Popular Tennessee-based barbecue joint Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint will open on James Island mid-April at 1622 Highland Ave., the space formerly occupied by Sermet's Southernterranean.
Martin's joins a trio of other J.I. 'cue spots: Melvin's, Dukes, and Smoky Oak Taproom.
Founded in 2006 in Nolensville, Tenn., there are now 10 Martin's locations across the Volunteer State, Kentucky, and Alabama. This will be the first S.C. location.
Pitmaster and founder Pat Martin says he didn't choose Charleston as part of some growth plan to "populate cool cities." It was all about finding the right people to operate the James Island location.
"Barbecue ... is so skill driven, it can't just be anybody." Martin's longtime friend John Haire (former owner/operator of Jim N' Nicks Bar-B-Q) was the right somebody to partner with. "John's roots are in Charleston — that's how Charleston came into my life. Home Team, Rodney, John Lewis — all guys I'm friends with over on the peninsula. I want to come in with humility and respect to them, to come in softly."
That means coming in somewhere besides the already smokin' downtown 'cue district. "James Island is the kind of neighborhood where my restaurants are in Nashville, a very family-friendly place ... my brand is not in the late night bar business."
Martin's prides itself on being "scratch-made" — you won't find any freezers or microwaves in the building. All menu items — including ribs, chicken, and beef brisket — are made fresh daily, with the intention of everything in-house running out by COB. At the close of service, fresh hogs go on block pits for the next day.
Martin says they're still working on where they'll source their hogs from, whether they'll be Tennessee-bred or from the Lowcountry. Martin does know what kind of pig he wants, though.
"They will be farm raised hogs that walk around, the term 'happy hog' is applicable. I want them to eat a good fatty diet."
The tender meat that comes from these happy hogs goes into Martin staples like the whole hog barbecue sandwich with slaw. Other highlights include the brisket burger topped with melted American cheese, grilled onions, and smoked brisket, and smoked wings tossed in house-made Alabama white sauce. Martin's entrees come with Southern sides like broccoli salad and cornbread hoecakes, and desserts (made in-house) include coconut cake and pecan and fudge pies.
Martin says they'll be open daily for lunch and dinner starting at 11 a.m., closing at 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. They'll have beer, wine, and liquor — "it's a pretty good little wine list, relative to a barbecue joint."
Haire and Chase Barton will operate the restaurant once it opens. "It's a true partnership," says Martin. "These guys actually own it with us, they've got skin in the game. And they're gonna do it the right way."