“Classic BBQ in a comfortable vintage setting.”
It seems we often find the most enjoyable eating establishments when we have no idea where we are going. So it was last night.
The Setting – Comfortable and Relaxed
If I had to describe John T’s in one phrase, it would be “Classic BBQ in a vintage setting.” When you walk in the door, it is the setting–the atmosphere–that captures your attention. The dining areas wrap you in the warm comfort of wood and familiar surroundings. The main dining area on the ground floor is furnished in tables and chairs. At the front of this area is a stage suitable for occasional performers. At the back of the dining room, above the kitchen, a stairway leads to a second-level dining area with booths and a small bar. A third level provides seating for groups of up to 14 around a long table. There is a front dining area just before the main dining area that appears to be more suited to milder weather; it was not being used on the cold night we were there.
We selected the second level, giving us a good view of the entire restaurant.
Throughout, the dining area is decorated with diverse vintage collectibles—i.e., items that date from the 1920s up into the 60s and 70s. There are antique toys, musical instruments, many signs, and display cases with an eclectic assortment of memorabilia. Our table had a glass top, under which there were original pages from a 1935 New York Times as well as other newspapers with news relating to the World War II years.
As we were seated, we were greeted by Randy “Hawk” Hawkersmith, who is, as he describes himself the “Renovator, Developer, Pit Master, Proprietor and sometimes Host” of John T’s. We chatted for several minutes and it was clear he was proud of the restaurant he had labored to establish.
But why we were really there—The Menu
The menu is simple and straight-forward; baby back ribs in half and full racks, or pulled smoked pork, smoked beef brisket, smoked chicken, or southern fried catfish. If you can’t make up your mind, there is John T’s Sampler that lets you select any two items, including a half rack of ribs. All dinners come with two sides from an impressive list that includes hand-cut sweet potato fries (a personal favorite), onion rings, and even fried green tomatoes (for a small upcharge). There are also some tasty sounding appetizers and desserts. There is a “Little Guys” menu for children. Finally, all of the smoked meats and most of the sides and desserts are available in bulk to take home for you own personal party. Food can even be picked up at a take-out window in the back of the store.
On the sandwich side of the menu, the same basic meats, as well as hamburgers, are available. The smoked BLT made with in-house rubbed and smoked bacon is on my radar for the next visit. It is on this menu you can also get a 3-bone rib-—it would make an excellent accompaniment to one of the non-rib dinners.
Our Dinner – One Good Thing after Another
We ordered one of John T’s Samplers with ribs and catfish, and one pulled smoked pork dinner, both with the sweet potato fries and turnip greens.
I do not recall having ribs where the meat simply slid off of the bone, tender with a mild smoked flavor. The meat was moist and really did not need sauce, but John T’s Spicy Sloppin’ Sauce added a nice “zing.” I have no idea where the phrase came from, but my wife described the ribs as “slap yo’ Mamma good.” I have learned that means she thinks it is really good!
The pulled smoked pork was piled high on the plate—there was no question about being fully sated. Served without sauce, I tried both the original and the spicy Sloppin’ Sauces. The “Original” is a nice balance of sweet—but not too sweet—and really enhanced the flavor of the meat. Used sparingly, the spicy Sloppin’ Sauce adds just enough “zing” without getting in the way of the flavor of the smoked pork.
The lightly breaded catfish fillet was large enough for us to split it and still have a good portion. Fried to a golden brown, the white, flaky meat had that distinctive, and delicious, mild catfish flavor.
The meal was served up with courteous and efficient service. Hawk also stopped by to chat and ask about our meal.
The Need-to-Know Stuff
John T’s is located at 115 1st Avenue, NE, in Winchester, Tennessee. But don’t spend your time looking for the street numbers; just locate the Oldham Movie Theater; John T’s is right next door. If “Dinner and a movie” appeals to you, this is the place
The restaurant is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11:00 am until 9:00 pm and on Sunday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. (Note: the restaurant is closed from 2:00 to 4:30 Thursday and Friday to prepare for dinner.) For information or take-out orders, call them a 931-967-9600.
For more information and view the online menus, go to: www.johntbbq.com
We discover another fine BBQ restaurant, this time it is John T’s BBQ in Winchester, Tennessee; “Classic BBQ in a comfortable vintage setting.”