In the pantheon of Tennessee barbecue the city of Nashville is far out shadowed by its more reputable brother Memphis. Memphis lays claim to the most famous BBQ joints in the state (arguably the country), and even it’s own regional style of BBQ aka “Memphis Style” which espouses a dry rub finish on ribs. Nashville, despite being an emerging food city, hasn’t garnered the same acclaim in the BBQ arena. During my brief time in the Music City, I endeavored to find to find the real deal.
Peg Leg Porker, my friend Merritt assured me, was the best that she had tasted during her three years in Nashville. Having provided a few top notch recommendations before, her cue’ credentials were bonified. Founded by accomplished BBQ competition pitmaster Cary Bringle, the sit down restaurant has only been open since May of this year, but has already garnered high praise for BBQ in the Nashville area. Cheekily dubbed “Peg Leg Porker”, the name is a reference to the prosthetic leg that Bringle totes around on behind the counter of the restaurant. His leg lost to cancer at age 17, the prosthetic replacement actually sports a hog butchering diagram. Even the t-shirts here sport the slogan “limpin’ ain’t easy”. Between that sense of humor and well over 20 years on the competition circuit, Peg Leg Porker held high hopes.
Sauntering in on Friday afternoon, and arriving just before the lunch rush, I promptly order up a full rack of their baby back ribs (dry), pulled pork plate, and a couple of sides. After a few minute wait, our name is called and we collect the hefty trays at the counter and retreat to an open wood table. Merritt eyes me nervously as I survey our formidable tray. She is well aware of my BBQ snobbiness, and bears the heavy responsibility of having personally endorsed the swine at Peg Leg Porker. Her reputation is on the line here…
Any fears there may have been, however, were quickly erased with the first bite of succulent pork that I tugged gently away from the ribs. Expertly cooked, the ribs pulled cleanly from the bone with only a slight tug. The dry rub had and ever slight kick that complemented the sweet pork perfectly. I picked up notes of rosemary, cumin and paprika – and I’m sure a host of other spices which Bringle would be unlikely to reveal. The pulled pork was pleasantly tender and moist with a nice pink smoke ring. If I found any fault with the pulled pork, it’s that I would have liked a bit more crust or “outside brown” mixed in with it. But I also understand that isn’t necessarily the regional style. Even the sides here have an appropriate attention to detail, especially the smoky, sweet baked beans.
Having sampled a few other Nashville BBQ joints, I can say with confidence that Peg Leg Porker is the clear winner in Nashville. Though it may still be early, based on the meal I had here, I’d say it could stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the titans of the Memphis BBQ scene as well. More importantly, Merritt can breathe a contented sigh of relief knowing her endorsement record now stands at an unblemished 3-0.