Center Point BBQ
Center Point BBQ has been in the business of providing seriously good food to Nashville since 1965. Though it looks humble from the outside, there’s no mistaking the laurels adorning the pit barbecue joint’s walls; hundreds of autographed photos proudly display just who Center Point has made into believers; from country stars like Taylor Swift to George H. W. Bush and his son, to the 2009 Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders. The aroma of freshly smoked hickory wood wafts through the parking lot, a testament to the flavors being created within the red bricks.
But then, Tennessee Barbecue is serious business.
The end result is some of the most unebelievably complex barbecue I’ve ever tasted. It’s ridiculously good. The ribs are literally perfect; you can taste the hickory in the beautiful bark, and the meat is tender without being too soft. When people think of good barbecue, often they imagine fall-off-the-bone meat drenched in a tangy sauce; actually as far as competition barbecue goes, that’s overcooked meat with flavor-masking gravy. The brisket is also dead-on perfect, it’s tender and thin-sliced but very smoky and with just enough fat to give it a delicious flavor. The chicken is a separate masterpiece unto itself; it’s prepared with a different, lighter glaze to complement the lighter meat, but still has the same smokiness that makes the rest of the meat so good. All of the meat is perfect.
A “yank” like me is used to a simple, very sweet sauce probably based on some kind of ketchup to go with the meat, but Center Point has six different sauces, all of which are “southern” style, and pretty tangy at that. “Sweet & Sassy,” the mildest option, is molasses-based and the sweetest thing you’ll find. “Sweet Surprise” is more vinegar-based and though it has some sweetness to it, it’s got a sharp kick at the end. On the mid-scale, “Big Bad Wolf” is flavored heavily with chili powder, and the hottest options, “Hot” and “Burning Bush Hot” take no quarter with plenty of peppers and pepper seeds to top off the meat. All six resonate extremely well with each piece of meat.
The sides are just as important for a barbecue joint like this, and you’ll be wowed with what you taste. There are a few kinds of cole slaw, but the base kind has a very vinegary tartness to it. The collared greens come wilted to perfection, still with that fresh and familiar taste to them. The cornbread is made like a pancake, and it’s certainly not sweet like the other kinds I’ve had, but it’s just fine.
I’m really at a loss for words. The sign out front proudly declares, “Welcome to the world’s best barbecue, make us prove it!” Proven, indeed.
- Absolutely try the ribs, they’ve got to be the best thing on the menu. Alternatively, I’d suggest the brisket.
- There is a take-out menu with large-sized group orders. It’s probably the best bet if you’ve got a bigger group since the dining room is so big.
- Nothing tops good southern-style barbecue sides, and the cole slaw and collared greens are both amazing.