Just eight hours south of the Windy City is a music mecca that trades bratwurst for BBQ and seems like practically a different country, especially in the hat-wear department. It is Nashville, TN (OBVIOUSLY) and it was the third stop on the Barfoed Does America tour.
Throughout the planning stage of this whole poppycocked adventure, the only constants were Ithaca, Chicago, and New Orleans. What happened in-between or afterward? Best left to improvisation, I thought, and “road feel.” On closer reading of On the Road, it became apparent that the latter was actually just mescaline (and I didn’t have any) but improvisation…that I could definitely do. And so it was, waking up in Wicker Park on the 30th of September, that I decided it was time to have me some barbecue.
Whether Nashville’s BBQ is any good by Southern standards is a debate I’m not qualified to enter (I’m from the pussyfooting Northeast; we’re big on gourmet salad bars) so I’ll leave my contribution at this: I enjoyed my meal! All along the main drag, which like 20-30 other main drags in the United States is called “Broadway,” are rib joints and brisket shacks and just generally high-calorie eateries. Hunger has nowhere to hide. Among the more well-known establishment’s is Jack’s, which according to their website was almost wholly responsible for the “revitalization of Lower Broadway.” This task must have tired Jack’s considerably, because they were closed when I walked by. I headed instead to Rippy’s across the street, less world-famous but much more open.
Nashville’s claims to BBQ quality might be iffy — I remain in the dark — but what’s not are those to the country music scene, which dominates the culture and rightfully supplies the place’s nickname: “Music City.” (I might have chosen “Country Music City,” but this is not my fight.) Up and down Broadway are street buskers and bar acts undeniably talented and WAY BETTER than they need to be for their tourist audiences. That’s the weird disconnect: much of Nashville is pretty Disney-fied — sort of a warm-up for Bourbon Street… — while the robots providing the entertainment are anything but. At Rippy’s I caught some of the finest fiddle-playing I’ve ever seen, and I mean that non-sarcastically.
The decision to stop in Nashville really amounted to a coin toss with Memphis, which was my other option. Considering I’d be spending just one night and early morning, where I chose to go seemed almost irrelevant. Both are known for music and BBQ; both are cities.
Ultimately? Nashville just had a cooler name. And was closer. Future Barfoed Does America legs would not stray much from these concerns.