From cafeteria-style classics to growing meat empires with multiple locations
Search for “best barbecue in Nashville,” and a deluge of meat-laden options will inevitably appear, causing many to break out in a preemptive (anxious) case of the meat sweats. But as everyone knows, not all barbecue is created equal. So rather than throwing together a comprehensive guide of where one can purchase smoked meats here in Middle Tennessee, this is a guide to ten of the best all-around barbecue joints the city has to offer. From pulled pork to Texas brisket and spicy sausage links, these standout smoked meat sources are some of Nashville’s best.
Bill Laviolette’s storefront in East Nashville gets major buzz for its Braveheart Farms Prime Angus brisket and (special occasional only) beef ribs. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or until it’s sold out), the formerly mobile business’ fixed new Gallatin Pike digs still allow for easy takeout of Laviolette’s popular meats, smoked over a mix of white oak and pecan wood.
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Louisville-born Matt Russo slings locally sourced, cherry-smoked meats that run the gamut from dry-aged beef brisket and “pigsket” to ribs (limited availability), sausage, and pulled pork shoulder. Seasonally rotating scratch-made side offerings include heirloom tomato and cucumber salad, buttermilk apple slaw, and baked beans made with burnt ends.
Butchertown Hall brings its take on Texas barbecue and a modern approach to butchery to Germantown, an appropriate neighborhood given the strong German influence. Order anything with brisket — oak-roasted brisket tacos, brisket by the pound, or the brisket-grind double burger. Also, don’t miss the chorizo-crowned queso or top-notch margaritas.
Walk up to the window at this family-owned landmark and order one of the best plates to be found in town, or try the iconic rib sandwich (and just try to finish it all). The sauce is the star here, a mustard base with a peppery, vinegar-tinged flavor that helps tenderize the meat. It’s delicious, as is the hot sauce — and if you think you’re used to Nashville Hot, it may cause you to question your abilities.
Central BBQ started smoking meats in Memphis in 2002, expanding to Nashville in 2018 with its fifth restaurant. It’s known for its use of hickory and pecan woods plus a classic Memphis dry rub for prep and then marinating the meats for 24 hours. Favorites are the brisket, pulled pork, turkey, chicken, and ribs. There’s now a location in Hillsboro, as well.
This barbecue temple is one of the oldest in town, now with three locations in the city — the original on Broadway, which thrived long before the area was nightlife central, one on Trinity Lane, and the newest, opened in 2016, in a historic former music club at 1601 Charlotte Avenue. All three are no-frills, and all three serve the full slate of barbecue styles, from St. Louis to Texas to of course, Tennessee.
Pitmaster Pat Martin has made it his mission to keep the West Tennessee tradition of whole hog barbecue alive and well. Having opened his first Martin’s outpost in Nolensville in late 2006, he quickly amassed a loyal following, allowing him to expand (times ten) from his original location. One can’t go wrong with the beef brisket, wings, or wet and dry ribs, but the whole hog pulled pork barbecue sandwich is the quintessential Martin’s order, and it’s tough to beat. Pro tip: while the Redneck Tacos are a longtime favorite, do not miss out on the barbecue bologna sandwich or the brisket burger.
A decades-long veteran of the competitive barbecue cooking circuit, pitmaster and West Tennessee native Carey Bringle opened his restaurant and watering hole in the Gulch in 2013, serving up some of the best wings, pulled pork, and dry ribs around (the latter being called out as one of the 23 essential barbecue dishes in the country by Eater National in 2016). Pro tips: keep an eye on social media for the call of whole hog being cooked on the front patio, and don’t sleep on the Memphis sushi/cream cheese and pepper jelly combo.
Most Nashville locals have their favorite barbecue, and for many, the trio of Edley’s Bar-B-Que Nashville locations fits the bill. The “Tuck special” is a sandwich to behold — choose from pork, brisket, turkey, or chicken — crowned with an over-easy egg, a hearty smear of pimento cheese, red and white sauce, plus pickles. Co-owner Will Newman shared some impressive stats back in 2016, revealing that the original 12 South location alone sold over 1,393 pounds of pulled pork per week at that time. Pro tips: Begin with the hot chicken nachos and a side of jalapeno ranch, then save room for the banana pudding.
Pitmaster Shane Nasby opened his smoked meat source in Bellevue in late 2018. The fast-casual, family-owned barbecue joint serves a couple of smoked meat options: chopped and sliced brisket plus pulled pork with house-made sauces and habanero-infused local honey. Nasby’s takes on traditional Southern sides include white queso mac and cheese and Hoosier corn pudding (inspired by Nasby’s Indiana roots). The Southern shine sandwich stacks hand-pulled pork atop fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, and candied bacon with a drizzle of HoneyFire sauce on a toasted bun, and the peanut butter banana pudding is some of the best in the city.