Gina and Pat Neely are Food Network royalty. They are former high school sweethearts who reconnected at their ten-year high school reunion and were married in 1994. Since then they have become restaurateurs merging with Pat’s relatives and creating a legacy of good food and family in Tennessee.
As their restaurant success increased fame came their way in the form of their fairy godmother none other than Ms. Paula Deen. This queen of southern cooking had come to a Neely’s restaurant to film an episode of a Food Network show called “Road Tasted”. This day Pat cooked up one of his signature dishes for Paula’s boys. It was during this meeting and meal where producers saw the spark the couple has and knew that the camera would love them. They appeared on a few of Paula’s other shows and then like that they had their own.
Down Home with the Neely’s premiered in February 2008 and was the highest ranking show on the Food Network debut in their five year history in their category and viewership never waned. Their first cookbook by the same name had a forward written by Paul Deen it was released in 2009. It was meant to compliment the series perfectly as a guide to share their many infamous recipes that their fans love and that their families have passed down from generation to generation.
I was first introduced to them on the Food Network’s other popular series, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”. Their relationship made them impossible to ignore. They illuminated the room and were so adorable you would trust them completely no matter what they were recommending. The fact that they have great taste is no surprise. I found that out after just one trip to the Doughnut Plant (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/07/for-most-delicious-doughnut.html) in New York City where the Neely’s assured me I would get my sweet tooth craving satisfied here. Boy did they hit the nail right on the head. After that they were my new best imaginary friends.
My next encounter with anything Neely related came during my 2011 trip to Memphis. While planning for my trip I knew I would be in for some good barbeque while down there and going to Neely’s BBQ (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2011/06/for-rock-n-roll-ribs-and-reflection_7249.html)
and it was actually my first dinner there. It did not disappoint.
So imagine my surprise and delight when I found out in 2011 they were opening a restaurant in my own backyard! It went right on my to-do list (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012_04_01_archive.html) but sadly it did not happen that year. So when 2013 rolled around and it was time to plan out my year it went right back on my list (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013/06/for-year-3-20132014-to-do-list.html).
It turns out that a celebration was needed for me to finally make it to this destination. My father’s birthday was just such an occasion, just a week or so ago.
On his birthday eve, my family decided to surprise him and take him to have his birthday dinner there. As a big fan of barbecued food we knew he would love it. I have to say I was just as excited to go as I knew he would be when he got there.
The menu had some great stand out items. Right from the get-go I already had pulled pork and ribs on my mind from my Memphis trip. I knew those would be amazing. While they have chicken and burgers here and they are probably original and delicious, these are not the foods I came here to eat. I had been thinking of trying the fried green tomatoes as an appetizer even though in my mind the ultimate place to eat them is in Savannah, Georgia and I have that trip all planned out even though I have no idea when I am going. As for sides and the desserts I have no idea what I want to try except to know that I want to sample everything from each course and make it worth it.
After the surprise was revealed and the celebration commenced we got right down to brass tacks. It was going to be a challenge to decide what to get but with four of us sitting there I figured we could do a pretty good job of eliminating all of the major food groups in each course so that we all got to taste a bit of everything. As always I didn’t want to miss out anything special.
For appetizers we went with the fried green tomatoes. When they arrived they looked so pretty. However when I cut into them and took a bite they were a little too thick and bitter. I vaguely remember having some in Memphis that were remarkably better. I don’t know if this is the kind of food that is for me or do I just envision them as something I would like to eat. I suppose I will try them again at some point probably when I am down south again. Everyone else seemed to love them.
Next up were the entrees. Three us ordered meat plates that came with our choice of sides and one ordered a main plate dinner that came with predetermined sides. There were two orders of pulled pork and one order of the Neely’s rib sampler featuring one slab of pork ribs and one slab of Memphis style baby back ribs. We ordered different sides so we could try them all, we choose correctly and got: macaroni and cheese, Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon, and buttermilk mashed potatoes. The main plate dinner was country fried steak and it came with the buttermilk mashed potatoes as well was a serving of green beans that were also cooked with bacon.
I have to say I love a good piece of pulled pork. The best part is that I hate eating pork in my day-to-day life. But there is something that happens in the kitchen of a good restaurant that is preparing a meal featuring southern cooking. It makes my heart swoon. I don’t know if part of my stomach reaches my heart and they feel like they are on vacation and food tastes better that way or what but damn I love good pulled pork and the pulled pork here was some of the best I have ever had.
I tasted some of the ribs and they were also remarkable. I would have been equally happy ordering that. There is a dish that has both but that would have been too much. As it was I couldn’t even finish the pork they put in front of me. But I tried my hardest.
As for the sides, I enjoyed them all but it’s an honest toss up between the Brussels sprouts and the macaroni and cheese. They were both so good and I liked taking turns between the two alternating a piece of pork in the middle. We also had ordered cornbread and that was marvelous. It was heavy and buttery before I even added butter on top, which believe you me I did. I only had half of one piece because I wanted to leave room for pork but I could eat that for breakfast everyday especially because it arrived on our table nice and hot.
I did not try the country fried steak but I was assured it was good and like the rest of our dishes, was cleaned to the best of our ability.
Now I had been planning on having a dessert and while I was there still kind of had some room to share a piece of cake. But I am glad after all I had stopped when I did. Our plan instead was to surprise my dad with a candle in a slice of cake he would enjoy, Mississippi mud pie. It was the perfect ending to a perfect birthday celebration. The birthday boy was not only pleasantly surprised, but also positively full.
We all agreed that the meal was accompanied by great service and interesting atmosphere. Each room and area is designed differently giving it its own unique vibe. You can feel like you are having a private upper class dinner in New York, or a Southern barbecue, or even go outside and just have drinks. It is quite a large place, much larger than I pictured, and has a great location.
Neely’s Barbecue Parlor is a place I am glad I have finally gotten to because now that I know what I have been missing I can put an end to that madness. Now the only thing to do is figure out the time I can go back and eat some more pulled pork.
For Gina and Pat:
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