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Starting out as caterers, the masterminds behind B & C realized that they had a particular talent for barbecue when customers raved about their hickory-smoked pork and brisket. Just as important, B & C cooks all their sides from scratch every day. Although it can be tough to choose from the array of vegetables, picking the grits special of the day is always a safe bet.
B & C BBQ: 2617 Franklin Pike, Nashville, (615) 457-3473; 900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Nashville, (615) 770-0032; 1203 Old Hydes Ferry Pike, Ashland City; baconandcaviar.com
It may sound like bragging for Carl Teitloff to call his brand of pig "perfect," but media from the Wall Street Journal to Vanity Fairhave made the trip down Highway 70 to White Bluff to praise the pulled shoulder sandwiches and ribs that come out of Carl's smokers. While we don't normally look to Yankees to suggest great barbecue joints, in this case we gotta hand it to them.
Carl's Perfect Pig: 4992 Highway 70 E, White Bluff, (615) 797-4020; carlsperfectpig.com
Definitely the messiest sandwich we encountered was at Cary Wofford's beloved barbecue bunker outside Smyrna: a fist-thick heap of chunky real-deal smoke-saturated pork wet with sauce and slaw. Eat it outside in the dining area, so you can luxuriate in sweet smoke from the oil tanker-sized smoker. You can only (pre)order wings by the 100, so we're guessing they're good.
CBQ: 1344 S Lowry St., Smyrna, (615) 459-0082
The sign says "Since 1926," but the Baldwin family's Springfield institution is actually sneaking up on its 100th anniversary. The first-rate pulled pork is so finely chopped it's as toothsome as a hamburger patty. And don't be fooled by that Sip 'n' Go heated case up front, which houses one of the best, juiciest, most delicately crusted pieces of fried chicken you'll find in Middle Tennessee. Snag some potato wedges while you're at it.
J.I. Baldwin & Son Pit Barbecue: 300 Central Ave. E., Springfield, (615) 384-3426; baldwinsbbq.com
Open more than 25 years in a tiny screen-door cinderblock building next to Centennial Park, Hog Heaven has been serving solid barbecue to two generations of Vanderbilt students and other Nashville smoked meat fans. Best known for their "Kickin' Chicken" white barbecue sauce (which also works just fine on their smoked turkey), the only knock against Hog Heaven is that they close at 7 p.m., leaving the munchie-craving denizens of Springwater next door to suffer hunger pangs.
Hog Heaven: 115 27th Ave N., Nashville, (615) 329-1234; hogheavenbbq.com
Edley's was created with the idea of combining the meats of a great barbecue joint with the vegetables of a good ol' Southern meat-and-three. Lines of patrons waiting to order plates of pork, chicken or brisket along with sides like black-eyed peas and some damned fine greens are a sign they succeeded on both counts.
Edley's: 2706 12th Ave. S., Nashville, (615) 953-2951; 908 Main St., Nashville, (615) 873-4085; edleysbbq.com
One of the patron saints of Nashville barbecue, Jack Cawthon has been feeding downtown tourists, business people and hockey fans out of his Lower Broad location since the 1970s. His kitschy flying pigs neon sign points the way to a geographic journey through the world of smoked meats with St. Louis ribs, Tennessee pork shoulder, Texas brisket and smoked sausage, and even smoked Boston turkey.
Jack's Bar-B-Que: 416 Broadway, Nashville, (615) 254-5715; 334 W Trinity Lane, Nashville, (615) 228-9888; 1601 Charlotte Ave., Nashville (opening soon); jacksbarbque.com
Why the Food Network hasn't picked up on Robert Duke's much-adored Hendersonville meat palace, only God and Guy Fieri know. The 6-inch strips of bark-encrusted pulled pork told us we'd never spent $3.89 more wisely. Make sure to order the saucy hot slaw and the fried green tomatoes, which shame any lifted-pinkie Southern fusion joint you can name at a fraction of the price. Psst: Ask for the hot "reserve" sauce they stash behind the counter.
Center Point Pit Barbecue: 1212 W Main St., Hendersonville, (615) 824-9330; centerpointbbq.com
A chain you can approach without shame — indeed, with pride, as befits their support of and standing within the Southern Foodways Alliance — Jim 'N Nick's reveres the time and tradition that goes into barbecue worthy of the name. Get a combo: That way you can sample the fine ribs, pork or brisket as well as the menu's secret star — pork hot links sizzling with peppery flavor and crispy casing. Now don't tank up on those cheese biscuits!
Jim 'N Nick's: 7004 Charlotte Pike, Nashville, (615) 352-5777; 3068 Mallory Lane, Franklin, (615) 771-3939; 523 Sam Ridley Pkwy., Smyrna, (615) 220-8508; jimnnicks.com
Pat Martin comes by his love of barbecue honestly. Starting as the favored whole-hog smoker at frat parties during his college years in West Tennessee, Martin has achieved a national celebrity status for his expertise at working the pit. The avowed tenet of his operation is, "Never, ever, ever forget that the pig is the hero," and he demonstrates that credo with every Redneck Taco he serves. (Power user tip: If you order your sandwich without slaw on top, Pat just might kick your ass.)
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint: 7238 Nolensville Road, Nolensville, (615) 776-1856; 200 Crossings Lane, Mt. Juliet, (615) 686-2066; martinsbbqjoint.com
From the first glimpse of its phone booth-sized shack by a shade tree in rural Greenbrier northwest of Nashville, barbecue fanatics will high-five themselves at their good fortune. It's been dishing out some of Middle Tennessee's finest since 1975, and proprietor Jesse Buchanan now tends his late father-in-law's smoking secrets, serving expert shredded pork steeped in hickory fumes. The first bite made us weak in the knees — but we found strength to order a second pound. Open Friday and Saturday only.
Old Fashion Bar-B-Que: 1784 Tom Austin Hwy., Greenbrier, (615) 775-0792
Many a drunk Vandy kid or TSU night owl has ended up at this Jefferson Street landmark, even if prices have climbed over the years. Regulars swear by the pork shoulder on cornbread, but we've always gone for the rib sandwich: It's as comically unwieldy as it sounds — meaty ribs laid bone and all across white bread — but we could slather that atomic hot sauce on a squashed armadillo and wind up gnawing the shell.
Mary's Old Fashioned Pit Bar-B-Que: 1108 Jefferson St., Nashville, (615) 256-7696
The latest addition to Nashville's barbecue scene immediately ranks with its best. Carey Bringle is the rare pitmaster who's become a major contender on the championship circuit without letting it affect his product: You can taste the time, trouble and wood smoke in every bark-studded bite of his pulled pork. (You can even watch him dismantle a carcass at the pit built into his patio.) Plus his sauces are dynamite, especially that tangy white sauce. Try the smoked green beans.
Peg Leg Porker: 903 Gleaves St., Nashville, (615) 829-6023; peglegporker.com
Pork, ribs and catfish are all A-OK at Murfreesboro's best barbecue spot. But what you want are the wings — black with smoke on the outside, white and juicy inside. They're the best we've found anywhere — and if you ever find better, you'd best be sharing that address. Bonus points for excellent fruit tea and sides, including some of the best potato salad Mama never made and sweet pickled tomatoes we could eat like candy.
Slick Pig BBQ: 1920 E. Main St., Murfreesboro, (615) 890-3583; slickpigbbq.com
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