Peg Leg Porker: Member Spotlight

_DSC8181“Been cooking barbecue for 30 years. Cooking was a hobby.”

Yes, Carey Bringle, owner and pitmaster of Peg Leg Porker in the Gulch, knows how to cook barbecue better than most, But he’s also competed in the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest for 25 years (in which he earned second place three times), has drawn praise from the likes of Travel + Leisure, Esquire and Cooking with Paula Deen and was recently invited to New York City to cook at the James Beard House.

It reads a little differently now, doesn’t it?

Carey is an even-keeled man who loves his family, appreciates good food and who happens to be the face behind a nationally recognized brand and award-winning barbecue joint that’s been known to push out 1,000 covers on a good day.

His raising was rooted in great food, especially barbecue. Both his grandmothers had a passion for cooking, and although he grew up in Nashville, he spent a lot of time in Memphis visiting family and eating the Southern staple.

It was his Uncle Bruce, though—a World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest competitor himself—who taught him how to prepare Memphis-style Q.

Then as a teenager, Carey lost his right leg to bone cancer. After treatment, he decided to take his circumstance in full stride and brand himself as the Peg Leg Porker.

Carey competed regionally with his competitive barbecue team, the Peg Leg Porkers, and at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis each May for years. It wasn’t until 2013 that Carey decided the timing was right to open a restaurant and show Nashvillians what real west Tennessee barbecue looks and tastes like.

“This place was built the way the places I grew up going to were built—with concrete and the blues,” he says.

The Memphis influence is a smack in the face as soon as you walk through the door of Peg Leg Porker, with the first hit an undeniable smell of dry rub. A considerable bar sits opposite the lunch counter and packed tables and chairs take up the rest of the small space.

It isn’t till you sit down and realize Ray Charles’ “Mess Around” is playing through the speakers that you truly get the full Memphis experience.

_DSC8195Peg Leg Porker’s a stark contrast to many of today’s barbecue joints, which Carey says is intentional.

“Places today are trying to be everything for everybody,” he says. “They have six different sauces, burgers… We have a one-page menu and when you come here, your kid won’t be eating chicken fingers.”

You’d be hard pressed coming to Peg Leg Porker looking for brisket or your choosing of dipping sauces. The menu serves only Memphis-style fare, with some of the most popular items being the dry ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. And almost all the barbecue comes with the traditional tomato-based sauce, just like how Carey grew up eating it.

Like the menu, Carey wants to keep the business simple—with just one restaurant. That’s not to say though that the Peg Leg Porker brand isn’t growing. In addition to Peg Leg Porker sauces, rubs, bourbon and merchandise, Carey recently released a line of smokers. He says if anything is to grow nationally, it’s the retail side.

Why not expand the restaurant? He says he doesn’t want to lose that sense of family when you walk in the door. All three of Carey’s children work at Peg Leg Porker part-time, and he’s there almost every day. He wants people to be able to come and feel like they can be themselves in an environment that hasn’t changed for decades.

“Barbecue isn’t a trend,” he says. “When the latest and greatest go to the wayside, people will still be eating barbecue.”

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