(02/10/06) (08/06/06) (12/01/06)
Tennessee's is a local BBQ chain with a full service restaurant in Milford and counter-service-only outposts in Framingham, Peabody and Braintree. This chain was started by but is no longer associated with Steve Uliss, who now owns Firefly's.
Tennessee's has babybacks and " Memphis" ( St Louis cut) pork ribs, along with beef ribs, brisket, chicken, chicken wings and burritos. Their ribs vary greatly from visit to visit, sometimes pretty good and sometimes dry and old tasting. They're generally pink, slightly smoky, heavily basted and sweet inside with a caramelized crust from grilling. There's usually a good dose of sauce on the ribs that works well, although it's very sweet. Babybacks are tender and meatier here than most places, while the Memphis ribs are not that meaty here. Tennessee's beef ribs are large but incredibly fatty and a poor cut of meat; I find them inedible here.
You can add 3 Memphis ribs to any order for $4.95, a nice touch.
Three sauces are also available in dispensers, in varying degrees of heat, sweetness and tanginess, but all with the same basic flavor and the texture of ketchup.
Sides vary. The collard greens have a lot of meat, but still taste very light. The interesting cole slaw is a lightly dressed mound of crunchy matchsticks. The baked beans are slightly firm and a nice blend of sweet and tart.
Follow-up: This summer I tried a pulled pork sandwich. The meat was smoked but under all the sweet sauce it tasted like chemicals. Then, in the fall, I stopped in for an order of chicken a few times and found it to be surprisingly good: crisp skin, smoky flavor, and juicy, flavorful meat. And the collard greens were pretty good too.
I like the fact that there's fast service with beer, a parking lot, and a sink right inside the dining area to wash your hands. I also like the idea of 3 sides with each combo, allowing flexibility if you'd rather not have cornbread. But I hate the lack of napkins. A roll of paper towels would be handy at the table, but here it’s at the condiment station and somewhat of a hassle.
The bottom line: Tennessee's is like the Boston Market of barbecue. The meats can be good though never great, and there's not much atmosphere, but it's quick and convenient.