In the American South everyone believes that their state makes the best barbecue. It isn’t just food, it’s tradition. It’s pride in knowing that your meat is the best, and all the others ain’t worth the horse they carved their brisket from. I have spent most of my life in the south and I have tried them all. From the beef ribs of Texas, to that mustard-infused excuse for a sauce they slather in South Carolina – if it’s meat cooked slow and low, I’ve eaten it. So when I heard about an American-style BBQ restaurant in my very own backyard, I headed over there quicker than a hot knife through butter.
I was skeptical at first, but my doubts disappeared once I saw the Tiger Lily Bar-BQ Market, located in Nagakute, just a quick 10 minute walk from Fujigaoka Station. With an American-sized BBQ grill out front and a menu of meats scrawled on the windows, this restaurant definitely looks the part. And it has the lovely smell of a BBQ joint back home, that aromatic mix of wood, meat and secret spices. But the true test is in the taste.
Before I settled in for a night of testing the tensile strength of my waistband, I sat down with the owner, Takeshima Yasunori, a surfer turned-entrepreneur. Yasunori spent time in LA and Hawaii in his youth and developed a love for it. From his vintage Lincoln Town Car to his trucker hat which reads “Jesus Is My Boss”, this guy practically bleeds red, white and blue. It’s a love further evidenced in the interior decoration of hardwood floors, Americana and a steady stream of 50s rock coming through the speakers.
Hoping to introduce the joys of slow-cooked food to Japan, Yasunori and the certified pitmasters of Tiger Lily take a meticulous approach when preparing their BBQ. They start with a dry rub of a secret blend of spices. Then they cook the meat over hickory wood chips for six to eight hours. The end result is the most tender, succulent meat you’re going to find this side of the Rio Grande.
And there’s a lot of meat to choose from; it’s a vegetarian’s nightmare. There doesn’t seem to be any part of the pig, chicken, cow or lamb their not willing to cut, rub and smoke. There’s even an impressive selection of exotic meats such as venison, crocodile, kangaroo and bear all with seasonal availability. Yasunori is partial to beef brisket, which could explain why it’s the second best thing on the menu. I say second, because as a son of Tennessee, I’m partial to their mountainous pulled pork sandwich.
If you’re having trouble deciding which meat to eat, try their Cowboy Lunch Plate. For only ¥1,500 you get a generous sampling of brisket, pulled pork and ribs along with bread, salad and soup. All of their meat comes with a side of their homemade coleslaw and as much of their delicious BBQ sauce as you want. They’ve even got South Carolina-style sauce which admittedly ain’t that bad (on French fries).
Tiger Lily also sports an impressive bar for a family eatery. Yasunori is an award-winning Jack Daniels taster and has stocked it with every variety of JD, as well as six taps pouring locally made craft beers. In particular, the Shiga Kogen Pale Ale from Nagano is a refreshing pair with any of their meats, and the perfect brew for the upcoming summer weather.
If you’ve got a cavernous tummy, perhaps you can fit in a slice of their New York cheesecake, peach cobbler or any of their other delicious desserts.
Since opening their doors last August, Tiger Lily has been garnering an ever increasing fan-base of locals and foreigners. The Japanese seem to appreciate the novelty of barbecue you don’t have to cook at the table, while the foreign crowd is looking for the familiar. And that’s what makes Tiger Lily special – it’s like coming home. It is hot summers, cold beer and dad out back on the grill, cooking up some ribs. It’s BBQ, and it’s damn good.
Tiger Lily BBQ Market
1-207 Sakuta, Nagakute
Open: 11:00 ~ 25:00