I understand how barbecue is often a topic of heated debate and hard-fought opinions.
So if you love barbecue, head to Jay’s Smoqued BBQ, located in the Walmart shopping center at 2804 S. Rutherford Blvd. The Kentucky native has his own twist on marinades and rubs for this classic culinary product.
Jay’s Smoqued BBQ owner James Rice retired from the postal service and finally started doing something he’s loved since he was a middle schooler: cooking barbecue. We’re talking brisket, pulled pork, ribs and all the fixin’s — and then some.
He built a loyal following for his catering and food truck business in the Nashville area. So when he decided to open a brick and mortar, he opted for an open restaurant space in Murfreesboro.
“I’ve got the best barbecue,” Rice said. “I know I do.”
The military veteran has perfected his craft by blending an array of spices and marinades he picked up from his global travels. Each dish holds a key to a different culinary style. And don’t bother to ask. He’s not giving away any hints to his recipes.
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On the menu
Right off the bat, what piqued my interest most was the smoked turkey rib. A what? It’s a misnomer because a turkey rib is actually a shoulder cut of the meat. Often considered a scrap piece tossed out with other unwanted bits of the bird, Rice uses a savory marinade before smoking the turkey rib and transforming it into a must-try menu item.
Jay’s Smoqued brisket was decidedly juicy and packed with a flavor profile so unique, I couldn’t quite pick out all the notes. Rice injects his traditional Texas brisket with seasons and smokes it using hickory and oak. I’m not a big fan of beef, but this was divine.
I thought I’d try pulled pork piled high on nachos drizzled with spicy cheese, jalapenos and sour cream. I opted for mild barbecue sauce, per Rice’s recommendation, because the cheese is pretty spicy. It was so good, I almost failed to save room for my other menu selections.
I tried the barbecue rib sandwich at the end. It was good and I found it hard to believe it could be consumed on a bun. It was tender and I loved the kick to the spicy barbecue sauce I chose. But what I loved was the cole slaw paired with the rib.
I am not a slaw person because of the mayonnaise component. But Rice talked me into trying his apple honey poppy-seed slaw and it was delightful. Big chunks of apples, colorful shredded cabbage and a light dressing went into creating this slaw.
The potato salad was amazing, too. I loved that it featured smaller hunks of potatoes with a tangy edge and smoky flavor to it. If you don’t like potato salad, still give this one a try. I think you’ll be surprised.
I also tried the baked beans, which are vegetarian and pack a zesty, smoky flavor. Not my favorite thing on the menu, but I’m also not a huge fan of baked beans.
In addition to items I tried, you’ll find pulled chicken, slabs of ribs, macaroni and cheese, as well as pork by the pound.
To wash down the meal, Rice insisted I try his special strawberry lemonade. Might I also suggest mixing it with tea: a berry good Arnold Palmer.
What makes Jay’s Smoqued BBQ so special is the owner. He is passionate about his craft. It’s his pride and joy.
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Jay’s is a little off restaurant the beaten path. Look for the purple Jay’s Smoqued BBQ sign in the far right end of the Walmart shopping center, nearest the liquor store.
As I’ve noted before: venture off restaurant row and you’ll find some real gems. If we don’t support our locally owned stores and restaurants, they won’t be able to stick around and create unique “content” for us.
Jay’s Smoqued BBQ is worth the adventure.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. There is a huge dining room and plenty of room for large groups of people.
Takeout and delivery are available and can be done by calling 615-869-7433 or online at jaysmoquedbbq.com. Email email@example.com for catering information.