Road Trip—Détente at Jack’s (Day 5)

Tennessee, all is forgiven.

(OK, wait, no. No, I can’t actually go that far. I mean, come on. You’ve been obnoxious lately. But how about if we do this? Why don’t you go ahead and take the rest of the night off, how will that be?)

The reason for this sudden excess of magnanimity is … barbecue. I was nearly convinced, ere I saw Nashville, that Tennessee was going to deny me a decent plate of barbecue before I got out of town. Why in Kimball, Tennessee, alone–where there were once two barbecue joints at opposite ends of Main Street not a mile and a half apart–there are now only empty buildings. Well, one empty building and a liquor store with a sign warning you not to try using their parking lot for a turn-around.

(I did it anyway. Because that’s just how I roll, motherfuckers.)

But the point is: if barbecue restaurants in redneck towns in Tennessee don’t have enough business to stay open, then I think it’s time to take another look at what that guy Camping is saying. Because the end is freakin’ upon us.

In the meantime, Jack’s Bar-B-Que on West Trinity in Nashville turned me right ’round. In fact, inspired by the address, I went ahead and ordered the trinity: ribs, smoked turkey, and brisket.

There are also three kinds of barbecue sauce, each geographically labeled. (I’m a Kansas City man, myself.) Though you only get two “vegetables” (I love it that BBQ places, and Jack’s is no exception, consider baked beans a vegetable), you also get a choice of bread, so that kind of brings the trinity concept back together again. (It’s also the source of my only complaint: If that mess was corn bread, then I’m a Republican.)

But it’s a cavil. Otherwise, the meat was moist, smoky, and so tender that I didn’t even need to pick up a bone to get the meat off. Of course I did pick up the bones, because where’s the pleasure in barbecue if no gnawing is involved? I’m just saying it wasn’t strictly necessary. (The fact is, Dolce Metà is like, allergic or something to bones, which means we eat relatively few meat-related items that require, so to speak, digital manipulation. He eats fried chicken with a friggin’ knife and fork, OK? It’s not right, and it’s not American, but I love him. What can I say? So that’s all the more reason to wrap my fingers around a gooey hunk of animal bone when I get the chance. I feel a little bit like I’m cheating on him with spareribs.)

Now, when you’re choosing a barbecue joint, you’ll hear all kinds of advice about how to find one that’s truly authentic: you go by the smell, you go by the barbecue sauce, you go by whether they plop a roll of paper towels on each table (as Jack’s does) or try to get away with sissy-ass napkin holders.

But I say authenticity comes in the number of heroin-thin forty-something women with skanky tattoos, the number of good ole boys wearing bib overalls (I counted five at Jack’s), and the number of trucks in the lot decorated with some version of the flag of Dixie. On these measures, Jack’s is almost too real.

And so I leave Tennessee gratified, grateful, and greasy. Still the other G word, too, though. The one I can’t say.

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Posted on 24 May 2011, in Tales from the Road, You Can Always Count on a Little Homophobia and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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