Edley’s Bar-B-Que

Controversy quietly rages in the 12South neighborhood whenever contractors break ground—on anything.

Mercifully, I’m no longer on the neighborhood listserv—in which the crankiest souls drown out all that is reasonable and measured—so I don’t have to hear the crazed rantings of people who have apparently forgotten what this place was like a scant 6-7 years ago.

I don’t want to have to go all “back in the day” on people. But I do feel the need to remind folks who grouse about “creative” yard art that before, say, 2006, our main concerns were figuring out where the sound of gunfire was coming from so as to alert the (unconcerned) authorities, and which fencing operations to scout for our missing porch furniture. A few houses down, somebody actually stole a Japanese maple right out of the ground. From our front porch, Hal and I observed the following:

1. An exploding car.

2. Two SWAT raids.

3. A shovel fight.

4. A crackhouse burning down, then rising from its ashes, to operate anew.

You can read more about the early days of 12South “gentrification” here. There are upsides and downsides to the demographic shift in my ‘hood. I can appreciate real estate appreciation, for example. But I miss some of the colorful characters (Pete, who slept in his car, hauled around a tattered guitar case, and demanded sandwiches; Herb, who lived in a shed and danced and sang down 11th Ave.), the majority of whom have, apparently, relocated to the Gallatin Road area.

To me, one of the major drawbacks of the vertiginous upscale-ification of 12South is the sheer volume and shrillness of upper-middle-class whining whenever anybody builds, renovates, or moves dirt around between 8th Avenue South and Hillsboro Pk.

Edley's, corner of 12th and Halcyon

I’ve been guilty of it—sending up a siren-wail whenever a modest Victorian (like mine) gets razed so contractors can slap up a 3,500-square-foot monstrosity evocative of 37027. But I finally got tired of being mad and decided to move ahead with my life. Neighborhood-zoning-meeting scuffles aren’t my idea of a fun Wednesday evening.

The final straw came when people started grumbling about my neighbor’s modern architectural marvel on the site of our former exploding, shovel-fighting crack-mart. Can they be serious? I thought. Were they not here for the flames and mayhem? Whenever people addressed their complaints to me, I issued the following prepared statement: “I love it. There are no shovel fights there.”

My neighbor's gorgeous, non-exploding, chaos-free house

So when construction began on the corner of 12th and Halcyon a few months ago, rumors ran amok: it’s a BBQ chain, people said. It’s gonna be all Hummers and rednecks and big-screen TVs!

I’ll admit it: I’m as prone to rumorpanic as anyone. I didn’t want a chain eatery a block away any more than the rest of the neighborhood did. But I tried to take deep breaths and remain calm, see how things played out. And I found that as construction progressed, the people I met at the worksite were warm and welcoming, rather than brusque and arrogant—the latter, a tendency I’ve noticed in more than a few prospective restaurateurs.

That helped. Because when I learned that indeed, the new restaurant on the corner was going to be a BBQ joint (although not a chain), I wasn’t too excited. I like BBQ just fine. But in my book, the perfect BBQ comes from a ruined cinderblock smokehouse in some nothing West Tennessee town, the fires stoked by an ancient man who rises at 3am and wears the same grimy overalls every day.

The complete truth is, I wish Marché would open a block away. Or a place that makes a flawless banh mi. Or Mas Tacos. But until I have the money and skills to open them myself, I’m going to have to be satisfied with a place that specializes in BBQ and televised football.

And to my surprise, the BBQ is actually pretty darned good. I’ve had 2 lunches there already. I enjoyed the BBQ chicken and mac-n-cheese side, and I thought the cole slaw was excellent. My mom loved, loved the potato salad. Here’s the look she got on her face after tasting it for the first time:  —————————————>

And on the second go-’round, I had an excellent $5 catfish sandwich. Polished it off in seconds, looked around for more.

Edley’s BBQ may not turn out to be my favorite haunt, or a home-away-from-home. But I like the deck, interior, and bar area, I found the food a notch above competent, and sometimes even quite good, and I’ve been really impressed with the attitude towards service so far—friendly and open. I can imagine wandering down the block for a beer and some catfish on many a cold night. Maybe the place will win me over thoroughly as I get to know it better. I certainly plan to give it a fighting chance to convert me.

I cannot lie: I like big decks.

And if not, so be it. Not every place on 12th has to be Kim’s Favorite Restaurant Ever, any more than all my neighbors have to be my best friends. Not every place can feel like home. Either way, I’m glad Edley’s is there—one more outpost of noisy laughter and light on the 4-block walk home I make from Rumours Wine Bar many a night. The more, the merrier.

Related post: On Food, Love, and Artistry

Related post: The art of never being just another customer

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