Saturday, January 10, 2009

Carl's Perfect Pig Bar B Que, White Bluff, TN

This is the third of several accounts of outstanding meals that we ate as Tamar and I traveled through Tennessee over Thanksgiving week, 2008.


I guess it's natural that in the process of seeking out amazing new restaurants to write about, I'm going to make some mistakes. Lesson #1, learned when hunting for Carl's Perfect Pig, which is 30 minutes west of Nashville, Tennessee was to make sure to bring a good map. Unfortunately, we didn't bring a map at all, let alone a good one, and were relying on a printout of directions from the internet which for some reason had taken us away from main roads and had us winding through rural Tennessee. It was after dark, our stomachs were empty, street signs were sporadic, and once again, we were in a race against time. Carl's closed at 6 PM, we were nearing 5:30 PM, and, to make matters more stressful, we had tickets for Nashville's Grand Ole Opry for 7:30 that evening.

"Turn left to stay on Old Columbia Road," our directions instructed. But was that the hard left, or maybe the slight left up the hill? Should we wait until the railroad crossing?

"Turn right to stay on Old Columbia Road," we were told 2 miles later. But were we still on Old Columbia road? Had we made the correct turn in the first place? Was there anyone we could ask for directions? Weaker relationships have shattered under this kind of stress, but inspired by visions of smoked pork, we somehow made our way far enough north to hit Highway 70, and raced east until Carl's red awning beckoned in the distance. It was 5:50 PM, ten minutes before closing time, and any lingering tension in our car dissolved as we entered our destination.

We were quickly seated and didn't waste any time ordering. Seeking both to validate Carl's claim of perfection and wanting try out some Nashville area "Meat and Three" dining, we both opted for the Ribs and Three, a half slab each with our choice of three vegetable sides. Tam opted for the baked beans, slaw, and fried corn while I chose the squash casserole, turnip greens, and mac and cheese. We were asked if we wanted to try their new fried corn bread instead of the usual side of bread, and I doubt if there's a rational person who would refuse that offer.

We had barely settled in when mountains of food arrived at our table, and after hours on the road, it took all our will power to stop and snap a few photos before diving face first into our meal.

After one bite, Tam excitedly proclaimed the ribs to be the best she'd ever eaten, and it was hard to disagree. They had great smokiness, were tender and moist, and fell right off the bone. Unlike our Memphis ribs from a few days earlier, they were cooked with the sauce so that the flavours permeated the meat without overwhelming its pork essence or being overly sticky or saucy. The sugars in the sauce caramelized slightly, resulting in the slightest crispiness but without a speck of burned meat to be found.

The sides ranged from great to mind-blowing. Our favorites were the slaw and the squash casserole. The coleslaw was vinegar-based without a hint of mayo, was seasoned with mustard and celery seed, and was nothing short of phenomenal. The squash casserole consisted of circular disks of yellow zucchini, stewed until meltingly soft in a creamy orange cheese sauce. It was velvety smooth, salty, and fantastic. The fried corn bread turned out to be hot, freshly-griddled cornmeal pancakes, and were perfect for mopping up Tam's baked beans.

We washed down our meal with bottomless glasses of sweet tea. If there is one thing that northerners need to learn how to do right, tea could be it. It was so perfect that we begged our waitress to fill up take-out cups with us for the road, which she happily did. Styrofoam cups in hand, we promised to return. Even if we had to drive the full ten hours from Pittsburgh just for the meal, it would be worth it.

Dinner did cause us to miss most of the first act that night at the Opry, but I don't think either one of us regretted our choice for one moment (especially since we still caught Little Jimmy Dickens, saw Charlie Daniels tear up his fiddle on The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and Hootie himself lay down his number one country hit.) While Carl's claim of perfection is pretty bold, it was impossible for either of us to dispute. Especially when washed down with glasses of sweet tea and country music. I doubt Tennessee evenings can get any better.

Carl's Perfect Pig is located at 4992 US Highway 70 E in White Bluff, TN. Google Maps will give you terrible instructions on getting there from the west, so call (615) 797-4020 for information or bring a good road map. Show up hungry. Really hungry.


Anonymous said...

Just make your way to Highway 70 from Nashville. Also known as Charlott Pike. But the fastest route is I 40 West (or East), to the Pegram/Shacklet exit. Turn Right off the exit, drive until it dead ends, (about 2 miles). Turn left on to Hwy 70 and go about 13 Miles. Carl's will be on your left. The Pig rules!

hungrycanuck said...

Thanks for the directions! Next time I'm in the area, I will definitely use your more direct route. I won't let anything keep me from those ribs!