Trolly’s Celebrates 25
Trolly’s started as a hotdog stand, but over the past quarter-century it has evolved into a delightful alfresco cafe that hits just the right note of whimsy and nostalgia and serves up first-class hickory-smoked, pulled-pork barbecue.
Perched on the corner of Van Buren and Gould streets, the old-fashioned horse-drawn trolley car offers revitalizing lemon shake-ups and a foot-long Coney dog that transcendently brings to mind one’s childhood days at the local root-beer stand.
According to owner Alan Everroad, who runs Trolly’s with Mary, when the antique conveyance came into his possession it was still mobile and functional.
“He would hitch it up to horses and drive it in parades and what not,” Everroad said. “It was just a little mobile unit that served food.”
Twenty-five years later, there is a shed roof over the old car and a deck wrapped around it with large bistro umbrellas and benches, giving outdoor diners a perfect vantage point for people-watching and just generally soaking up the atmosphere on the north end of town.
Alan started out in 1987 selling hot dogs and bratwursts with a special mouth-watering family recipe Coney sauce, a passed down from her grandmother.
“The Coney sauce, we’ve been making the same recipe for 25 years,” he said. “It’s a basic recipe, but everybody likes it. We make our Sloppy Joe’s with the same sauce.”
For at least 20 years, they’ve been getting their hot dogs and bratwursts and Italian sausages from a local supplier in Shelbyville, Myers Meats.
Then, about 12 years ago, Trolly’s ventured into smoked pork barbecue; but it took a while to evolve into its current state of perfection.
“Our barbecue when we started was, I guess what you would call sort of ‘northern style’; we’d smoke it and throw a bunch of sauce on it and chop it all up,” Everroad said.
And then, Everroad took a fateful trip into the Deep South, the birthplace and rightful home of pulled pork barbecue. And not to Carolina, mind you, but down in the very heart of Dixie, where the barbecue is the best in the land.
“Actually, I learned this recipe from a guy down in Mississippi, he had a little barbecue stand out there and I’d smell it every day. I loved his pulled pork.” Everroad said. “I spent pretty much the whole summer down there working and I got to know him pretty well and he was showing me how he did it.”
Thus were the ancient elemental secrets passed from chef to chef in a slow, smoky, ritual. Trolly’s barbecue sandwich would never be the same.
You know that mouth watering, stomach awakening, meat cooking smell you smell wafting across Nashville on a weekend when the visitors are in town? That, my friends, is the smell of premium pig meat, smoked all day and all night in homegrown hickory. That is the smell of hog heaven.
“It’s pretty basic, Everroad said. “It’s just a very slow process. Ours cooks for almost 24 hours. It’s just got a garlic based rub on it and we use strictly hickory in the smoking, no charcoal”
The resulting magnificent pile of pulled shredded smoked pork is bunned up and the customer gets to choose from a shelf full of sauces that pretty much run the gamut from sweet to spicy and various stages in between.
Everroad, the veteran pork master, gently suggests the “Old Ray’s” as probably his favorite sauce, an opinion I must wholeheartedly endorse.
“I’ve had the Old Ray’s almost since I started making barbecue,” he said. “He made some good sauce. I’ve got three of his sauces and those are my favorites.”
“I think he’s out of Ohio. He used to be a competition smoker and then he went on to be a judge at some big national competitions.”
That’s right, sports fans, hold the phones—a “competition smoker”—that’s the big leagues. Those boys are cooking for the major prize money in places like Kansas City and Texas, where barbecue is a peculiar heritage and treasured way of life.
That smell streaming off the smoker and grills tucked in the rear of the ancient trolly car permeates the town with the primeval alluring scent of cooking meat.
“It’s the best advertising I’ve got,” Everroad said. “I’m hoping every morning for a breeze. We all the time have people say, ‘We’ve been smelling this all day, and now we finally found it!'”
In addition to the smoker, the grill is active with Italian sausages, bratwursts, and the occasional special.
“Once in a great while we do burgers as a special, only when I’m here to make them fresh,” he said. “You’ve got to have them fresh off the grill. That’s the only way to do it.”
But for Everroad, who has a regular job as a railroad conductor, Trolly’s is just a hobby and side business. It is really Mary, who runs the restaurant day to day.
“She’s the boss,” Everroad said. “I come down here when I get a chance. I try to help, but she does all the work. She’s done a great job of keeping the quality of everything good, and I think that’s why we get so many repeats, people who come back.”
“And, she puts up with me, so…”
So what started out as an entrepreneurial whim, a mere restaurant adventure, has grown into something more meaningful.
“When I saw the Trolly, I just thought it was a neat idea, and I saw the potential,” Everroad said.
Now, he dreams of retiring to his antique barbecue train, maybe expand a little, do some catering. He has discovered an important life secret.
“This is what I really like to do.”