By Kathy K. Martin
Most of the classic Southern dishes on Pat Martin’s restaurant menus come from his family’s recipes. “The hushpuppies are my grandma’s recipe, and the Mississippi fried catfish fillets are breaded with my paw paw’s recipe,” he says of the menu items at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint.
Although Pat Martin was born in Memphis, he spent his summers in Corinth with both sets of grandparents, who he says were all legendary cooks. He recalls Saturday nights spent with his Paw Paw, who fried catfish outside in their carport while his grandma made hushpuppies, French fries and all the fixings in the kitchen. He learned from them and later found his niche in West Tennessee-style whole hog barbecue while he was in college. That niche grew into 10 Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint restaurants and three Hugh Baby’s BBQ & Burger Shops since the first Martin’s opened in October of 2006 in Nolensville, Tennessee. Most of his restaurants are located in the Nashville area (also Birmingham, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky; and Charleston, South Carolina), where he lives with his wife, Martha Ann, and his three children.
When his family moved back to Corinth while he was in high school, Martin’s passion for cooking grew. By the time he was attending Freed-Hardeman University, he had already bought a cookbook that focused on grilling. He discovered the nuances of whole hog cooking from Harold Thomas, who owned Thomas & Webb Barbecue in Henderson, Tennessee, where he spent time in the pit room learning as he watched. “I wasn’t on the payroll, but I tried to help and just be around all the action as I learned.”
He describes the West Tennessee whole hog as a larger hog cooked at a lower temperature, which makes the meat pull right off the bone. “My roots are all in this type of cooking,” he says of the process. His most popular menu items are his ribs, which come flavored with a Memphis-style dry rub and a sweet vinegar sauce, as well as a dish that’s called the Notorious Redneck Taco: a cornbread hoecake with a choice of pulled pork, beef brisket, smoked chicken, smoked turkey or catfish topped with slaw and his own Jack’s Creek Bar-B-Que Sauce.
With his Corinth roots, every Friday night at his Hugh Baby’s restaurants, diners can feast on a slug burger. This Depression-era favorite, made with ground meat, flour, soy grits or another extender, was created and made popular in Corinth. And as everyone across Mississippi knows, the slug burger contains no slugs and got its name from originally selling for a nickel or a “slug.”
While you won’t find Martin cooking barbecue at home, he does braise root vegetables in the winter and grills okra in the summer. “I prefer simple and straightforward cooking with just salt and chili flakes with some acid from lemon or lime instead of a marinade.”
His advice for getting started with barbecue is to begin small in both the meat size and the time required to cook. “Learn the touch and feel of it. Don’t rush it and stop overthinking it.” He suggests starting with spatchcocking a whole chicken or barbecuing spare ribs and using just salt, chili flakes and some sugar without worrying about complicated ingredients and special wood chips for cooking.
Martin plans to continue to build his restaurant business and include a few of his passion projects with elevated dining concepts. And the best news for Mississippi is that he also plans to build a home in Corinth and transition back to his Mississippi roots.
Martin’s new cookbook, “Life of Fire,” is currently available for pre-sale and will be in stores by mid-March.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Broccoli Salad
From Pitmaster Pat Martin
4-6 cups broccoli florets
¾ cup diced red onion
¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¾ cup crumbled bacon
¾ cup raisins
1 cup Martin’s Bar-B-Que Alabama White Sauce or other white barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
In a large bowl, combine broccoli, onion, cheese, bacon and raisins.
In a separate bowl, whisk together Alabama White Sauce and mayonnaise.
Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate before serving.
About the recipe
One of the Bar-B-Que Joint’s most famous and popular side items is the Broccoli Salad. It’s cool and crunchy and it’s got bacon and cheese in it. After coleslaw, it’s just about the perfect thing to eat with some pulled pork or smoked brisket. Now the salad we serve at our Joints is a secret “Church of Christ Salad” recipe from Pat Martin’s grandmother, and of course, he can’t divulge it, but we wanted to give you something that will be easy to recreate at home and satisfy that craving when you can’t make it to our place for the real thing.
Like many of our other recipes, this salad can be made ahead, and might actually be a little better after it’s had time to sit. We use our famous Alabama White Sauce to dress the salad, and that’s all you need. A little mayo will tighten it up, but our signature sauce flavor is all the seasoning required. If you want to add some nuts into the salad, sunflower kernels make a great addition and add a nice extra crunch.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Tennessee ‘Que Potato Salad
From Pitmaster Pat Martin
3 lbs golden potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and chopped
1 ½ cups diced celery
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup sliced green onion
1 cup chopped sweet pickles
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mustard BBQ sauce (like Martin’s Bar-B-Que Palmetto Gold Sauce)
1 cup mayonnaise
In a large pot, cover potatoes with cool water. Add a pinch of salt and place on high heat to bring to a boil. Boil potatoes until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Once the potatoes have cooled, add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cover potato salad with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.