Judge Bean's Bar-B-Que (Brentwood, TN)
Let me preface this by saying that I'm pretty particular about my hair. Lately I've started driving almost 30 minutes from my house to Brentwood to get my hair cut. What can I say, I'm a diva. As much as I like my new barber, I'm not a big fan of the drive. Luckily for me, there are several barbecue joints in the Brentwood area to make the trip more worthwhile. Today I decided to scope out Judge Bean's Bar-B-Que.
This place is owned by Aubrey "Judge" Bean, who has been a fixture of Nashville barbecue for over a decade. As a native Texan, Judge Bean unsurprisingly and thankfully gravitates toward brisket rather than pulled pork. A man after my own heart. He is also apparently a descendent of the infamous Texas lawman Judge Roy Bean, which is just awesome.
I liked the warm wood that covered the floor and walls, and the tin roof added a nice rustic touch. The stuffed deer heads, bobcats, and armadillos made me feel right at home. There was plenty of Texas Longhorns memorabilia thrown around too, but not a single piece of Aggie decor. Sorry, Aggs. And at the risk alienating any of my Volunteer friends, it was nice to see the correct usage of the abbreviation "UT", as well as the proper shade of orange, being used in Tennessee.
Part of me was anticipating a counter-service barbecue joint, but Judge Bean's uses waitresses. As I frequently do when dining alone, I saddled up to the bar. It's much less awkward and it allows me to watch TV whilst chowing down. The very friendly bartender took great care of me. In fact, everyone I encountered here was exceptionally welcoming. Clearly the staff has been instructed on the finer points of Texas charm as well as Texas 'que.
Since Judge Bean's specializes in Texas-style barbecue, and since I was feeling a little homesick, a Texas Trinity was in order. I got their 3-Meat Smokehouse Combo with brisket, ribs, and sausage, as well as potato salad and cowboy beans for my two sides. I also couldn't help tacking on a piece of their so-called Texas Sushi for good measure.
My Texas Sushi appetizer came out first. What you have here is a jalapeno stuffed with sausage and cream cheese, wrapped in brisket. It's kind of like a California roll, except for men. I de-toothpicked my "sushi" and dug right in. The brisket had a nice smoke ring and was quite tender despite being a leaner cut of meat. I also liked the addition of the sausage, which had a good amount of seasoning. I found a great hit of smoke and heat in each bite, tempered nicely by the cream cheese. Good thing I had a big glass of sweet tea to cool things down. The entire thing was absolutely fantastic, and it made me really excited to try these meats again in the main course.
I enjoyed their mayonnaise-based potato salad, which was a nice change of pace from the mustard-based potato salads I usually find in my travels. Without the overpowering mustard flavors, I could really taste the pickles and pimento. It was also interesting to see the potatoes sliced (like au gratin potatoes) rather than diced or chopped. According to the menu, the cowboy beans are "not a sleeping partners favorite," so I'll apologize in advance to Mrs. Barbecue Fiend. The beans had a ton of flavor, and there was definitely some spiciness to them. They reminded me of the beans you'll find out at the deer lease.
The brisket had a deep red smoke ring which perfectly matched the equally smoky flavor. The dark black bark was also extremely tasty. Though lean, the brisket was magnificently tender. What little fat there was had been rendered beautifully. In addition to signifying the proper cooking time/temperature, this also tells me that Judge Bean's truly cares about their product. I wish I had requested a fatty cut, but this was still really good.
Barbecued sausage seems to be a rare find in Middle Tennessee, so the Czech in me was happy to see it at Judge Bean's. The casings were very crisp, with each bite "popping" in my mouth. I could really taste the smoke, which isn't always the case with sausage. This was most assuredly not made in-house, but it was still really tasty. I was also hoping for a coarse grind, though that's just a personal preference.
I customarily leave my ribs for last, mostly to limit how greasy and meat-covered my cell phone gets while I'm typing out blog notes. These ribs didn't have as much of a crust as I was expecting. I did, however, appreciate that they weren't served drowning in sauce. The meat was very tender, but sadly had no bone retention. Perhaps this was an attempt to appease local demands for "falling-off-the-bone" ribs, or perhaps Judge Bean is merely employing one of the many Texas barbecue traditions besides my beloved Central Texas-style. That being said, they had a nice smoke level and an all-around great flavor.
The brisket was definitely my favorite meat here. Next time I eat at Judge Bean's, I may just order up a dozen pieces of Texas Sushi and call it good.
Judge Bean’s Bar-B-Que, Brentwood TN
Meanwhile, the business that he started is doing all right. I’ve yet to have a plate of barbecue in middle Tennessee that really knocked my socks off, but Judge Bean’s has come fairly close. This is very good pulled pork, and I had mine served up with some seasoned steak fries and a bowl of mac-n-cheese that I passed to the girlchild.
Read the story at Marie, Let's Eat!.