Rooster’s Texas-Style Barbecue and Steakhouse, Nashville, Tenn.
When people think of great barbecue, Tennessee is one of the first places that comes to mind. Along with Missouri, Texas and North Carolina, the Volunteer State is one of the most widely-known places to get delicious smoked meats. However, when people think of barbecue in Tennessee, they’re thinking of Memphis, not Nashville. While the River City is famous for its pork ribs, the Music City is more known for its hot chicken, and there’s no sauces in that, only spices.
Plus, there’s no way that a style that Memphis made famous would ever fly in Nashville. There are three stars on the Tennessee state flag for a reason (Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis). The three cities are longtime rivals, so much so that when the Tennessee Oilers tried to play in Memphis for two seasons before their home in Nashville was built, the locals in Memphis responded by not showing up, which forced the now-Titans to speed up their move to Nashville. See, I can relate anything to sports, which I’m sure is a bit of an annoyance at times to my lovely girlfriend Amy.
Anyway, the point is that these cities don’t like each other much, so if you want good barbecue in Nashville, it’s not going to be Memphis-style ribs. But in this day and age, you can get great barbecue in places that aren’t known for the way they smoke the meat, because styles travel across state lines with the people who love them, creating new spots to find what was previously in one geographic location. That’s the case at Rooster’s Texas-Style Barbecue and Steakhouse, which has brought the style of the Lone Star State north to Tennessee, where it’s become a hit selling a different kind of barbecue as well as some of the best and biggest steaks you’ll find.
As you might expect with a Texas-style barbecue place, the meat of choice here is brisket. Pretty much anything where meat is offered promotes a choice of either brisket or chicken, and if you can’t decide, you can go with two or even three meats. Appetizers are given a Texas twist, with southwestern options and calf fries giving the menu the appearance that one might expect in a place like Amarillo rather than Nashville.
However, what makes Rooster’s really stand out comes in the other half of its name. I speak, of course, of the steaks that Rooster’s serves, which all have two defining characteristics. They’re all sizeable (only the small filet mignon is smaller than 16 ounces) and they’re all soaked in beer while they’re cooking on the grill.
As some of you might know, I’m not a beer drinker. In fact, I’ve never had a sip of alcohol of any kind. However, one of the rules of cooking is that any liquid can become a flavor if used correctly, such as when a pasta is prepared in a white wine sauce, a dessert uses a liqueur as a topping or if it’s stirred directly into soup. As a result, I know what some alcoholic beverages taste like and do enjoy the flavor they create when the alcohol has been cooked off, leaving only the taste of the drink.
Apparently, I’m far from the only one. Owner Rooster Beane likes to cook as much as he can using beer as a marinade, and uses a healthy amount on all of his steaks. The result is a more juicy piece of meat with a very satisfying flavor. It’s not common for a barbecue place to be about the steaks rather than the barbecue, but that’s how good Rooster’s steaks are.
That’s before you’ve touched the side dishes. In some cases, if people leave talking about your side dishes, it means you’ve done a lousy job on your entree. At Rooster’s, it means the side dishes were simply just that good. The meal starts with a salad, with lettuce, tomato, cheddar jack and a hard boiled egg with your choice of dressing. Seemingly mundane, but this was one of the best salads I’ve had. That tells me that quality ingredients are used here, because it’s hard to make a salad stand out on its own.
Finishing up my side choices, I added Texas toast, white cheddar macaroni and cheese and one massive baked potato that had to come from Idaho. I hadn’t seen potatoes this big in a while, and I hadn’t tasted one of that kind of quality since I left Idaho in 2011. This potato was outstanding. The cheese was melted on, leaving it easy to add the butter and sour cream and get started. The Texas toast soaks up everything and provides a nice finish, while the white mac and cheese is something that’s pretty excellent for someone who loves white cheddar.
After making my visit to Rooster’s for a steak, I’ve reached the conclusion that I could never work at the Tennessean. Rooster’s is just too close, since it’s in the shadow of the newspaper’s building, which means I’d be spending far too much money going there as often as possible to eat, and that’s before I’ve even tried the barbecue. If it’s anything like the steaks they produce, the barbecue would be totally worth multiple visits, even if it doesn’t have the same fame as its neighbor 200 miles west. Fame is overrated. What matters is quality, and Rooster’s has it.
Time to go: Earlier if you just want a meal, later if you’d like a party scene. Rooster’s brings in bands and other events for evening entertainment, which isn’t everyone’s scene.
Wait during my visit: None. I also showed up around 4:30 p.m. on a weekday.
Location: Rooster’s is at 123 12th Avenue North in Nashville, Tenn.
Parking: There is a small lot. It’s not the greatest security, but it’s there.
Cost: Depends which way you go. For barbecue, you’ll pay about $10. Steaks will run you about $25. Sides are included.
Seating arrangements: Your choices are high tables with chairs or bar seating.
Specialty items: Beer-soaked steaks