Your Guide to the Best BBQ Places in Franklin
So where do you go for the best barbecue? This is a question as old as the ages that depends on who you’re asking – and in what part of the country they live in. When TripAdvisor polled its users in 2015, Tennessee came in as the No. 1 place in all of America for a plate of that fall-off-the-bone and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. As someone who has traveled the Volunteer State, visited all 95 counties and never seen a roadside BBQ stand I didn’t want to try, I couldn’t agree with the TripAdvisor users more!
For me, I LOVE barbecue in all forms; pulled, brisket, ribs, you name it – I want to try it. What makes it best, though, is the experience around it. I’m partial to the roadside bbq shack where you are more likely to sit on an old milk crate and eat off a paper plate. When you look at a place like that, you can just tell (and smell) there a story inside that is just as good as the hog slow cooking out back.
On your next trip to Franklin, here are a few stops that must be added to your barbecue bucket list.
Martin’s Bar-B-Q Joint
When you think of BBQ around Frankin, starting anywhere other than Martin’s Bar-B-Q Joint is just criminal. Owner Pat Martin has perfected West Tennessee’s whole hog tradition. Each day begins at 5 a.m., where everything is made from scratch. By everything, I mean everything, from the sides to the sauces. There is not a microwave or freezer on the property, so you know everything will be fresh. The only thing not made the day of is the bar-b-que. It began slow cooking the day before! The process of smoking a whole hog simply can’t be rushed you know! That commitment to freshness, plus the naturally relaxed vibe around the whole place is why Martin’s Bar-B-Que has drawn acclaim from just about every national food magazine or tv show you can imagine.
Order your ‘cue how you like it, but my recommendations are the Redneck Tacos or the Big Momma Sampler. You can never go wrong with the classic BBQ sandwich either, but when you order be sure to remember what Martin says, “put slaw on your sandwich…the way God intended.” (Amen Pat!)
As anyone searching for great BBQ would know, a strip mall just a few miles from the largest shopping mall in Middle Tennessee is exactly where you go for soul refreshing BBQ! Wait, what? Don’t let the location of Hogwood BBQ in the hub of Franklin’s Cool Springs district fool you, this is not your typical mall area spot. This gem will draw you in with the aroma from its smoker, but it’ll keep you there with a brisket that melts in your mouth. The artisan smoked meats are each seasoned with a unique spice blend created by Hogwood’s chef, smoked to perfection over local orchard wood, and pair perfectly with their signature Red sauce. The true spirit of Hogwood BBQ though on each plate and you can tell they take to heart their mantra that “the soul of BBQ comes from the fire.”
A roadside BBQ joint with a pig for a wind vane perched atop the roof and smoke billowing out of the smokers in the back. There are few sites more beautiful in my BBQ loving eyes. It just does not get any better than that for lovers of a great roadside BBQ stand. While there are no frills at BB’s, only a drive-thru window, the BBQ that ends up on your plate does not disappoint. If you are feeling extra adventurous, add on their smoked bologna sandwich and a side of the cobbler of the day!
Sitting literally at a fork in the road, halfway between Franklin and Leiper’s Fork, you’ll find the epitome of what you’d expect from a roadside BBQ spot/market/local gathering place at the Halfway Market. You have to arrive early for the BBQ as it tends to go quickly, but when you do score a plate, you can settle in at the collection of dining room tables you’d likely find at grandma’s house that sits right next to the cooler full of sodas in a glass bottle.
If the tables are full, just get your sandwich to go and join the group of locals sitting on the front porch or a truck bed outside the front door. Some of the best conversations in life are had while sitting on a front porch with a BBQ sandwich and a coke!
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant Leiper’s Fork
The smell of BBQ hits you as soon as you roll into the quaint village of Leiper’s Fork. The only thing more pleasing than that smokey smell is the welcoming feeling that resonates throughout the community. They say the main ingredients at Puckett’s are real food, real people, and real atmosphere. With the massive iron smoker sitting right out front, surrounded by a local cast of characters you’re sure to hear a friendly word from, there is no doubting they live up to what they say!
As for the atmosphere, it is simply unlike any other you will find. Have your BBQ as part of a traditional “meat & three” and sit amongst the mismatch of tables that fill the still operational grocery store and market. A local gathering spot for visitors and locals alike, including some of the area’s biggest songwriters and country stars, music is always a part of the Puckett’s experience. If you can, grab a plate and a table for open mic night on Thursdays. Many of the songs and artists you hear on the radio today have found their start on that Puckett’s stage.
Americana BBQ Fest
Finding a great roadside BBQ spot is wonderful, but finding a whole festival where they all come to you? Hello, Hog Heaven! The Great Americana BBQ Festival may still be the new kid on the block in the world of BBQ festivals, but you sure wouldn’t know it. Like all the great festivals in Franklin live music, plus huge beer and bourbon sampling tents are included, but The Great Americana BBQ Festival is a serious BBQ lovers paradise. It is highlighted by a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned competition, but unlike most sanctioned competitions, you get to try the creations of the 60-plus teams showcasing their signature recipes.
As you attempt to eat your weight in pork, keep in mind who stands out the most, you get to help crown a “People’s Champion” as well. Fun for the whole family, even those non-BBQ loving-types, the festival also has a variety of other food vendors and a kid’s zone that includes all sorts of ways for little pit masters to run, jump, and play.
So what makes for the perfect BBQ spot to you? Where is your go-to place for ‘cue when you are in Franklin? Let me know in the comments below.