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Tennessee's Real BBQ

173 Pearl Street, Braintree, MA 02184
(781) 843-0999 Find location!

Photo of Tennessee's Real BBQ, Braintree, MA We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Boston is not exactly a hotbed of barbecue joints. There are plenty of options for most other types of cuisine in the Greater Boston area, but BBQ ain't one of them. And when people do talk about barbecue around Boston, the same few names tend to come up again and again--Firefly's in Marlboro, Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, West Newton, and Dedham, Redbone's in Somerville, and some relative newcomers including The Smoke Shop in Cambridge's Kendall Square, Somerville's Assembly Row, and Boston's Fort Point, and Sweet Cheeks in the Fenway. But if you search hard enough, some other lesser-known places pop up, including a terrific spot in South Braintree called Tennessee's. And while this restaurant is actually part of a very small chain, we feel that it is good enough--and hidden enough--to warrant featuring on Boston's Hidden Restaurants.

Tennessee's Real BBQ, which can also be found in a few other towns in Massachusetts and one in Pennsylvania, started out back in the early 1990s and has remained mostly a local chain that seems to be a bit lesser known than some of the places mentioned above. The Braintree location is rather plain and anonymous looking from the outside, sharing a building with other shops in a commercial section of town just east of South Braintree Square and really looking more like a generic fast-food joint than a barbecue spot. But Tennessee's is anything but generic, winning a number of awards for its Southern-style BBQ, including some national recognition.

The menu at Tennessee's is varied and extensive, and prices are mostly low for what you get. Sandwiches include a deliciously sweet pulled pork as well as a slightly sloppy but tangy and rich North Carolina pulled pork, while chicken lovers will probably like the pulled chicken sandwich that can be mixed with any number of sauces. The chopped BBQ beef sandwich (as well as the similar chopped BBQ beef plate) is a real winner here, with lean and tender beef mixed with a sweet (but not too sweet) sauce. An outstanding house-made sausage can be ordered at Tennessee's, with the core of the sausage having a delightful buttery garlic taste. A few burritos are also offered, including a wonderful chili brisket burrito with loads of tender, lean meat (they also offer bowls of chili with brisket as well), and a substantial chopped beef burrito. Rib lovers have their choice of Texas beef, baby back, or Memphis (all of which are marvelous), while folks who like wings can choose from truly great versions of regular, hot, or BBQ, and can order them in quantities up to 50. Sides are mostly good, with the corn bread being moist and hearty, the collard greens having a slightly sharp vinegar taste and the rich-tasting baked macaroni and cheese being one of the best that this writer has tried anywhere around Boston (the North Carolina pulled pork with a side of macaroni and cheese is a nearly perfect combination dish here). And if you're still hungry after filling your belly with a heaping helping of BBQ, a slice of pecan pie awaits.

The popular BBQ joints in the Boston area are well-known for good reason, as they mostly feature good to excellent food that should satisfy most BBQ lovers. But if you want to try a joint that is a bit lesser known and is just as good in quality, Tennessee's is a very good option. (NOTE: Tennessee's can also be found in Peabody and Framingham.)