Pork Prodigy: Mary's Old Fashioned Barbecue Pit Feeds Local Foodies For Over 50 Years

May 16 2018
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Pork Prodigy: Mary's Old Fashioned Barbecue Pit Feeds Local Foodies For Over 50 Years

By: Holly McCall

For more than 50 years, Mary's Old Fashioned Barbecue Pit, a Jefferson Street classic, has drawn customers from around the city




Before there was Martin's and Edley's and Peg Leg and Jack, there was Mary’s. 

Mary’s Old Fashioned Barbecue Pit on North Nashville’s Jefferson Street is to the current crop of Nashville ‘cue joints what Prince’s is to the hot chicken craze: it’s the original and the standard bearer, the one drawing crowds before Nashville was the “It City.”

A visit on a recent Friday lunchtime proves Mary’s isn’t conceding business to the newcomers. In front of the plain white brick building with the word ‘Mary’s’ stencilled in bold red are parked a row of cars, including a Lexus and a Mercedes. There’s no line at the walk-up window out front - it’s not in use any longer but for years, lines formed late into the night when hungry clubgoers and partyers wanted a pulled shoulder sandwich to go  - but inside the queue for ‘cue has formed. 

“We’re from Memphis visiting our son at TSU,  and we’ve been hearing about his place,” says a middle-aged woman purusing the wall menu with her husband. 

For more than 50 years, folks have been finding their way to Mary’s  to pick up pulled pork, ribs and chicken. Mary Seals’, the joint’s namesake and founder, is deceased but the restaurant has stayed in the family and is now run by her granddaughter, Katresa Fizer and her husband, Clark. 

If you go to Mary’s, there are a few things you ought to know: first, don’t go for decor. Inside has a few plain tables and straight back chairs, but the focus is on food and recent visits show most people are getting their orders to go.  

Want beef brisket? Mary’s ain’t the place and serves no beef. 

The early bird doesn’t get the worm. Go at lunch time and likely the only meat plentiful is pork shoulder. Mary’s pitmaster arrives early in the morning to smoke the day’s meats, and ribs don’t start rolling off the smoker till late afternoon. 

Fancy side dishes aren’t on the menu, either. There’s no gouda mac and cheese or crispy oven roasted brussels sprouts, just some potato salad and chips to accompany your meal. That’s really all you need. Because if you want a slice of old Nashville and some down home pork pulling apart in smoky strings, sans hipsters and foodies, there’s only one place in town to go, and it’s Mary’s.  


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