10 August 2009
NASHVILLE BARBECUE: Part 16 - Portland & Gallatin
This week, we take a look at the barbecue restaurants in Sumner County's other two major cities - Portland and Gallatin. But first, an addendum from last week.
Last week, I reported that it looked like Dicky's Hickory Pit in Hendersonville had closed up shop. But thanks to a tip from a commenter, I learned that they have merely moved to a new location.
The new Dicky's location is on a rural residential street, but the atmosphere inside remains similar. It's still very NASCAR-centric - the place was packed when I was there with guys watching the race on TV.
The barbecue sandwich is unique in that the pork is pulled in very large chunks. It's good, tasty pork shoulder, if a little bit dry. But the sandwich is done a great favor by its griddled bun, giving it a nice crunch with each bite. I'm sure it's labor intensive, but I don't know why more barbecue joints don't do this. To me, it makes a big difference in the overall quality of the sandwich.
Up in Portland, Tennessee, near the Kentucky border, the local barbecue place is The Barbeque Pit.
I immediately noticed a similarity in both the logo and the building design to Stroud's. I'm not sure what's up with that, but the similarity did not end there.
Like Stroud's and many others in Middle Tennessee, the Barbeque Pit's pork sandwich came dressed with mayonnaise, slaw and pickles. This was one of the best of the sandwiches served in this style - the pork was super-tender and juicy and the slaw tasted fresh. But like most others in this style, the pork showed no evidence of having been smoked - so is it really barbecue?
The Barbeque Pit's ribs were unique. Like the pulled pork on the sandwich, the meat had no smoke flavor to speak of, but had a very unique, almost Asian-style sauce that is unlike anything I've had on ribs outside of Chinese restaurants. The ribs were a bit tough though.
Last time I visited Buffalo P's in January 2008, I was underwhelmed. That was one of our very first reviews on this site. Now I don't know if P's has gotten better, or if my standards have declined, but this time I thought it was pretty good. They're still set up in the same parking lot in Gallatin and still working on a big offset cooker. But change is on the way - they will soon move to a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Gallatin.
The pulled pork on the barbecue sandwich was absolutely on point. It was tender and had great flavor and lots of smoky essence. The one weakness in my opinion was the sauce. It was very plain and uninspiring. Otherwise, a good sandwich.
The ribs were likewise handicapped by the sauce. They were cooked to a nice tenderness and had just the right amount of smoky flavor, but the painted on tomato and vinegar sauce was a disappointment.
Our last stop in Sumner County is Jacky & Billy's Bar-B-Que Junction in Gallatin. The folks that own and operate this place are about as friendly as you will find in the barbecue business. Unfortunately, the barbecue, on this day, was just not very good.
The pulled pork was pulled directly out of a bath of thick tomato-based barbecue sauce. Consequently, the meat was absolutely smothered with sauce. The texture was mushy and there was no discernible flavor beyond the onslaught of sauce.
Highlights: Dicky's barbecue sandwich (Pretty Good), Buffalo P's sandwich (Good), Buffalo P's ribs (Pretty Good)
Disclaimer: Please note that these reports are based on particular servings of barbecue at a particular day and time. Barbecue can be prone to fluctuation. Your experiences may vary.
More reports in this series:
Part 1 - The Legends
Part 2 - The Chain Gang
Part 3 - Local Chains
Part 4 - Jefferson Street
Part 5 - Clarksville Highway
Part 6 - East Nashville
Part 7 - The West Side
Part 8 - Memphis Imports
Part 9 - T for Texas
Part 10 - Williamson County
Part 11 - Murfreesboro
Part 12 - La Vergne & Smyrna
Part 13 - Wilson County
Part 14 - Catching Up in Nashville
Part 15 - Hendersonville & White House
Part 16 - Portland & Gallatin
Part 17 - Robertson County
Part 18 - Dickson County
Part 19 - "Barbecue by any other name..."
Part 20 - Places We Missed
Part 21 - More Places We Missed