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Patrick Martin went into the restaurant business whole hog

Today Martin’s Bar-B-Que is credited with revolutionizing the barbecue industry in Nashville

Janel Shoun-Smith and Courtney Grable  | 

The Martin Family

Pat and his wife, Martha Ann (Neil) Martin (LA ’90, BS ’02) eat with their children at his second restaurant chain, Hugh Baby's, a old-fashioned burger joint that also barbecue on the menu.

Nashville has been the home of Country Music for a century, but in the past few decades it has become well known for its food scene as well. Thanks to Patrick Martin (BS ’96), founder of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Hugh-Baby’s BBQ & Burger Shop, barbecue has become an essential staple on any foodies’ list.

The Martins’ smoke-filled story began in 2006 when Patrick stopped by his favorite Mexican restaurant in Nolensville for lunch and found out it had gone out of business. By chance he met the landlord and snapped up the 950-square-foot rustic shack to open a small barbecue joint. Martin learned how to make whole hog smoked barbecue from the pitmasters at Thomas and Webb in Chester County in West Tennessee, during his early college days at Freed-Hardeman University, before finishing his degree at Lipscomb University.

In that first Nolensville joint, everything from ordering food and keeping inventory to franchise taxes and the health department was new to Pat and his wife, Martha Ann (Neil) Martin (LA ’90, BS ’02), who attended Lipscomb Academy from kindergarten through senior year before attending Lipscomb University for college. On opening night, they ran out of food by 5:45 p.m. with order tickets still sitting in the window. 

Martin's BBQ

The first Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint was a 950-square-foot rustic shack in Nolensville, in the Greater Nashville area.

Despite the learning curve, the couple stayed true to Patrick’s determination to cook everything fresh (no freezer or microwave in his joints) and to cook the pork for 18-24 hours.

“People were so forgiving,” Martha Ann said of those early days. “God has put people in our lives who have really blessed us. They really respect (Patrick) as a pitmaster. We have tons of friends who are great chefs—some are even James Beard winners or nominees, and they think (Patrick) is the cat’s meow.”

Together, the couple navigated the challenges of owning and operating a restaurant while also raising their growing family. Martha Ann became the de facto cashier, hostess, catering manager, bookkeeper—whatever was needed at the moment while Martin continued to cook and serve great food. 

Martin's BBQ

A few months after their first opening, a positive review in the Tennessean by Jim Myers sent the Martins’ business soaring and it has never stopped. 

Rooted in Pat’s lifelong love for the art of pit-cooked barbecue, open-flame cooking and grilling, the entire menu at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is scratch-made, every single day – from sides to sauces, and everything in between.

“When Pat came on the scene, he really elevated (the barbecue industry in Nashville), he didn’t just make barbecue -- he showed us a new art form with the whole hog smoking from West Tennessee,” said Jennifer Justus, author of the Food Lover’s Guide to Nashville and former food culture writer for the Tennessean. “Even if you are completely uneducated in barbecue, you sense that authenticity from him. He really put (Nashville) on the map.”

Building upon the success of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Martin opened Hugh-Baby’s BBQ & Burger Shop in 2017 as a tribute to the small town barbecue and burger spots that dotted the mid-South of his youth. Hugh-Baby’s menu covers all the classics, with burgers, Memphis-style pulled pork, hot dogs, fries and hand-spun shakes

What began in a shack in Nolensville, is today a beloved culinary destination with deep Nashville roots, a 500+ person team, and six locations sprinkled across Nashville, with outposts in Birmingham, AL; Louisville, KY; and Charleston, SC.

Pat and Martha Martin

Pat and Martha Martin in 2013.

Today, smoke from pit-cooked, whole hog barbecue pits wafts out of nine locations sprinkled across four states. Locals may see Martin’s 40-foot smoking rig, which can smoke six whole hogs at a time, out and about around town..  The West Tennessee-style whole hog approach is what makes his food unique in the area, and what makes Martin  a leader in the industry.

Martin has been featured in Southern Living and Bon Appétit, on the Food Channel and has participated in the Big Apple Block Party, a famous New York City pig pickin’, numerous times. He knows Nick Pihakis of Jim N’ Nicks; John Stage of Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse, N.Y.; Danny Meyer, organizer of the Big Apple Block Party; and Guy Fierri, host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Most recently in 2022, Martin’s debut book was released, Life of Fire: Mastering the Arts of Pit-Cooked Barbecue, The Grill, and The Smokehouse (Clarkson Potter). Through photography and detailed instruction, this procedural book is a must-have guide to open-fire cooking and West Tennessee-style barbecue, a tradition he’s spent a lifetime studying, teaching, and celebrating.

Today, Pat and Martha Ann Martin live in Nashville with their three children Wyatt, Daisy and Walker where they continue to share the art of barbecue with everyone who orders from their restaurant. 

Pat Martin speaks at business college event

Pat Martin stopped by the College of Business' back to Business event to share his experiences in the restaurant industry with today's Lipscomb students.