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Mystery Diner

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Humble location belies quality of Parson’s Son BBQ

June 21st, 2013 9:59 am by Mystery Diner

Humble location belies quality of Parson’s Son BBQ

As a vital part of “Tennessee’s Oldest Town,” Jonesborough’s restaurants serve both a tourism-based clientele and the area populace who have business with the county government or local merchants. With the town’s popularity as a tourist venue on the rise, it follows that there’s plenty of opportunity for a restaurant with local ties to succeed here. Tom and Cheyenne Harwell are doing just that at The Parson’s Son BBQ.

Tom’s father, a pastor in south Alabama, instilled in Tom the virtues of hard work, refusing to quit and humility, the first two virtues being the ones that stuck. Harwell lets his shop handle the “humility” category; it’s located in a still-operating gas station on West Jackson Boulevard across from the Washington County Justice Center. 

Walking through the front door of the place you’ll be greeted by the smiling JoJo, cashier, order taker, the (self-appointed) ambassador for Jonesborough in general, and Parson’s Son BBQ in particular.

The menu handed to you is mere concept. For the reality of the moment, ask JoJo, who knows what is currently available from the Parson’s Son kitchen and what is not. 

For instance, on our last visit, JoJo informed our reduced-by-two dine-around bunch that there were almost no ribs left, and if you wanted some, a quick decision was in order. 

My dining partner did just that, ordering a half-rack of pork ribs ($14.99) with two Parson’s Son sides, slaw and potato salad. The Retiree chose the small Pork Plate ($8.59) with slaw and baked beans. Wanting something different, I chose the Southwest Chicken Wrap with a side of baked beans ($7.49). 

Chase, Harwell’s efficient line cook, had our orders ready to go by the time we’d picked out a table in the joint’s primary-colored dining room. 

There were several sauces presented for our delectation, with others available for the asking. I was pleased with my choice of the Southwest Chicken Wrap; a flour tortilla stuffed with smoked chicken, two types of cheeses, bacon crumbles, lettuce, a healthy slather of hominy picante and ranch dressing. 

Being open to experimentation, I tried out some of the sauces on the elements of my meal. The mustard & tomato base of Georgia Peach barbecue sauce tasted OK; the Tennessee Summer sauce was better. (What caused that sauce’s finishing heat? Smoked paprika? Chili powder?) Lucifer’s Revenge sauce needed more “Lucifer” and less “Revenge,” though a quick squirt did make a pleasant difference when mixed in with the baked beans. 

Though the slaw was good it lacked the vinegar finish I favor, which quickly remedied with some South Carolina Tang sauce. A quick stir in the slaw and all was right and good once more. 

The Retiree’s pork plate used shredded pork butt instead of pulled pork shoulder. As such, the drier pork butt scored only a triple instead of the home run that the more moist pulled pork shoulder meat would have provided. My dining partner’s half-rack of pork ribs was excellent. This was why JoJo gave us the update on ribs’ availability. 

Parson’s Son has a winner in the dry rub they use on their ribs; no sauce needed here, thank you. Congratulations to the Parson’s Son pit-master; the time spent smoking the ribs was just right. The meaty pork rib I got had a quarter-inch of pink “smoke ring” around the edge of the rib meat, and you can’t get better than that. One request for Chef Chase: make sure you run a sharp knife between the ribs before you plate them up. Otherwise, you’ve got Fred Flintstone in the dining room chewing on the entire half-rack at once, instead of rib-by-rib. 

Ms. Cheyenne Harwell does yummy baked goods like cakes, cupcakes and such, and there are dessert toppings sold by the pint at the counter. Parson’s Son also does catering. Looks to me like Jonesborough’s got that barbecue joint they’ve been looking for, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Tom and Cheyenne Harwell and their team at the Parson’s Son BBQ.

The Parson’s Son BBQ101 W. Jackson Blvd.



Mon-Thu 10:30 a.m.– 9:30 p.m.

Fri 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sat 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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