Butchertown Hall (Nashville, TN)
For months I've been hearing tons of chatter amongst the Nashville locals about this new barbecue joint/gastorpub called Butchertown Hall. This week I started a new job, and there was no better way to reward myself than with some celebratory barbecue. I took an early lunch break and headed toward downtown to hopefully beat the crowds.
Terry Raley, Butchertown Hall's proprietor, is Tennessee-born but grew up in the Central Texas Hill Country. His restaurant is a beautiful amalgamation of the Lockhart meat markets, traditional Tex-Mex, and small-town Czech/German biergartens, with just a pinch of South Texas barbacoa thrown in for good measure. Their pitmaster, Benjamin Houk, is a Tennessean as well, but I won't hold that against him so long as the meat is on par.
Appropriately located in Nashville's Germantown neighborhood, Butchertown Hall is sure to be a hipster favorite. Inside there's more of a trendy atmosphere than you might imagine for a barbecue joint, yet it's somehow still very inviting. The stacks of cut wood scattered about also added to the ambiance. I hoped they were putting that same wood to good use out in the smoker.
I normally gravitate more toward plate barbecue, but their Texas Trinity sandwich was calling my name today. This bad boy has brisket, pulled rib meat, and knackwurst piled between two slices of Texas toast. How could I possibly resist that?!?!? I asked for my sauce on the side just to be sure I could taste the various meats in their unadulterated form. No surprise, I picked potato salad for my side dish. I also tacked on a glass of their strawberry and black pepper hand-crafted soda.
The taste of fresh strawberries in the specialty soda was unmistakable, and the pepper added a great kick on the back end of each sip. These aren't ingredients that I would have thought to combine, but they danced off of each other quite nicely. In true German fashion, the potato salad was mayo-based. It was flecked with chopped chives and what appeared to be paprika, but judging by the heat level it may have actually been chili powder. The potato salad's only downfall was its slightly high salt content.
I disassembled half of my sandwich to sample each meat individually. The brisket was juicy and tender, which is always a plus. I found some flavorful bark here and there, but only a mild smoke level. There were also a few bits of nicely-rendered fat. Despite the brisket's positive attributes, there wasn't very much of it to go around. Perhaps slices would have worked better than chopped pieces.
The rib meat was also very tender, and a few bits had the telltale smoke ring. I found a little smoke flavor, though not much. There was just the right amount of seasoning though. I suspect that the only way to acquire pulled rib meat is to yank it from overcooked "fall-off-the-bone" ribs, but that's not something I was able to verify.
For those of you unfamiliar with German sausages, knackwurst (aka knockwurst) is traditionally a pork and/or beef sausage with garlic mixed in, and the end result looks similar to a plump hotdog. Butchertown Hall's knackwurst is a beef and clove combo, so I was a bit intrigued. I couldn't really taste any cloves, or smoke for that matter. The sausage was also a bit dry and there wasn't much snap to the casing. It seemed as if it had been cooked once, then sliced and grilled a second time. There were only three small slices of the sausage in my entire sandwich, but that was probably for the best.
With each individual meat sampled, it was time to tackle this sandwich as a whole. The pickles and onions added a great crispiness, and I especially enjoyed the bite from the onion (although I like red onions better). When you eat all three meats together, their minor flaws melt away and are replaced by an overall great flavor. I still think each component should taste great on its own though.
Next time I eat there I'll probably skip the sandwiches and order my barbecue meat market-style. Either way, there will certainly be a next time.