- [Joe] This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we first make a tasty trip to the Barbecue Shop in Memphis. Then, I meet a gourd artist at Woodbury, where we'll get a special tour of Ol' Hickory's home at the Hermitage and discover how some of our favorite restaurants have taken to take out. Hi everyone, I'm Joe Elmore. Glad you joined us. Welcome to another Tennessee Crossroads. If you think Memphis and think about food, you're probably thinking about barbecue, right? Well, Danielle Allen is a native of the Bluff city and she knows how to find the real deal. And she did just that not long ago when she sampled the savory goodness of The Bar-B-Q Shop. - [Danielle] Laughter, good food, - [Female Customer] Oh, the ribs, they're my favorite. - [Danielle] And a stellar reputation. - [Male Customer] There's other places that have more of a name, but in my opinion, I've eaten at all of 'em and this is the best place in town so I would recommend anybody that's looking for good barbecue to come here. - [Danielle] These are some of the things The Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison Avenue is known for. It's not their only claim to fame though. They're the originators of barbecue spaghetti, which has become a Memphis staple. - [Eric] The good thing about eating Memphis barbecue is you're never gonna go to a Memphis barbecue place and go, oh, that's kinda like this place, or, that's the second barbecue shop. Everything has a complete different taste and I've never eaten a Memphis barbecue spaghetti that was even close to the next one. To be honest, our barbecue spaghetti, it's sweet, it's oily-looking, but no one else will have the flavor that we have in those noodles. - [Danielle] One thing that is duplicated in this restaurant is quality. The owner of The Bar-B-Q Shop, Eric Vernon, ensures that every bite is just as delicious as the one before it. - [Eric] We have to make sure we're maintaining the way we cook our meats and we cook our ribs. The way we make that coleslaw and that barbecue sauce and the way we do the barbecue spaghetti. I mean, even daily, my job is to go back there and check that barbecue spaghetti throughout the day to make sure it has the right consistency, thickness and taste that it should have. And that's it. You know, I'm gonna taste the coleslaw, I'm gonna taste the beans, I am to look at the meat when it comes off in the morning. And it's supposed to meet the same criteria that we've had every day for years. - [Danielle] That consistency is vital to the success of The Bar-B-Q Shop. With so many barbecue places in the Bluff city, their commitment to getting it right every time makes them stand out in the Memphis crowd. - [Eric] I think all Memphis barbecue sauces give you a smokey flavor. But ours is a little bit of sweet, a little bit of tangy mixed together with that smokey flavor. And I think that's what sets us apart from everybody else. - [Danielle] That one of a kind sauce is made from scratch every day. It's then used to baste, to marinate or add flavor to meat that just falls right off the bone. But arriving to this delicious final product is not always a quick process. - [Eric] We actually start cooking in the evening and it cooks through the night and then we take it off in the morning when we get here. It's a 12 hour process for our beef brisket, our Boston butts, ribs, of course, is much shorter, but anything that we're using like that, we smoked it for 12 hours. - [Danielle] Of course one of the most popular items on the menus are the ribs. Now, you can get these with the dry rub or drenched in delicious barbecue sauce or just do half and half. But no matter how you order them, one thing remains the same. Each bite is infused with a delicious flavor that's been around for decades. - [Eric] The The Bar-B-Q Shop is, at this point, three generations. And we go back to the first generation, you have Brady and Lil's. And mister Brady was a cook on the railroad and he had a love for cooking and his two favorite loves within cooking was pasta and barbecue. And so, he set out to open up his own barbecue restaurant. - [Danielle] Brady and Lil's made quite a name for itself in the 60's. In fact, their unmistakable barbecue flavor struck a cord with the legendary music group. - Brady and Lil's was a big place for Stax musicians. Issac Hayes, you had Willie Mitchell, producer Al Green, and actually when the Beatles world tour came to Memphis, 364, they went to visit Stax and they went to visit Willie Mitchell and Willie Mitchell said, hey go to Brady and Lil's and the Beatles came and bought up all the ribs Brady had. - [Danielle] Another customer who was impressed with the food was Eric's father, Frank. He ate at Brady and Lil's often and he was there in the 80's when mister Brady decided to hang up his apron for good. - [Eric] Mister Brady and my father were good friends. And one day they were having a conversation and mister Brady said, hey, I don't wanna do this anymore. And my dad said, look, I wanna have my own restaurant again. I wanna be my own boss. I wish you would consider mentoring me and showing me, you know, everything about barbecue. And they made a deal. And actually, when they went to sign the papers, he stopped and went in the other room and got the biggest bible I'd ever seen and said, hey, if you are gonna run this restaurant, you are gonna need this bible to make it through. - [Danielle] Frank kept the bible and many of mister Brady's practices. He did, however, add a new flavor to things. They changed the name to The Bar-B-Q Shop and moved to a new location. Eric grew up watching all of this and helping with the business, but he was cooking up a different type of career. - [Eric] I was gonna get my business degree. I was gonna be a corporate guy and right when I graduated, my dad told me that he was thinking about selling it and I said, you know what, I'll give you a year of my life. Since then, we been on the Bobby Flay Show, we been on Andrew Zimmern twice, we're hosting the New York Times 36 Hours in Memphis video. We've just achieved so much since that time period and we kinda never looked back. - [Danielle] But just like his father, Eric wants to make sure that some things never change. - [Eric] My dad's advice was, I know you want to expand on things, I know you have degrees, and you can keep us in the present, but don't change anything that's working. And I'm a big believer of that. I've seen a lot of restaurants go through generational changes and people come in and change some of the core things that were working and it doesn't last. So, you know, I'm never gonna mess with this barbecue sauce, I'm never gonna mess with the way we cook it, I'm never gonna mess with the way we prep things and make things daily, that's always gonna stay the same. - Thanks Danielle. By the way, the shop does offer take out, so folks can still get their fix. Not too long ago, Gretchen Bates went to a distillery in Woodbury where she found a couple of surprises. One of which was an artist who shares the property and his love for a particular plant. - [Jai] I'm attached to them. I like 'em, I mean I think that's the whole point. You know you're an artist when you like what you make. - [Gretchen] Jai Sheronda has been an artist for most of his life. The walls of his cozy studio on Short Mountain are lined with a lifetime of drawings, paintings and sculptures of all shapes and sizes. But the media that has Jai the most enthusiastic these days is-- - [Jai] I love you gourd. - [Gretchen] You guessed it. - Gourds. Gourdings. Gourd. Gourd-geous. Gourd-ism. It's an ism that I sort of embrace. I don't know what it is about gourds that have connected me to some kind of an ism, but I've never stopped gourding since I started really. I just was drawn to it. You know when I was 40 years old and someone said you're gonna be making gourd lamps when you're 60, I'd be like, what? I think when I first started doing gourds, a friend had grown all these gourds and they looked horrible 'cause when gourds dry, they get covered in mold and they don't look like anything. And so I washed it and there's this beautiful thing underneath the skin and, and I was like so impressed with how pretty the green looked and I sort of cut off the top and I was like, oh my gosh, I made a vessel. And, I sort of sat it on a counter and like somebody came in and said how much is that? I was like, I don't know. And I sold it like that day. And I was like, you know this is how I can make my fortune on gourds. - [Gretchen] While Jai was content making gourd vessels and sculptures for a while, his art took an unexpected turn during a trip to New Orleans. You might say, it was a trip that set him on his path to enlightenment. - [Jai] I just love going into old, junk shops and finding old lamps and I started building lamps 'cause I think that each lamp is a sculpture, really. And then like eight years ago, somebody gave me some glass, stained glass, and they said, I thought maybe you could use it. But putting the glass in the gourd was very strange for me 'cause it was a flat surface. Glass is flat on a-- there's nothing flat about a gourd. And then somebody gave me a grinder, a glass grinder. And suddenly like my world changed because I could take a piece of glass with sharp edges and you know just grind it down and work away at the imperfections. And you know, you'll think that the glass grew in the gourd. - [Gretchen] It's not hard to imagine these beautiful pieces of glass grew in as gourds. Each piece is so perfectly fitted, but even this seasoned gourdist hasn't managed to cultivate that crop yet. It's been said that gourds thrive on neglect. Many growers plant them and forget them. That's not the case with Jai. He visits his gourds daily. - [Jai] Plants are a big interest to me. I love to garden. I grow gourds, but they're usually in a field and this was just fun, I was able to really study it. Ready? - [Gretchen] Yup. Wow, it's heavy. - What's the bottom look like? It's all right? - It's beautiful. Looks like an apple almost, you know. - The Cannon County Art Center in Woodbury is where I first started showing my lamps. So I've done shows there every couple years. I've had like three big shows there in the last six years and they always have some of my lamps in the gift shop there. In the Short Mountain Distillery, which is just around the corner, there's a new restaurant there, well it's a couple years old, it's called the Stillhouse Restaurant. And there's a place that shows off my lamps very nicely. There's nine of them up over the bar and it's kinda very hard to miss them. Every gourd has a story. This one I did when I had a close friend pass away a couple years ago. I call "In Memoriam." This is "Eye of the Spiral." Somebody wrote to me on Facebook said, my titles were like poetry. And I thought that was such a nice thing to say 'cause I spend a lot of time thinking about the titles and to me it sort of sums up what I thought about during the process 'cause you know these lamps with a top and bottom, they'll take three weeks. - Jai, tell me about this lamp here. - Well, my friend is a beekeeper and he keeps hives here on the land and I've had done bees before, but I wanted to try to make a bee that was a little bit more bee-like, so. And I had been working with hexagons and I liked the pattern, so I thought I'd do one called "Honeycomb." And I put bees on it. And I thought they were really-- you know they were different, they're bees in flight kind of and it just felt very I don't know, celebratory of the bee. And when I leave this light on at night, the gold kind of hue that it gives out it's just like honeycomb and the color is just very gold which is kind of unusual. Art is kind of a spirituality. It's like how you become a better person you know, like, I feel like it connects me to my higher self somehow and like directs me. And I use the word magic a lot. I don't have-- really know what that means, but I feel like there's magic in my gourds. - [Gretchen] Magic that shines a light on everyone that sees his gourd-geous lamps. - [Jai] Every time I make a lamp I'm thinkin' is this what I wanna do? Is this what I wanna put out? And you know the answer is pretty much yes. - Thanks, Gretchen. Three American Presidents have made Tennessee their home. No doubt, the most flamboyant was Andrew Jackson. And while Old Hickory made his mark on the country, he made his home in Nashville. Now the Hermitage is a place we can still visit, after it reopens of course. Meanwhile, here's Rob Wilds with a virtual visit. - [Rob] Andrew Jackson was a Nashville warrior and politician and a decade away from international fame as the victor at The Battle of New Orleans in the war of 1812 when he and his wife, Rachel, decided they needed a new home. And so, according to Marsha Mullin, the curator here, back in 1804, they bought the parcel we know as the Hermitage. - They originally lived in a two story log farmhouse, which part of it still stands here on the property. And that was where they were living during the war of 1812 when Jackson led the American troops at the The Battle of New Orleans. And after the war, of course, he became a national hero and a pretty prominent national figure and so he had not only some more prominence, but he also had some more money because he was the General for the southern district of the army. And he then had his agricultural income and his army income and he decided to build a new house. And they chose to build it on this site. A two story brick house was plain brick. It didn't have the wings, it didn't have the porch, but the center part of the house that we have today is basically that house. - [Male Tour Guide] Come right in folks. Let me welcome you to the entry hall. - [Marsha] Nearly everything in the house actually belonged to the Jackson's. So it's not our interpretation of how they lived, it's how they really lived. It shows that, at least in this last version of the house, they were pretty sophisticated people. They bought nearly all the furnishings at that point in time in Philadelphia which was, you know, a major American city. So they were very up to date. The front of the house is Greek revival architecture, which was the high, popular architecture of the time. And the interior designs and everything shows a lot of Grecian influence as well. So, I think that the main impression that Jackson wanted people to make, and I think that it still presents, is that he was a pretty sophisticated guy. - [Rob] Sophisticated. And complicated. Still today, just as during his own lifetime, Jackson is a figure who evokes strong emotions. - Some people really love him. Some people don't love him so much, but he was a complicated character and he lived in complicated times. And I think that's something we need to remember about all figures in history is that it's all not one thing or the other. He was the first President who was not wealthy, didn't have family money, who lived across the Appalachian Mountains from the Eastern Seaboard. He was sort of the first self-made man who became President. And that's an interesting story that transition in American leadership from the Revolutionary era men who were mostly wealthy thinkers to a person like Jackson who was more of a man of action and not of the elites, didn't have a college education, things like that. - [Female Tour Guide] It looked a lot different back then than what it does today. Today it's very park-like, very beautiful. We do a lot of weddings and receptions and that type of thing out here and you can see why. But back when this wasn't active plantation, there was very little grass and very few trees out here. - [Rob] You can walk the grounds or take the mass transit of 1804 and get an idea of the size and scope of such a place. In Jackson's day, the farm work was done by slaves who lived on the property. The location of their cabin's still visible. Just as is the cabin of the slave who was the overseer here. Today, the planting is done by dedicated landscapers who work to keep the garden, which Rachel Jackson loved so dearly, in the sort of the shape she would appreciate and even recognize. - [Marsha] We have the Jackson family garden, which includes Jackson and Rachel's tomb and the family cemetery. The garden is laid out as it was during the Jackson's time here. And we try to grow only pre Civil War type plants in it so that it's the kind of plants that they would've been familiar with. - Sadly, not everybody can come here to the Hermitage to see all the historic artifacts and tour the house and the grounds up that way, so the Hermitage goes to them. Jason Nelson is director of marketing at the Hermitage. - We're really heavily involved with not only schools here in Nashville, but schools really all over the country. We recently have launched an enhanced kind of webinar. With our education department that features not only an audio component, but a video component as well. So essentially, schools and classrooms can Skype in to the Hermitage to learn more. 'Cause you know, a lot of times, these schools, they don't have funding to come out here on field trips, but still way for us to keep Jackson fresh in the minds of the teachers and the students throughout the community and the country. - [Rob] Introducing Jackson to new generations who can peer into his life and explore the fascinatingly complicated man who left his mark on the world, but made his home in Nashville. - Thanks, Rob. Visiting mom and pop diners has been a trademark of Tennessee Crossroads. And before long, we hope to be out in the hunt for more. Meanwhile, here's a little tribute to all of them along with a couple of updates from places we have recently visited. Over the years, our Crossroads travels have led us to a treasure. Finally, we're on Tennessee restaurants. Each one is more than just another restaurant. It's where you go to be treated like family by local folks who really care. Where you find food specialties that just don't taste the same anywhere else. Last winter, we visited such a place in Martin, Tennessee. The Grind Mac and Cheese Burger Bar. - [All] One, two, three, grind! - [Joe] We discover the happy place full of fun and adventurous food items. Including a dozen burger varieties and eight mac and cheese options. Milkshakes well they don't call 'em over the top for nothing. Donna Moseley Newsom is manager and ambassador of good times. - We serve fun all day long. And not only do we serve food, but we serve fun. - [Rob] No doubt, The Grind made my top ten list of favorite dining destinations. Now, The Grind is probably typical of most independently owned restaurants these days. So I decided to reach out to Donna to see how she's staying afloat during these trying times. - Well, basically, we're just tryna get through it. We're supporting local businesses all over, you know, Martin and the surrounding areas. The mom and pop businesses are what we're tryna do. It's been really quiet, but we're grateful that we're here. We're doin' curbside service, we're doin' delivery within the city limits, so things have been pretty good. They can go on our Facebook page and there's a link that they can order online. They can also call and we'll run it out right out to 'em. We follow all the CDC rules and do everything from a distance. We have contact less deliveries where people can just, we'll just leave it at their doorstep if they, we deliver it to 'em and they pay online so everything is safe. - Well, Donna I have to ask, have customers been generous with the tips lately? - They are, you know, they know that times are tough right now, so they're being very generous with tipping and, you know, going above and beyond to try to help everybody in this hard time. - What about your menu, has it changed any? - We have a full menu, the full menu. So actually, we can deliver a milkshake to your car, sing to you if you're celebratin' somethin', the full menu, we give it, you know, the experience we can at the curbside. - Thanks, Donna. Well, speaking of helping our mom and pop restaurants, here's an update from a little place that Rob Wilds visited in Ashland city. - [Rob] Come to O'Brien's Southern Diner and you're gonna find Candice O'Brien Beasley going all the time. - [Candice] Did everything come out correct over here y'all? Good? Awesome. Hi, this is Candice O'Brien Beasley checking in with you from O'Brien's Southern Diner. Just wanted to kind of give everybody a update and let you know how we've been doin' out here. During the beginning of the isolation and the separation, and then closin' down our dinin' rooms, we decided to stay open for a few more weeks and do curbside and delivery. We had a lot of people come out and support us and it was wonderful and we are so appreciative of it, but at the same time, it just wasn't enough to break even. So, we decided to shut down like the majority of the other restaurants in town. We have in this last few days decided that we are gonna give it another go again next week to see how it goes and did the curbside and delivery Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We look forward to seein' everybody again and we will family packs and try to get as creative as possible to offer as much as we possibly can to y'all. Thank you so much. We appreciate it. Bye. - Of course, if you decide to order take out from any restaurant, you wanna call ahead and make sure the hours of operation haven't changed. Well, we haven't changed our hours too much. We'll be back with another show next week. Meanwhile, check out our website Tennessee crossroads dot org. Follow us on Facebook and stay safe.
April 30, 2020
Season 33 | Episode 34
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, feast your eyes as we dine at an iconic Memphis BBQ restaurant. Visit a Woodbury artist who turns the humble gourd into an object of beauty and radiance. And discover why the home of Old Hickory is still a Tennessee Treasure. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television!