Let's face it, when it comes to BBQ, we have expectations and some bias: The wood should be of a certain tree; the smoker should be caked with residue; the pork should have rub, or sauce, or vinegar, or not... If you want an opinion, ask a patron within 100 yards of a BBQ joint and you'll get one.
I, too, have my bias and expectations, none of which were satisfied when I first pulled up in front of Moe's Original Bar B Que at 9050 Carother's Parkway in Franklin, Tenn. For starters, it's located in what I call a strip mall. The interior is not stained by years of smoke, brisket is not top of the menu and the employees are not dripping with sweat.
On the contrary, the interior has an old piano, concrete bar tops, a tailgate, downhill skis atop metal roofing, and church pews. To say that Moe's is original is an understatement. To understand how it all fits together is a lesson.
Jeselyn, my hostess and notably sweatless server, educated me on the history I hadn't gathered from previous reviews posted when the Nashville location opened in April 2013. She told me of her three years of dedicated service to the company, beginning as so many did in Vail, Colorado. She spoke of the family atmosphere and camaraderie created by the chain's Alabama native owners, and the manner in which she and many patrons were hooked the minute they tried Moe's pork sandwich.
She even explained to me the new-fangled smoker that fills the visible back kitchen and the fact that Moe's uses White Oak rather than hickory, apple or the Texan's favorite, mesquite. Something about Jeselyn and the way she spoke about her job told me I had better leave my bias at the door.
Still suspicious of the clean interior and the noticeable lack of dingy smoke in the air, I asked Jeselyn for the pork sandwich, pinto beans and collard greens from the daily side specials. To make a long story less long: I was hooked. The pork sandwich was tender and flavorful, the collard greens were perfectly soggy and the pinto beans had a spice and texture that reminded me of west Texas.
How this strip-mall BBQ joint happened to get everything just right was beyond me. but I didn't care. I was hooked, and I returned on Tuesday to sample their brisket, a once-a-week phenomenon that seasoned smokers know deserves six days of planning and preparation. Like the pork, the brisket was tender, moist, and had the tell-all red smoke ring that shows Moe's ain't no rookie on the Q.
Unlike other restaurants that make a lot of promises then change their plan after fanfare and a grand opening, Moe's continues to offer handmade sides on a rotation, they're honoring their promise to serve brisket on Tuesdays and they offer a free kid's meal for each regular meal purchased on Monday night.
Stop by on Wednesday evening and you'll enjoy live music with your Bushwacker, a frosty drink mixed with rum, ice cream and milk. Call ahead to learn of the daily side choices, but count on tender meats smoked to perfection. It will take a few trips to sample all their meats, and I overheard one patron raving about the smoked turkey but I recommend starting with the pork if you're not there on a Tuesday.
To be fair, I heard that some folks complain about the portion size, and the sides did look small in their plastic serving bowls; however, meat portions were ample and the meal was filling. The cups used for sweet tea were small enough to keep me active for refills, but that gave allowed me to check out another collage of pictures on the wall. It also gave me the opportunity to fully appreciate the high ceilings and ample room between tables. I haven't sampled the music, but I'm guessing there's plenty of room for Nashville's music lover.
I don't know if there are such things as BBQ Snobs, but I'm sure there will be more than a few expectations shattered at Moe's Original BBQ in Cool Springs. I suggest leaving your bias at the door because this Alabama via Colorado BBQ joint knows what they're doing.