There’s the wood, a fuel and smoke source that needs an inspection as careful as that given to the meat it smokes. If it passes inspection, the wood needs to be split and then seasoned, and all this before a stick of it enters the smoker. The smoker itself needs cleaning periodically, as filthy dirty a job as you are likely to encounter, but it must be done, if only to reduce the risk of a grease fire that can send not only the meat but the business up in smoke.
Then there is tending to each type of meat being smoked, each in its own way. Long, smoke-filled hours that go into validating the phrase “Slow Smoked” on menu and on the barbecue joint’s sign out front.
If you want to see what living this kind of life entails, and the results of living it, you need look no further than Greeneville’s Stan Fortner, proprietor of Stan’s Bar-B-Q.
Stan’s Bar-B-Q is a two-story-and-painted-mostly-gray building located near the junction of US Highway 11E and Tenn. Highway 107. For you locals out there that’s where the road to Tusculum meets the Andrew Johnson Highway. The restaurant has been here since 1991, so if you get lost, just ask a friendly passerby where it is; they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. There is plenty of parking in their well-manicured lot with easy access to the outdoor patio as well as the front door.
The restaurant’s capacious dining area has lots of tables, each one with four spoke-backed shaker-style chairs. Décor is more “country” style than you’d expect with the typical “Southern barbecue joint.” The building is comfortably air-conditioned inside, with just the merest whiff of hickory smoke to let you know what the main items on the menu are. There are also several tables to be found outside, either downstairs on the patio, or upstairs on the porch that are just perfect for those of you nature lovers wanting to dine al fresco. Mr. Fortner (“Stan” to his friends, his customers and just about everybody else) is frequently found in the dining areas delivering orders tableside, seeing to his patrons and (where needed) supplying hands-on assistance to the restaurant’s server team. Rest rooms are easily located near the back of the dining area.
Half Rack of Baby Back Ribs
What brought me and the dine-around bunch to Greeneville on this occasion was my dining partner’s conversation with a co-worker, who waxed poetic on the quality and taste of the ribs found at Stan’s Bar-B-Q. Twenty minutes of driving south on U.S. 11E found the Dieter, the Carnivore, my dining partner and myself each having a seat in the Stan’s Bar-B-Q downstairs dining room in air-conditioned comfort. While the rest of us were deciding what to have, my dining partner had already requested our server Cody bring her a half rack of Stan’s baby back ribs ($14.50) with a small salad and baked potato as her side orders. The ribs order showed up after about 20 minutes, a mouth-watering a half-rack of pork ribs that looked ready to fall off the bone while my dining partner was looking at them. From the rib sample I managed to sneak off my partner’s plate, I could tell that Stan applied his proprietary dry rub to the half rack of ribs first, then let them rest for “a while” before placing them in the smoker. (How long the ribs remained in the smoker only Stan knew, and he wasn’t telling when I asked him.) The rack of ribs got a thorough mop of the house barbecue sauce applied toward the end of the smoke session. Again, only Stan knew how long that was. The result was a set of correctly smoked baby back ribs, each rib enrobed in its own caramelized coating of barbecue sauce, each a rib of moist, tender, gnaw-on-the-bones perfection.
Smoked Turkey Salad and Corn Pudding
With my quest for low sodium while dining out still going strong, I chose one of Stan’s garden salads topped with smoked turkey, ($7.25) and added a side order of Stan’s golden corn pudding ($2.25). I was very pleased with the turkey breast meat that was properly smoked and pulled before winding up as toping for my salad. My garden salad was everything I wanted it to be; crispy crunchy where it needed to be and cold enough to hurt your teeth; a great way to beat the heat on a hot summer afternoon. Drizzling it with Stan’s house-made citrus salad dressing matched quite well with the smoky savor of the pulled turkey, and the corn pudding added just the right amount of sweetness to the whole meal. Very nice indeed.
Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich
The Dieter and the Carnivore were both doing yard work when my dining partner made her dinner invitation, and were well-disposed to take a lunch break with us, if only to get in out of the heat. The Dieter, mindful of possible discomfort that could be caused by too heavy a meal on an overheated body, opted for something light and simple, like one of Stan’s smoked turkey breast sandwiches ($6.35), but by itself with no side orders. The Dieter found the smoked and pulled turkey breast meat every bit as enjoyable in her sandwich as I did as topping for my garden salad. The moist and flavorful pulled breast of turkey was arranged on a fresh hoagie bun with melted smoked cheddar cheese, then topped with shredded iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Just a smidge of ranch dressing was all that was needed for her smoked turkey breast sandwich to be truly delectable.
Smoked BBQ Pork Salad
The Carnivore, still feeling the effects of yard work executed in near tropical conditions, decided that my salad topped with barbecue meat of some kind was a good idea. My friend chose a Smoked BBQ Salad ($7.25) as his lunch entrée, topped with Stan’s house-made blue cheese salad dressing. The salad itself was the same garden mixture that I was enjoying, with a generous quantity of shredded aged cheddar cheese, a brief shower of smoked bacon crumbles and some seasoned croutons providing the proper note of crunchy texture. The blue cheese dressing deserves some mention here. Being homemade and not bottled, the dressing had big chunks of blue cheese swimming in a tart and pungent cheese sauce. When draped across the smoky pulled pork the blue cheese made an excellent counterpoint to the smoky flavor of the barbecued pork and also the smoked bacon crumbles. I could tell it was having the desired effect on my friend the Carnivore as the smile on his face grew broader with each successive mouthful.
As we were finishing the last morsels of our Stan’s Bar-B-Q lunch, the restaurant’s namesake himself stopped by our table. Stan’s question on how the ribs tasted got an enthusiastic response from our group, especially from my dining partner, speaking through a smile of proprietary barbecue sauce. The Carnivore said he was very pleased with his barbecue pork salad, especially with the blue cheese dressing on it, while the Dieter had nothing but praise for her smoked turkey sandwich. I asked Fortner how he had managed to stay on the job day in and day out, almost 30 years running his barbecue? Mr. Stan Fortner smiled a patient smile and declared, “What I do here each and every day is not work. It is a calling.”
2620 Andrew Johnson Highway
(U.S. Highway 11E)
Tue-Wed 10:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Thu 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Fri – Sat 10:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.
Closed Sun & Mon
Available on Facebook
Credit cards accepted