Martin's BBQ Downtown Nashville
Smoked meats, a beer garden, and table games collide at the new downtown Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint.
Written By: Erin B. Murray
Photographers: Stephanie Mullins
Outside the entrance of the new Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint on Fourth Avenue South, the pavement leading up to the doorway is permanently etched with the hand-written names of Patrick Martin and his family. It might go unnoticed by the hundreds who have been crowding the threshold as they head into the pit-master’s shiny downtown expansion since it opened in August. But, for those who know Martin, the scrawl has meaning. “I’ve put everything—literally, my savings, my blood, sweat, tears—into this new space,” he says, almost too earnestly. “It’s all on the line down here.”
What to Order:
Crispy okra fries (seasonal), $6
Dixie burger, $9.50
Pulled whole hog tray with two sides, $15
Fried catfish tacos, $15
Cumberland Grog cocktail, $10
It’s true, especially considering the super-sized space, which occupies the former music venue, The Rutledge. It’s already become a prime tourist destination—but Martin says he also intends for it to be a relaxing gathering place for locals, his many friends included, as well as to fill a much-needed void for private dining space. Rustic, yet elegant, banquet rooms on the second floor can accommodate groups as small as 40 or as large as 150.
The main floor feels a lot like the two other Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joints, located on Belmont Boulevard and in Nolensville. But, this being the jacked-up version, Martin has added a massive covered patio space out back, too.
“I hate to call it a beer garden, because that’s cliché,” he says, adding, “but that’s basically what this is.”
Let “garden” be the prominent word, then, because Martin used his own landscaping skills (a job he held in between working on Wall Street and becoming a pit-master) to design an oasis in the center of the city. There’s a 40-year-old paperbark maple in the middle of the space and wisteria climbing the arbors throughout. In one corner, next to a beer-only bar, Martin cordoned off a smaller lounge with hurricane-proof windows and added old car seats for comfort. Imagine the ultimate, tricked-out adult version of a tree-house and you start to get the picture. To add to that vibe, there are game tables, dartboards, a shuffleboard court, and televisions in every corner.
The outdoor dining area, outfitted with the same kind of green and white picnic tables you’d spot in the movie Caddyshack, sits next to the whole hog smoking zone, which features four pits and a 10-foot-wide grill. More smokers reside in the kitchen downstairs, too. The goal, Martin says, is to eventually get to a point where all he is making is whole hog ‘cue. “In three to four years, I’ll try to divorce myself from shoulders and baby back ribs entirely,” he says.
The menu at this new location is nearly identical to his other spots, with the exception of the drinks.
“I hired my friend, Juliette Ceballos, Tandy Wilson's partner in the upcoming Roman pizza concept, Collo Rosso, because I wanted to surprise guests a little with our offerings but still stay true to who I am and to our brand. She hit it out of the park, as we have a very cool, yet simple, bar program," he says. He also shows off his knowledge of wine at this location, offering labels like Scribe. “I want people to drink good wine with their barbecue,” he adds. “It pairs better than most people give it credit for.”
As for the hogs themselves, as always, Martin sticks to heritage breeds, which he’s sourcing from the Fatback Pig Project, a collective of farmers in Alabama. Most of his hogs are 100-percent Berkshire, but he says he has a line on another breed, called Chester Whites, which, he says, make the best whole hog barbecue.
“Plus, the Berks have increased our pit fires,” he says. “If I could just get a little bit further down the road without worrying about a daggun’ building being burned down because of an overnight grease fire, I’ll be good,” he jokes.
With the success of Martin’s other locations, we don’t see any fire sirens in his future.
410 4th Ave. S.; 615-288-0880; martinsbbqjoint.com/downtown-nashville