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All In The Family…But Better!

Thursday, June 3, 2010 @ 12:06 PM

neelysnashville1.jpg Neely's BBQ - Nashville image by midmichigandiningIt is abundantly clear…I love me some barbecue!  So much so that I have made it a life mission to try every hot spot that I hear about, especially ones that are known for their ribs.  That being said, I have been very lucky to live in a state (Texas) that provides its inhabitants with so much of it.  So sadly, it is a bit bittersweet that as we are Indiana bound this week and will be leaving Dallas for good, we are a bit sad about leaving all the yummy barbecue behind.  Let’s just say that Indiana ain’t really known for their barbecue. ;) 

However, Texas is not the only state that boasts in this area; and in fact we have visited of variety of other spots on are travels.  One of the first we featured for you was Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que, a notorious Memphis hot spot where we had a lackluster experience.  But don’t discount the Neely name just yet.  In fact, the next spot we want to feature boasts the same family name, but are far from alike.  Yes, these Neely’s are in fact one in the same, Uncle and Nephews.  However, where they are similar in name, they are very different in taste.

Barbecue has long been a part of the Neely family.  Pat Neely learned the family business at a young age from his Uncle Jim, and he and his three brothers went to work for their uncle.  Although Pat learned a great deal from his uncle, he had aspirations to branch out on his own, with his own twists on the famous family recipes.  Thus, Neely’s Bar-B-Que was created in 1988 by the Neely Brothers; Gaelin, Tony, Mark and Patrick, with the first opening in downtown Memphis.  By 2001, their brand of bbq had become so popular, they were able to expand with a restaurant in Nashville, which is how we we discovered the Neely name.  Shortly after meeting Adam, we happened upon a show we quickly fell in love with…Travel Channel’s “Road Tasted” hosted by Jaime and Bobby Deen, the sons of legendary Food Network icon Paula Deen; and which oddly enough eventually went on to be hosted by the Neely’s (husband and wife) themselves!  The show featured the Deen brothers traveling around the country showcasing a variety of restaurants and local food favorites in a variety of cities; and one place they happened to check out was the restaurant of family friends of their mom, Neely’s Bar-B-Que.  It was after that first glimpse of their famous ribs and even more famous barbecue spaghetti that I knew it was on the list of must visits.  Lucky for us, we were going to be paying a visit to my brother in Nashville not long after; and since Adam couldn’t get this concept of barbecue spaghetti out of his head (keeping in mind that we had not yet been to Interstate at this time…circa 2007), we knew we HAD to go there.

Now since we were visiting the third locale of Neely’s Bar-B-Que, it was clear that this location is newer and much larger than how their original counterparts were described.  But upon entering it still has that wonderful feel of true bbq joint.  A large board menu is visible and it is easy to see and smell the appeal of this place.  We also were able to notice that a couple of the brothers themselves were working that day.  It is nice to know that although they have become famous, they still want to know how their own restaurant is operating day-to-day.  We perused the menu, but really already knew what we wanted…ribs and bbq spaghetti.  However, this location also features their BBQ Baked Potatoes, something I really wanted to give a go after seeing them make it on an episode of “Paula Party” where Paula Deen had the entire Neely family as her guests and the two families competed in a southern BBQ cook-off.  This Neely’s creation won my vote… 

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I mean a potato stuffed with cheese and bbq meat…what’s not to like!  It really was very good, and I know if given the chance, I’d get it again.  What a concept…pulled pork in a baked potato with all the fixens’…YUM!  

The barbecue spaghetti was also really good, and in retrospect, is far superior to it’s creator across town.  Being the noodle nut that Adam is, he really enjoyed it; and this is just one example of how Pat’s twists on the traditional Neely family recipes taught to him by his uncle have worked out well.   The ribs…although EXTREMELY messy, very good; and I would rank them in my top 10 of all-time ribs…and I’ve had A LOT of them! :D  Interstate BBQ Beef Ribs

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One thing to note is that we visited Neely’s Bar-B-Que prior to their uncles famed spot, Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que.  However, I can safely say we enjoyed it SOOOOOO much better.  One thing for sure, we were openly welcomed right in and treated like any patron would want to be.  I mean…Gaelin Neely even stopped to speak with us and ask how we were enjoying ourselves.  It was a great experience…and we got his autograph (nerds!) :)   Anyhow, on top of that, the atmosphere was great and the food tasted significantly better!  We all agreed, a wonderful treat, and clearly a meal to dig into and enjoy.

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Our visit to the Neely’s restaurant was pre-blog and long before the thought had really ever entered my mind.  But one thing was for sure, it did spark a common interest between Adam and I and our love of food.  This was also pre-engagement, so little did we know then that our common interest would bloom into a marriage full of it (and it also happened to be the weekend he asked my dad for my hand…yay!!! :)). 

Still, because it did bloom into a full blown food critiquing blog, here we go with my review on a pop culture cuisine family’s “Pop Culture Cuisine” restaurant…


SIGNATURE DISH: The entire Neely family, uncles and nephews alike, have a very long history in bbq; and although they are often known for their ribs, the dish that truly sets them apart is their barbecue spaghetti.  This is a dish that is truly unique to this family and one I have never seen duplicated, especially since my foodie world has exploded in the past few years.  Also, Neely Brothers Bar-B-Que is the only place I’ve experienced a barbecue baked potato…so there you go again.

TASTE: What sets them apart from their uncle is the taste.  They have definitely tweaked his recipes and made them their own; and I must say we enjoyed them a whole lot better.  While they still serve a traditional wet Memphis style rib, their sauce had a much less ketchupy taste than their uncles and complemented their meat quite well.  Although I have found in my experience that I much prefer a lighter vinegar based sauce, theirs did have a unique taste I did enjoy.  In addition, the other dishes we ordered besides our ribs, also were a truly unique and tasty experience.  The baked potato was especially a treat.  It was creamy, meaty, cheesy, and overall took a plain ol’ potato and gave it life!  As for the barbecue spaghetti…although good, I must admit that it was not my favorite dish, either place I tried it.  I think I just don’t like the combination of those flavors, although Adam seemed to enjoy it.

AMBIANCE:  As I said, I love bbq joints, and this one does not disappoint.  Although simple, the atmosphere is lively and fun.  This particular location is very open and could easily accommodate a large crowd and even had a special Nashville flair.  Also, the Nashville location is right on the river, so the view is amazing!

SERVICE:  Let’s just say that those Neely brothers know how to cater to their guests.  This is the type of place where you place your order at the counter and they call you when your food is ready.  We did not have to deal with a waiter, but everything we asked for they were happy to oblige us.  Aside from our encounter with the Neely’s themselves, they seemed pleased to have us, and sometimes that is all I need.

PRICE:  There prices seemed to align with almost every other bbq spot I have been to past and present.  Then again…we did not pay on this particular visit.  Upon looking at their menu online, they seem a bit steep, but still reasonable for how much food they provide you with.  Regardless, I guarantee you will not leave hungry.

So although it’s been awhile since our visit and this is not the freshest place in my foodie mind, I was very happy with our trip to Neely’s Bar-B-Que; and I give them 4 ‘Little Piggies.’

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