Jack Cawthon’s Bar-B-Que, Nashville, Tennessee

Oh, we have a good place here!

After a breakfast of leftover country ham and biscuits from the Loveless Cafe, an early lunch at Edley’s, and a couple of great hours listening to music at the Listening Room, we were still unable even to get near lower Broadway due to the tsunami of bachelorette parties and party buses that had flooded the area. We again retreated to Midtown. We’d hoped to hear music at the Tin Roof — it had been mentioned in one of Lexie Hayden’s songs at the Listening Room — but the Tin Roof was jammed. We grabbed a safe seat at the Tailgate Brewery/Music Row to sit and have a nice draft hazy IPA

and watch the lesser parade of bachelorettes and party buses in Midtown. It was like being in Mobile rather than New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

I was hell-bent on having barbecue for supper, and the choice was between Martin’s and Jack’s, numbers 2 and 3, respectively, on the Barbecue Bros Nashville rankings. Now, Martin’s is a far-flung chain — I’d eaten at the Cahaba Heights Martin’s branch outside Birmingham — and I’d heard that Martin’s was getting uneven in its performance with the expansion. That happens more often that not. I’m a great believer that the best link in a chain is the original location, which would be out in Nolensville, down in Williamson County, a bit over 20 miles away. That made the decision easy. We’d go to Martin’s for our last lunch on Sunday, and go from there to the airport. And as the original Jack’s is on Lower Broadway, in the deepest mire of bachelorette/party bus swamp, we decided on Jack Cawthon’s, which was a short hop from our hotel. (Jack Cawthon is the Jack of Jack’s.)

Jack Cawthon’s is a cafeteria-style place. You order your choice of meat and then choose among the sides. Nancy ordered turkey with cole slaw and … banana pudding.

Let me interject that I was thrilled. Banana pudding as a side! Nancy is from Connecticut where, to the best of my knowledge, no one considers banana pudding to be a side. When we were courting, Nancy came to Alabama to meet the family and go to the beach. Every single day she had at least one food she’d never had before — barbecue, boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and so on. She’s come a long way.

I ordered a pork plate with greens and green beans and some corn and pickles and jalapeños. And I got corn bread, both mine and Nancy’s.

Nancy was less than thrilled with the turkey. It was on the dry side, and had little smoke flavor. She liked the cole slaw pretty well, and she loved the banana pudding. I checked, with a nibble of each, and Nancy was right on all three points.

But the pork. Ah! This was some good pork. Smoky, rich, tender, moist, and full of flavor. There was some nice outside meat. All in all, this was very good pork. Both the pickles and the jalapeños went well with the meat, especially the pickles. Hamburger dills really balance nicely with pork. The jalapeños I mainly just ate.

I didn’t try any pork with the sauce, but I did try a taste of sauce on some cornbread. It was really interesting. It was vinegar-based and not sweet, but I’m not sure of the other flavorings. I’d like go back and explore it some more. The greens and green beans were both excellent, and both had very good pot likker. The cornbread was just right for crumbling into the pot likker — what a great combination! Standing alone, the corn bread was just okay — a little too much flour, I would guess, and no bacon grease, the essential element in great corn bread, but with the pot likker, it sat up and saluted. The corn, alas, also had been cooked without bacon grease. O tempura! O mores!

Those are mere quibbles, however. The pork at Jack Cawthon’s was excellent, the best I’ve had in Nashville, and the greens, beans, and cornbread rounded out a superb meal. Definitely put Jack Cawthon’s on your must-eat for Nashville.


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