Dr. Ralph, The Ryman, & the Redneck Taco: Martin’s BBQ Joint of Nolensville, Tennessee

Ryman Auditorium

I finally made good on a trip I’d wanted to make for some time. I headed north to Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium for one of their summer Bluegrass Nights. The equally legendary, and nearly as old, Ralph Stanley was headlining in possibly his last full concert appearance at the Mother Church. A farewell concert by a first generation Bluegrass legend at ground zero for Bluegrass music was a recipe for success.

Always on the lookout for new places to eat, I noticed that Southern food guru John T. Edge had listed something called the Redneck Taco at Nolensville’s Martin’s BBQ Joint on his Garden & Gun 100 Southern Foods. There’s not a better combination than barbeque and Bluegrass, so I put Nolensville onto my travel map and started toward Nashville.

Martin's BBQ Joint

Martin’s apparently used to be a bit more of a hole in the wall (which I enjoy), but the new place is a stand alone building in nicer shopping area. Good sign number one: smoke was billowing out. The smell of pork filled the air.

Martin's PigThe inside is properly porky, signs and artifacts cover the walls. The restaurant was busy, but there was no wait time when I was there. You walk by a very large menu board that highlights “The Notorious Redneck Taco.” There are several meat options, each with its own sauce recommendation. I went with the basic pulled pork with  Sweet Dixie Sauce. I gave my order to the young lady at the order window and waited for my taco to be brought out.

The Redneck Taco is a hoecake covered in meat–pulled pork, in my case–then a layer of slaw, finally topped with barbeque sauce. The hoecake is similar to a regular pancake, slightly sweet. I found the pulled pork tasty and moist (tried alone without sauce). The slaw was finely chopped. The recommended sauce, Sweet Dixie, lived up to its name. It is tangy, a little sweet, with good flavor. The beans were likewise tangy, and although I liked them at first, later, I wasn’t entirely sure if I did or not. I will say this, I appreciate a place that doesn’t just give you warmed up beans from a can. I want them to at least do something to make them their own. Martin’s fulfills its responsibilities to the beans.

Martin's Redneck Taco

You really need a little more sauce than they put on it, so ask for more or it gets a bit dry. In what may be a barbeque restaurant first for me, there was no sauce readily available. You have to ask for extra in which case they’ll bring you a small paper cup with sauce. Maybe Martin’s will find some squeeze bottles and put this stuff out for their patrons. BBQ Joints shouldn’t be stingy with the sauce.

Having Martin’s Redneck Taco was a great experience, one I recommend. The atmosphere is right, service is solid. Now I want to go back to try their ribs and other sauces. Speciality items are one thing, but ribs are where an establishment can stand or fall.

With the Redneck Taco behind me, it was on to Dr. Ralph and the Ryman.

Bluegrass MarkerRalph Stanley is probably most known to modern audiences as the voice behind the song “O, Death”, featured in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? Stanley is really the last of the true old guard in Bluegrass music. He began his career as half of the Stanley Brothers in 1946, and even toured with Bill Monroe. When Carter Stanley died in 1966, Ralph retooled and began his solo career using the Clinch Mountain Boys as his back-up band. Ralph hired teenagers like Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, and Marty Stuart over the years, giving the future stars their starts.

The show opened with co-headliner Jim Lauderdale and band who did a fantastic job. Lauderdale and Dr. Ralph did a couple of albums together, and have toured extensively. Lauderdale has written a great bit of material for Stanley, some of which Lauderdale performed during his set.

Dr. Ralph Stanley came out with his Clinch Mountain Boys for the second set, and I wondered how well he would hold up. At 86, he’s understandably slowing down a bit. He’s no longer playing his banjo, and had a chair on stage to rest.

Ralph Stanley O Death

But although Stanley started the set a bit slow, he nailed the a cappella “O Death” (capping it with a sung, and sincere, “thank you”). From that point on, Ralph Stanley seemed only to pick up steam getting stronger with each song. My only disappointment: there’s no mandolin in the current iteration of the Clinch Mountain Boys–what?!

I wasn’t sure how long Dr. Ralph would be able to keep going, but they did a 90 minute show, which was amazing. Stanley was spelled with lead singing by his grandson and various instrumentals. A highlight was Jim Lauderdale joining Dr. Stanley onstage for a song.

It was a great way to begin seeing shows at the Ryman. And I was glad to have the opportunity to have Dr. Ralph Stanley sign my official Hatch Show Print for the summer Bluegrass Nights.

I should have asked Dr. Ralph if he had ever eaten a Redneck Taco.

Ryman Hatch Print

6 thoughts on “Dr. Ralph, The Ryman, & the Redneck Taco: Martin’s BBQ Joint of Nolensville, Tennessee

  1. So, obviously I get that Ralph Stanley is 86, but when I saw him perform on July 4th in Athens, GA, I was pretty underwhelmed. While he nailed all of the vocals, he had about the same stage presence of the chair that was on stage for him to sit on. It also seemed like between one of his sons and his grandson plugging their albums, the whole concert was more of a commercial for them than show centered around him. Maybe the show at Ryman was better, and it’s good that I did get to see him perform before he no longer does it, but I guess I was just expecting a little more.

    • The grandson is a bit much, but he didn’t plug the album particularly at this show. Ralph’s stage presence warmed up through the show, but I think you’ve got to be glad he’s just able to show up and sing. I hope I’m able to listen to Bluegrass when I’m 86.

  2. I saw him at the VBC in Huntsville on the Down From the Mountain Tour with several other artists. I would have loved to see him at the Ryman. Nice review!

    • Thanks, Beth! I saw the Down From the Mountain Tour, too, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. It was the opening night of the tour. A great show. I doubt we’ll see its like again.

  3. Sounds like a good time was had. I have been known to listen to some bluegrass now and again, and my wife is certainly a fan, so we may have to make this trip ourselves sometime.

Leave a Reply