Nashville knows great BBQ. What style? That’s the real question. And there is no consensus. Music City is a BBQ melting pot. Nashville Q features flavors from a range of geographical influences, including Memphis (where pork reigns supreme) and Texas (where brisket is the name of the game). Of course, border states North Carolina, Alabama, and Missouri are also in the mix with their sauces, spices, and smoky sentiments. Regardless of style, Nashville BBQ has substance—and that’s all that really matters.
Shotgun Willie’s BBQ
- Location: 4000B Gallatin Pike, Nashville
- Best: Brisket
- Also Try: Smoked Beef Sausage, 4-Bean Baked Beans, Bournana Pudding
Leave it to a Texan to bring the best beef brisket to Nashville. But that’s exactly what Houston’s Bill Laviolette did when he relocated to Music City and opened his Shotgun Willie’s food trailer in 2016. Now, Bill has a brick-and-mortar Shotgun Willie’s location (opened in 2020) in the Inglewood neighborhood (East Nashville), where he serves the best brisket in town. It’s not even debatable. Bill’s perfectly-crusted brisket is always melt-in-your-mouth tender. Shotgun Willie’s is open Wednesday thru Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (or whenever sold out). Hint, they sell out. So get there early for the brisket, then stick around for the Bournana Pudding, a bourbon-infused banana pudding.
Peg Leg Porker
- Location: 903 Gleaves St., Nashville
- Best: Pork Ribs
- Also Try: BBQ Nachos, Smoked Green Beans, Pimento Cheese with Saltines
Hailing from Memphis, I can be a bit of a pork rib snob. But I grew up on the best ribs in the world, with locations like Bar-B-Q Shop, Rendezvous, and Memphis Commissary. Fortunately, Peg Leg Porker proprietor Carey Bringle grew up on the same meaty menu. And he’s been serving his style of West Tennessee BBQ in Nashville since opening Peg Leg in 2013. Peg Leg Porker’s Dry-Rubbed Ribs (that’s Memphis style) need no sauce. But if you must slather, Peg Leg makes a damn tasty tomato-based sauce that is on every table (hint: the hot version, which is even better, is kept up front, but it’s worth the extra effort). And don’t leave without an order of Southern staple Pimento Cheese with Saltines. It’s the best in town.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
- Location: 3108 Belmont Blvd., Nashville (is our favorite, but there are multiple locations, including Downtown, which has one of Nashville’s Best Patios)
- Best: Pulled Pork
- Also Try: Wings, Smoked Bologna, Potato Salad
Pat Martin is another master of West Tennessee BBQ, having grown up in the small town of Henderson, Tenn. And at his Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joints (there are 10 in Nashville, as well as locations in Kentucky, Alabama, and South Carolina), Pat’s pitmasters smoke—and pull—whole hogs. So, your pulled pork sandwich is brimming with blissful bits of meat from the shoulder, belly, ham, tenderloin, and more. Pat’s pulled pork is a full-body experience—but don’t sleep on his smoked wings with Alabama white sauce (it’s the best thing to come from Alabama since Alabama (the band). Roll on.
- Location: 8127 Sawyer Brown Rd., Suite 304, Nashville
- Best: Wings
- Also Try: Burnt Ends, Smoked Turkey, Bourbon Baked Beans, Pork Rinds
Family-run HoneyFire BBQ has been dishing out tasty Q since opening its brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Bellevue neighborhood (13 miles southwest of downtown Nashville) five years ago. The brisket is solid (especially the burnt ends on Monday), but pitmaster Shane Nasby’s fowl is phenomenal. The smoked wings—which are flash-fried before serving—are outstanding. They come tossed in your choice of four homemade sauces—HoneyFire Original, Alabama White, Buffalo, or Honey Dry Rub—but the original is the way to go: sweet, heat, smoky, and crisp. Add a side of pork rinds—sprinkled with dry rub—for the win.
Judge Bean’s Bar-B-Que
- Location: 7022 Church Street East, Brentwood
- Best: Smoked Tamales
- Also Try: Texas Sushi, Quesadilla, Shrimp Diablo
Don’t let the drive to bustling Brentwood (10 miles south of downtown Nashville) deter you. Inside Judge Bean’s cozy hole-in-the-wall is a twisted taste of Tex-Mex in Tennessee. Feel free to play it safe with a BBQ plate or baby back ribs, but locals will tell you that the Smoked Tamales and Funky’s Quesadilla are next-level Tex-Mex treats in Middle Tennessee. Of course, we always start each meal with the Texas Sushi (brisket-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with sausage and cheese) or the Shrimp Diablo (bacon-wrapped jalapeno stuffed with shrimp and cheese).