Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sylvan Park Restaurant

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Sylvan Park Restaurant
4502 Murphy Road

You almost have to divide meat and three in this city into two categories: the old and the new. It’s a question of style, not so much when the place started business. Some folks are trying to update traditional Southern with new twists on the classics. Other joints are just doing it the way they’ve done it for many years. Sylvan Park falls firmly into the later camp. The tiny dining room on Murphy Road has been serving up good meat and three for more than 40 years.

You hit the door and count yourself lucky if there isn’t a line. They open up at 10:30 a.m. and depending on the day there could be a crowd inside by 11 a.m. The waitresses move quickly from table to table dispensing sweet tea and more “sugars” and “honeys” than you could count. It’s a natural part of the place and one of the prime ingredients that has brought people back for years: Sylvan Park is real down home Southern, not a facsimile created for business.

That food is pretty darn real as well. The corn bread muffins are a great start: just a little slight crunch. Yeast rolls are your other choice and they are doughy and good enough to give you a lunch dilemma right off the bat. The fried corn is sweet and semi-creamed, with kernels still holding their own. The sticky mac and cheese has real flavor and a nice consistency. The food is good at Sylvan Park nearly across the board. That’s a compliment for a meat and three, where the sides can often take a back seat in quality. That’s not to say there are not some bumps in the road. The country fried steak comes out looking like a car crash. The meat is pounded into submission and drowned in brown gravy. It is cafeteria food at best and a real let down given the rest of the plate. The interesting thing is people have been complaining about, and praising that country fried steak for years.

Another visit brings catfish to the spotlight and it is excellent. Some places focus on a thick crispy crust. At Sylvan Park they let the fish do the talking with a light fry and moist filet. Mashed potatoes have been whipped to death. They still have comforting goodness, enhanced by the brown gravy with little bits of debris. Green beans are left with texture and bite and the baked squash is simple and tasty.

Lunch at Sylvan Park simply has to finish with pie. The chess pie is about perfect: not too sweet, crispy and browned on top. It’s warm right out of the oven on this day and the combination is out of this world. Many people order the meringue creations. The coconut is tasty enough, but I’ve never been a big fan of huge, towering meringue. It is pretty on the plate. The chocolate pie is one of the best sellers.

There are currently two other Sylvan Park locations doing business: Melrose and Donelson. They opened an East Nashville version a couple of years ago. It never lived up to the quality of the original and soon shut down. If you’re looking for a taste of old fashion Nashville you can’t go wrong with Sylvan Park on Murphy Road. Overall the food is good and the atmosphere a throwback that makes a simple lunch a lot of fun. I paid $10 for meat and three with pie, and $13 for catfish and three with pie.
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