DBBBBQ: Chapter 8


The Rickyard - The Jack Daniel's Distillery - Lynchburg, TN

A Heathen’s Heaven in Nashville
Not long before I entered the volunteer state, The Professor notified me that he was driving cross-country in the opposite direction and would be in Memphis while I was in Atlanta. We resolved to capitalize on this triangulation of super friendship in the only way that makes sense: rendezvous in Lynchburg for the JACK DANIEL’S DISTILLERY TOUR. The tour began with a hokey film about the traditions of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey and immediately segued into a stately walk about the grounds. We visited the rickyard, the watering hole, Jack Daniel’s original office building, and a statue of the exceptionally short man before the getting got good.

Sour Mash Vat - The Jack Daniel's Distillery - Lynchburg, TN Charcoal Mellowing Tank - The Jack Daniel's Distillery - Lynchburg, TN

The sour mash vats (enormous copper pots loaded with of gallons of bubbling malt) were next on the tour, and smelled delicious. They didn’t, however, smell like whiskey. When we entered the mellowing chambers, where 140-proof whiskey is filtered through tanks of ground charcoal, our tour guide gave us a generous whiff of fresh-out-the-still Jack Daniel’s in compensation. No flash photography was allowed in the room for fear of setting off an explosion. From there we moved onto the barrel warehouse, where seven stories of charred oak barrels were shepherding whiskey through the aging process. Our last stop was the showroom and assembly line, which is the greatest conglomeration of moving parts I’ve ever seen. Well, greatest whiskey-related conglomeration, at least.

Entering Shelbyville, TN

Seeing how Lynchburg is a dry county, the tour ended with complementary glasses of lemonade and the chance to purchase one of two commemorative bottles of Jack Daniel’s available for purchase by special exception of US Congress. I stuck with lemonade. The Professor found an empty cardboard box and was overjoyed at not having to buy luggage for his flight home.

After a quick drive through SHELBYVILLE (the PENCIL city!), my road headed north to Nashville, where a young CouchSurfing couple took me in for the night. By this, I mean they took me to their friends’ house to engage in an all-night poker tournament with four Southern Baptist couples. This meant BBQ would be replaced by Papa John’s, but it was a fair price for a night with eight highly devout Christians who cared more about who I was than what side of God’s toilet seat I piss on. Having growing up in a bastion of Christian zombification, I felt good to be reminded of the respectfully pious. Plus, there was a dog!

In the morning I washed some clothes, traded MP3s with my hosts and drove to Centennial Park to resume the mission.

Hog Heaven - Nashville, TN Hog Heaven - Nashville, TN Hog Heaven - Nashville, TN Hog Heaven - Nashville, TN

My target was Hog Heaven, a barbecue shack built virtually in the backyard of a McDonald’s restaurant at the edge of the park. Notice that the white building directly to the right of Hog Heaven is a separate business, as Hog Heaven offers only a sliding window for orders and two picnic tables under shelter of wood and chicken wire for dine-in services. Upon walk-up I gave my order to a local college girl and received my food from a gutter punk. The aesthetic of the place was a mix of Top Dog, Flint’s and Everett and Jones #2 in Berkeley: enough grit to fill a sandlot but no waiters to welcome you to the fam and no dynamo behind the counter to put a face to the operation. In any case, it was a welcome departure from the family dine-in experience I’d become accustomed to on the tour.

Pulled Pork Sandwich With White BBQ Sauce - Hog Heaven - Nashville, TN Blackberry Cobbler a la Mode - Hog Heaven - Nashville, TN

I ordered the standard unit of barbecue with Hog Heaven’s renowned white BBQ sauce on the word of the gutter punk that “it’s gooood.” Score one for mohawks everywhere, because this sandwich stood up to everything I had consumed in the past week. The meat resonated with a deep smoky tinge, much stronger than anything in North Carolina, where the flavor of the pig is favored over the flavor of hickory. The white sauce was on another plane entirely. With the consistency of country gravy, a fresh kick of black pepper and the lingering warm burn of a good red sauce, Hog Heaven’s trademark proved to be almost as addictive as the symphony of sauce at Fresh Air. The sandwich lacked slaw, but with the sauce being as delicious as it was I didn’t care. The side of baked beans I ordered as an afterthought turned out to be the best BBQ beans I’ve ever tasted: a punch of flavor, the same warm, lingering, sweat-inducing burn of the sauce and a stew-like consistency that was halfway to refried. Standing at the pearly gates of the pig, I had to cross the divine threshold for dessert.

I ordered blackberry cobbler a la mode for chump change. The blackberries were plenty fresh and surprisingly ripe, and bubbled under a crust seemingly made of fried buttermilk donut. The pastry was candied at the edges and moist and chewy on the inside. A scoop of rich vanilla ice cream taken from a single-serving cup from the local creamery melted over the cobbler for that uncanny sensation of hot and cold that cavities fear. After finishing I wanted to repeat the meal, but decided to go for a walk around the park instead. I was incorrect, but the walk was a good idea.

The Parthenon - Centennial Park - Nashville, TN Athena - The Parthenon - Centennial Park - Nashville, TN

The main attraction of Centennial Park is a reconstruction of the Parthenon that houses an art museum, a Centennial Park museum and a larger-than-life 42-foot statue of Athena. Other features of the park include playing fields, an artificial lake, a steam train monument and free wifi on grounds. Did I mention the giant PARTHENON? After an hour of exploring I packed into the car, said goodbye to Nashville and started thinking up ways to introduce myself to the most anticipated city on the tour. It was time at last to set foot on the soil of Memphis, Tennessee.

Centennial Park - Nashville, TN


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