Oct 8, 2021 - Food and Drink

Joelton's secret BBQ joint

A man orders outside of Wise Guy's barbecue in Joelton.

Wise Guy's barbecue in Joelton. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios

Flying under the radar of Nashville's growing foodie scene is a barbecue hut in Joelton where patrons wait in long weekend lines and food often sells out by early afternoon.

Why it matters: Wise Guy's barbecue is a throwback to an era before Nashville had a bevy of buzzy BBQ joints in trendy neighborhoods.

  • Located on Coopertown Road 19 miles northwest of downtown, Wise Guy's eschews the typical BBQ business model, operating with limited hours and leaning heavily on word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Open just two weekends a month (including this one), the setup is spare: a few picnic tables next to a small hut where owner Kelli Guy and her team take orders.

Details: Wise Guy's launched in 2014 as a food truck, but took a hiatus before reopening in 2017. Guy told Axios they were able to re-open the roadside stand after her in-laws ended their ministry of preparing food for the homeless, freeing up their commercial kitchen.

  • Guy is the pitmaster in charge of preparing all the food outside of the potato salad — chicken, wings, pork, brisket and sausages.
  • Also on the team: Guy's husband, daughter and son-in-law.

What they're saying: Guy told us she's pondered opening more hours or moving into a brick-and-mortar business, but for now, likes the work-life balance that running the shop every other weekend provides.

  • "I can't believe how people come up to me from all over and say, 'Wow, you're the Wise Guy's people?' And I'm hearing more and more from people who live (further away from Joelton) in Nashville."

Pro tip: Get there early. It's not uncommon for a long line to form before Wise Guy's opens at 11am. They sold out by 12:30pm once this summer.

💭 Nate's thought bubble: Wise Guy's is an authentic, off-the-grid BBQ experience. Follow the GPS there and you'll think, "Where did those Axios guys send us?"

  • I'm not an aficionado, but I've dragged my family along on road trips to some of the country's most celebrated and beloved BBQ joints — Snow's BBQ in Texas, Heirloom Market in Atlanta, and Rodney Scott's in Charleston. Wise Guy's is right there with my favorite BBQ.

My favorite thing on the menu? The smoked half chicken.


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