Saturday, May 31, 2008

Whites Creek Farm Stand

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Whites Creek Farm Stand
Whites Creek Pike at Old Hickory


It’s nice to see Alicia and Bert from Hungry Gnome Farm out in front of Earthman's General Store again. Sure, this year’s farm stand is a lot smaller than the farmers market of last year, but they have great produce. This week beets, lettuce, kale, arugula, chard and spinach were for sale. They’ll be there on Saturdays from 9am to 11am. A bakery from Ashland City called “Lovin Oven” was selling potato rolls, brownies and excellent chocolate chip cookies with coconut, and a bit of oatmeal. Hopefully more folks will join them soon. Visit the Hungry Gnome website at: www.hungrygnomefarm.com

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Paradise Park Trailer Resort

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Paradise Park Trailer Resort
411 Broadway
Nashville
615-251-1515

We’ve noticed that we have some readers in far flung locations, which on any given day can include places like: London, England; Frankfurt, Germany; and Melbourne, Australia. That probably means folks are visiting the site for ideas on where to eat in Music City while on vacation. Well, welcome, it’s nice to have you here and you’ll probably have a great time in Nashville. The other night we went to see Lou Reed at the Ryman and decided to do some bar hopping downtown. It made us think that perhaps we should talk about some of the better places to eat and drink downtown.

First, you can have a blast at most of the bars that line Broadway and Second Avenue. However, we’re usually kinda cheap which means we want good drink prices and tasty, inexpensive food. That’s not so easy downtown. One of our favorite drink stops is Buffalo Billiards on Second Avenue. They have a great happy hour Monday thru Friday. $3 well drinks and two for one drafts. It’s a laid back, upscale pool hall with attentive bartenders. Watch out on the weekends as drink prices go up significantly. Our top music spot has to be Layla’s Bluegrass Inn on Broadway. It’s a good place to get off the top-40 country bandwagon and experience bluegrass, roots country, classic country and occasionally rockabilly bands. You can get $1 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon during certain happy hour times, but they’re cheap all the time. The liquor is expensive at Layla’s. A couple of PBRs and the Volunteer String Band on stage are all it takes to make a Broadway experience special. Brandon Giles beating his piano to death with the Jerry Lee Lewis thing on a packed Saturday night is also a great time.

Food downtown ranges from pretty decent to less than wonderful. You really have to pick and choose. On the high end Merchants always provides a good meal. Our top spot is probably Piranha’s, which we reviewed last year and you can find by clicking on the "Sandwich" style on the right hand side of the screen and scrolling down.

A relative newcomer is Paradise Park Trailer Resort. Now you have to get beyond the jokey theme, which is supposed to be trailer park, white trash funny. I guess I don’t get it. It’s like the whole trailer trash thing has taken a back seat and it seems a bit weird. All that said there is always a band playing at top volume and a fun spirit to the crowd. The food is actually pretty decent and certainly so for the money. It’s a burger and sandwich type joint, with a little bit of that Southern flavor thing thrown in for kitsch. (Moon pies and Goo Goo clusters for desert). Get the grilled spam and cheese or the corndog if you’re looking for amusement. Get the sweet potato fries and tater tots if you’re interested in some of the best fried food downtown. They have big signs touting the use of peanut oil and if that’s what makes everything so light, crispy and delicious, well then right on.

The bacon cheeseburger was pretty good, overdone for my medium rare order, but the waitress probably didn’t even hear that part as the band was blaring through a Toby Keith number at the time. They serve up a chili cheeseburger, chili dog and even a vegetarian burger. The Veggie Eater rarely does the Veggie Burger out on the town, since we eat them all the time at home.

Veggie Eater: I had the mac and cheese; it lived up to the trailer park theme. It is the Velveeta variety. Not spectacular, but ok. For 2.99, they did offer up a generous portion and it certainly fortified me for the concert. I would have appreciated some hot sauce to doctor it up a bit. On the other hand, the sweet potato fries and tater tots were fabulous. The fries were really skinny and very crispy. The tots were fried to perfection. My meal would make a dietician blanch, but I could have chosen a garden burger if I wanted to eat more healthily.

Meat Eater: Downtown is a lot of fun, even for locals. We try and go at least once a month. If you’re visiting the best cheap parking is underneath the Metro Courthouse on James Robertson or in a weird little lot on Second Ave just before Broadway facing the river that only charges $5 because it isn’t automated. We paid $16 at Paradise Park with tax and tip. By the way Lou Reed was great. If you are from out of town and you get a chance to see a show at the Ryman do it. It’s one of the finest live music venues in the nation and a piece of history that is truly nestled in the heart of Nashville.
Paradise Park Trailer Resort on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Edgefield Sports Bar and Grill

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Edgefield Sports Bar and Grill
921 Woodland Street
Nashville
615-228-6422


Okay, so we’re morons. We’ll admit it. We’ve heard good things about the Edgefield Sports Bar and Grill, but we finally made our first visit last month. Yes, it took us four and a half years. Sad, considering we’ve been missing out on excellent bar food. And while I can’t claim to have experienced every burger in town, this is hands down one of the best. The whole experience is wrapped up in a festive, blue collar bar atmosphere and that’s what really makes it a home run.

The East Nashville crowd on a Friday night was fun and loud. Plenty of welcome for the regulars and yet we never felt left out. They are busy and that means everyone on staff is operating at full steam. It shows. The service was excellent and the food came out right on time.

Ordering a garden salad at a bar seems like insanity but, as the regulars probably know, that isn’t the case at Edgefield. The big salad comes with fresh greens, ripe tomatoes and banana peppers. To top it off-homemade salad dressing and for that matter really good homemade dressing. The blue cheese would have been welcome at a lot of restaurants in town. You choose between blue cheese, ranch and raspberry vinaigrette.

The house burger is a little over the top, but it works. It comes with three different cheeses, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, special sauce and your choice of bacon, corned beef or ham. Yes, this does sound like a meat overdose waiting to happen, but it would be worth the trip to the hospital. I ordered medium rare and it came out pink and juicy. The big, slightly sweet bun soaked up the flavor. It’s long been considered one of Nashville’s best burgers and came in second in a recent Nashville Scene taste test.

The onion rings proved a good accompaniment. You know how onion rings often get greasy or mushy? Not at Edgefield. They nail the batter and the fry. Each ring is perfectly crunchy and crispy. They are obviously changing the oil on a regular basis.

Edgefield seems like a supper club from Wisconsin or somewhere up north. It has that feel. Big groups gather at the tables with pitchers of beer and burgers. The laughter and buzz takes over the room. And yet it’s still a low lights kind of place that is relaxing, even as the bartenders hustle. The place fills up on a Friday night with workers out of a few beers after escaping downtown. Pool tables and plenty of TVs offer diversions once you’re done with food. The $2.50 PBR tall boys, all the time, also provide a nice incentive to visit.

Veggie Eater: I was extremely excited when I noticed that the bleu cheese had a faint tinge of brown to it. Have you ever noticed the crap restaurants serve from gallon sized wholesaled tubs is always pristine white? Blindingly white? It always makes me suspicious when there is no color to the bleu cheese…in any case, my instincts were right. The tinge in this case is, I am guessing, is due to the use of Worcestershire. The bartender happily confirmed that “he” (god bless him, whoever “he” is) makes all of the dressings by scratch. Score one for the Edgefield. I ordered the Rueben, minus corned beef; I encountered a momentary look, but the bartender obliged. The Reuben was good. Crinkle cut fries are not my favorite (I like my fries like I like my pizza, thin) but these were very well done. The plate of fries was enormous and I am pleased to report ample leftovers for work today. The only bright spot on my Monday…

Meat Eater: We paid $30 with a couple of beers, tax and tip. We’ll definitely be back at Edgefield soon.
Edgefield Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Neely’s Bar-B-Que

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Neely’s Bar-B-Que
2292 Rosa Parks Blvd. (Metro Center)

Nashville
615-251-8895

http://www.neelysbbq.com/locations.htm

The first thing that comes to mind when entering Neely’s is that this place feels like a barbecue joint. And best yet it smells like it. It’s a big space with a sunny dining room overlooking the Metro Center lake. There’s a cross section of Nashville there for lunch: suit and tie businessmen; delivery truck drivers; a group of elderly African American women out for a luncheon. You can even write on the walls at Neely’s and it’s not surprising that many of the messages reference the ribs.

I ordered up dry style pork ribs with sauce on the side. I like to taste the meat and control how much sauce I want. The Neely’s rub is heavy on the paprika with just the slightest hint of hot spice. You can get the ribs wet and also beef ribs if that’s what you prefer. The dry ribs have a bit of chew to them; they don’t fall off the bone and are still tender. You can dip in mild or hot sauce. The mild is great: a little smoky and a little sweet. The hot has a bit of a kick on the backside. The combo of juicy ribs and tangy sauce is hard to beat. These are some of the best in town. I’ve been to Neely’s a bunch of times now and I’ve never been disappointed.

The best part about Neely’s is that while the meat is king the sides don’t take a back seat. The barbecue spaghetti has a little heat and great chunks of pulled pork. The yellow slaw may be some of the best around. It’s a creamy but with a bite to it; certainly not the wimpy, bland chopped slaw that some places serve. You get all of this piled high on the plate. It’s almost too much for one sitting, even for a big eater like myself. So, I brought home the rest of the slaw for the Veggie Eater. Usually I don’t torture her on barbecue runs. But Neely’s has Mac and Cheese, fries, potato salad, baked potatoes and even a lettuce salad. Could these sides actually keep a Veggie Eater happy in a barbecue joint? Well, let’s see what she thought of the slaw before we get carried away.

Veggie Eater: I was the recipient of leftovers…Meat Eater saved me some slaw, knowing how I love good slaw. I was not disappointed. It was a mustardy, vinegary mixture with a hint of heat. It appears to have been freshly cut, as the cabbage pieces were all odd shapes. It restored my faith in slaw, after a particularly bad experience last weekend at an East Nashville bar. It’s even better when doctored up with some of the barbecue sauce.

Meat Eater: Now I know usually we only review Nashville original joints, and Neely’s started in Memphis. But Neely’s is thoroughly Tennessee and they only have three locations: two in Memphis and the one in Nashville. Sure they have the fancy Food Network TV show and that may mean more locations in the future. No matter what happens it’s hard to think of Neely’s as a chain. When you have sauce smeared all over your face and a fork full of barbecue spaghetti headed inbound it’s hard to think of a place that could be more Southern and or a meal that could be more enjoyable. I paid $16 with tax and a drink.
Neely's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wendell Smith’s Restaurant

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Wendell Smith’s Restaurant
5300 Charlotte Ave.
Nashville
615-383-7114

There’s plenty that is new in Nashville and often this blog gets caught up in trying to find the latest restaurant opening. Sometimes though, it’s fun to get back to the old. Wendell Smith’s is a Westside institution. They opened in 1952 and not much has changed since. Big Wendell, as he was known, ran the place for years. Now it’s a family labor of love for his grandson Benji. The room is like a time warp. Apparently much of the d├ęcor is original. There was a slight redecorating in the late 70’s. You can picture yourself back in 1960 having a bite to eat. Some of the customers look like they have been here that entire time. Benji grew up in the place and knows most of them.

You know how it seems at some places that everyone knows everyone? Well, here everyone knows everyone and everyone’s entire family. Waitresses quiz the regulars on how mom, the siblings and even second cousins are doing. The small army of waitresses assembles at the lunch counter and preps for the lunch rush. The gossip flies and good nature prevails. Even with the longstanding traditions a newcomer feels perfectly at home at Wendell Smith’s and all the chatter makes the restaurant cozy and warm.

There’s a big menu that ranges from lunch right through dinner. Breakfast staples include country ham, sugar cured ham and usual arsenal of egg and pancake possibilities. The sandwiches include burgers, bologna, grilled cheese and pit barbecue. There’s nothing inventive or unusual here, just the old favorites served up the way you would expect them. And quite frankly that’s what you really want from a joint like this.

The meat and three is a popular choice for lunch. The standards include lasagna, roast beef, baked ham, pork steak, pit barbecue and fried chicken. The food came out less than a minute after the waitress left with the order. That’s usually a warning sign, but given the early lunch hour they were probably just well prepared for the lunch crowd. One might worry a bit further into the service. Perhaps the lunch rush also means fresh cooking.

The turnip greens have a solid, smoky bite to them for a nice side. The fried corn was pretty average. The Mac and Cheese was also traditionally southern, but with creamy cheese and al dente noodles, which made it better than most. The fried chicken was an entire quarter chicken cooked perfectly; moist inside and a nice flavorful crisp on the outside. All in all it’s a classic meat and three experience. The food is not going to surprise you. It’s just good down home cooking.

Nashville natives probably already have Wendell Smith’s stories to tell. For the rest of us there is still the opportunity to take a trip back in time and experience Nashville that way it was. I paid $12 with tax and tip and a drink.
Wendell Smith's on Urbanspoon