Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bailey and Cato Family Restaurant

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Bailey and Cato Family Restaurant
1307 McGavock Pike

When people ask about down home places to eat in Nashville, I have a short list of joints I’ll recommend. Well, that short list is now one longer. Bailey and Cato has top notch meat and three, really good barbecue and a cozy family atmosphere. It’s definitely worth a trip to the East Nashville/Inglewood area. I had heard from several folks about the quality of the food, so I went to check it out.

Bailey and Cato Family Restaurant is nestled in a little cottage on McGavock Pike. There’s enough room for about 15 people to eat, so a lot of the business is take out. But eating in has the advantage of the hospitality of Robert Bailey, Senior and family. They’ll put cartoons up on the TV and talk it up with the regulars. They also may or may not open up on time. It’s worth the wait.

The barbecue ribs are well known in town and for good reason: they’re exceptionally juicy, with a good spicy rub and a nice brown skin. They are a little fatty and that adds a bunch of flavor. They keep them sitting in a bath of juice, so they stay moist. That might be a problem later in the day. I would bet, though, that with the volume they do, those ribs don’t last long. Other entrees on the daily specials list include oxtails in a brown gravy, shredded chicken and dressing, fried chicken, fried salmon, meat loaf and Salisbury steak.

The sides are fairly conventional and done with real skill. The mac and cheese is baked with extra cheese melted over the top for a crisp crust. They’re thick and tasty. The sweet fried cornbread is shaped like a pickle. It’s an awesome accompaniment to the meal and folks know it. One woman came in and ordered 20 pieces to go. That’s it. Nothing but cornbread. They also serve up collard greens, turnip greens, cabbage and baked apples, depending on the day.

They have a pretty diverse selection at Bailey and Cato. You can order up hot wings, burgers and catfish. I want to get back and try more things out of that smoker, including pork shoulder and BBQ chicken. You can bet the barbecue in large quantities and they keep long hours on Friday, Saturday and Sundays, 11am until 11pm. I paid $8.50 with tax and tip.

Bailey & Cato on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Phillyman’s Cheesesteak

Nashville Restaurants and Food

Phillyman’s Cheesesteak
The Downtown Arcade

Cheesesteaks aren’t complicated. You gotta have the right beef and you’ve gotta have the right bread. I grew up in Boston, so I’ve always known the New England version, called a Steak and Cheese. No matter what the title, it comes down to the ingredients and the simple, but essential, method of preparation. And most people outside of the northeast manage to screw it up along the way. As an east coast ex-pat I’ve searched high and low for a decent rendition in every city I have lived in. I’m happy to say the new Phillyman’s Cheesesteak in the downtown arcade does a pretty decent job.

Phillyman’s is a spartan place right now with perhaps the world’s simplest menu. You can get a beef Cheesesteak in spicy or regular and you can get a chicken and cheese. The sides consist of potato chips. That’s it folks. So, you figure these sandwiches must be pretty damn good for this place to survive. And that they are.

The beef is thin sliced and chopped on the grill. The owner piles up a small mound in the corner, which can be dangerous on slow days, since you can’t allow the beef to cook very long at all or it will go tough. This day the business was hopping so the beef had a little char but with plenty of flavor. The main ingredient choice is onions or no onions. I ordered mine with. The grilled onions are mixed with the beef and then Provolone is added. There doesn’t appear to be a cheese selection, just the Provolone, which is what I’m used to anyway.

The hoagie bread used at Phillyman’s is the right combination of soft and chewy, with just a thin crisp crust. It holds up well to the sandwich and takes on flavor when it is placed on the steak and cheese still sizzling on the grill. In Philadelphia the hoagie of choice is Amoroso’s rolls. I’m not sure where Phillyman is getting his bread in Nashville, but it reminded me of the Po-Boy rolls at area Cajun joints.

The only strange thing is that if you order everything at Phillyman’s that includes tomato and lettuce, which I believe in Philadelphia is called a Cheesesteak Hoagie. It seemed kinda weird to me. While I like tomato and lettuce on a Po-Boy, the steak and cheese really needs to meld together with the bun, an action the lettuce and tomato would prevent.

I skipped the veggies and bit into the classic version. It’s a great sandwich that brought be back home for just a few minutes.

You have to eat outside in the arcade. They do have room to add a couple of tables and chairs inside. I went past the restaurant after I ate outside and realized the reason they probably will never do that: about 10 people were standing in the small restaurant waiting for their cheesesteaks. With that kind of popularity hopefully we can keep Phillyman’s in Nashville for some time. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to an east coast steak and cheese, outside of the east coast, in years.

I paid a total of $6 with tax for the combo, which includes a bag of chips and a drink.