger with you all day. The hot links are also very popular and contribute a nice Texas flavor to the menu.

Portion sizes are very generous, and all plates come with two side items. Along with coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad, the real standouts were the smoked cabbage and the tangy turnip greens. The decor of the restaurant is downright wacky, with guitar amps shoved in the corners and walls decorated with flags commemorating local sports teams and a potpourri of fishing tackle. The brightest decoration in the room is easily Mike Turney's smile as he greets every patron who comes through the door. Alongside his kitchen compatriots Earl and Robert, Turney has created a thoroughly enjoyable atmosphere to enjoy some inventive barbecue.

Go check it out and tell him we sent you.

Papa Turney's Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked BBQ
5835 Old Hickory Blvd. inHermitage
(615) 485-7502

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