When I moved to Murfreesboro for college, there were not many places that reminded me of my hometown. So when I eventually found myself on the north side of Memorial Boulevard, I had to do a double take when passing Rick’s Barbecue, a narrow brick building with a familiar, bright red and yellow sign. Needless to say, I’ve since developed cravings that only a quick trip to Rick’s can satisfy.
Once a restaurant unique to Lawrenceburg—a rural Tennessee town an hour and a half southwest of Murfreesboro—Rick’s Barbecue has expanded to include 10 locations in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee. The original Rick’s, a brick-and-mortar establishment located a few miles from its current headquarters in Leoma, began operations with just two pits, a drive-thru and a walk-up window. Since 1979, owners Rick and Karen Lanning have smoked meats the old fashioned way by using hickory wood on pits designed by Rick.
Since then, Rick’s has opened two locations in Murfreesboro, but keep in mind the sit-down restaurant is located at 212 Warrior Dr., while the 3364 Memorial Blvd. building is drive-thru only. The Warrior Drive location is cozy and welcoming, but we all know the test of a great pork sandwich has nothing to do with a restaurant’s interior.
The menu is easy to navigate with the choice of 12 combo options or several à la carte items. Once you choose a smoked meat—ham, pork, beef or chicken—the hard part is deciding whether you want it on a sandwich, platter, wrap, baked potato or salad. From there, Rick’s offers its signature white barbecue sauce, with other sauces available at the table.
Customers will find that Rick’s has typical sides like baked beans, potato salad and green beans, while the slaw options include the choice of mayo, mustard or vinegar. When it comes to fries, I recommend the spicy over the regular or tri-taters, but keep in mind they are more seasoned than they are spicy.
If you’re a meat-and-potatoes person, combine the two with one of Rick’s popular loaded baked potato, either meatless or topped with smoked ham, pork, beef, chicken or chicken tenders (yes, you read that last one right, a potato topped with chicken tenders), with any of the standard add-ons (butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon and onions). I’ve not tried the wraps or salads, but each can be customized with meats, sauces and toppings.
The online reviews are mixed when it comes to price and quantity, but most reviewers agree that the best meat-based items include the loaded nachos, loaded baked potatoes (particularly with smoked ham, but many patrons enjoy the potato topped with pulled pork as well) and ribs. I would add that the chicken tenders are worth trying, as they are well seasoned and juicy.
With a fairly large variety of options, it makes sense that Rick’s is usually packed with families. From my experience, the desserts are also a hit, with the most popular options being the Flavor Burst ice cream (a massive cup or cone laced with a flavored syrup swirl). Various shakes, pies and cheesecakes are also available.
Despite its current offerings, Rick’s breakfast menu, which is available at its country stores, is the only thing missing from the Murfreesboro locations. If they decide to add breakfast in the future, expect some Southern favorites like biscuits (bologna, ham, sausage, and chicken) topped with sawmill or chocolate gravy and a large country breakfast platter.
While there is certainly no shortage of barbecue restaurants in town, each business has a signature quality that it brings to the table for new and loyal customers. Rick’s holds up to the rest with its bold flavors and small-town charm.
Sandwich and platter combos (side and drink): $5.69–$8.49; Sandwich à la carte (regular size): $2.99; Loaded baked potatoes: $4.29; Ice cream cone: $1.49; 1-lb. family pack: $17.99
3364 Memorial Blvd., 212 Warrior Dr.
10 a.m.–9 p.m Monday–Saturday; Closed Sunday