Thursday, January 22, 2009

Old Fashion Bar-B-Que

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Old Fashion Bar-B-Que
1784 Tom Austin Highway

Ah, southern barbecue. You can find barbecue spots all over the country, but it seems like only in the south can you pull up next to someone’s house, smell the burning wood and find them selling barbecue by the pound, straight out of the cooker. Old Fashion Bar-B-Que is one of those spots. It’s located on Highway 431 in between Joelton and Springfield, just over the Davidson County line. It’s the home of the Buchanan family and they have deep barbecue roots. Jesse and Jessie, the husband and wife team, were given the family pulled pork recipe from Jessie’s dad, Richard Jones. He ran the Old Fashion Bar-B-Que shack next to his home for 40 years, garnering quite the reputation. They took that recipe and opened Bar-B-Que of Tennessee down the highway in Joelton. That has been one of my favorite barbecue spots for some years now. I was disheartened to learn that they shut the doors just after Christmas. As it turns out they lost the lease on the restaurant. Business was going great, so now they are trying to find a new location in Joelton. The sooner the better I say.

But, now the real point of this post. In homage to dad they re-opened Old Fashion Bar-B-Que out of the old shack next to the house about a year ago. I swung by to get the scoop on the Joelton restaurant and picked up pound of pulled pork to go. Even as I unwrapped the plastic at home I could tell this was going to be good. The aroma is splendid. The Buchanan’s chop the meat to an almost fine shred. There are nice bits of bark mixed throughout. It’s wonderfully moist and has a solid smoky flavor that is simply out of this world. It is the perfect amount of smoke: tons of flavor without overpowering the meat. It’s the type of barbecue that you wouldn’t even consider letting any sauce taint. And don’t get me wrong they have a nice light, mild vinegar sauce and a spicy vinegar hot sauce. It’s just that the meat is that damn good on its own. Hell, I didn’t even want to mess with bread it was so tasty. The pork at Bar-B-Que of Tennessee was top notch, but for whatever reason this batch was even better.

They have an extremely limited menu in the little shack and everything is of course takeout. They serve up ribs and chicken, as well as the pork. The chicken at the Joelton restaurant was excellent and the ribs okay. I’ll have to drop by again to see how the shack flavor goes for those two.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in some real down-home ‘cue take a trip up Highway 431. The shack is open on weekends starting at 9am on Saturdays. It might be a good idea to call ahead to make sure.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Copper Kettle-Downtown

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Copper Kettle-Downtown
94 Peabody Street

You can never tell what will happen when a really good restaurant decides to open a new location. Will the quality be matched? Will the attention to detail be the same? We’re happy to report that the new Copper Kettle location downtown does the original proud.

The building has been home to several restaurants and bars in the past few years, most notably Sole Mio, which moved closer to downtown. It’s perched on a hill looking out over SoBro and the river. The windows offer great city views and the deck is one of the best in town. The updating brings an informal, lively décor which, while not as homey as the original Copper Kettle location near Lipscomb University, is certainly comfortable. And comfort is what the Copper Kettle is all about. You hit the cafeteria style line and then quickly lose any notions of cafeteria food. There are a couple of dozen items laid out for the meat and three. They are presented with style in shiny trays, under bright lights. The servers offer big smiles when they ask what you would like. Choosing is not easy. There are three or four meat dishes and up to 14 sides to choose from each day. Everything looks bright and appealing. Even the meatloaf is gorgeous under a vivid red blanket of sauce.

You don’t have to do the meat and three, there are plenty of other menu items. Sandwiches run from a Mediterranean grilled chicken and Tuscan eggplant to Cajun prime rib. Wraps include a couple of vegetarian options and unusual combinations like turkey and dressing. There are several salads to choose from including sesame seared ahi tuna and Caribbean jerk mahi mahi.

But back to that cafeteria line: you can make quite a meal of the combinations available, and it would be shame to miss out on what is some of the better meat and three in Nashville. The fried chicken is exceptional. The crispy breading is everything you want: savory, salty, peppery. Moist juice drips off your fork and there is just a bare touch of grease under the skin for fantastic flavor. The jalapeno cheese grits combine comfort with a little pop. The green bean casserole has a tasty, super-thin onion string topping. The sides don’t stop at traditional meat and three. The tomato mozzarella salad features grilled veggies, marinated mozzarella balls, sun dried and cherry tomatoes. It has a delicate olive oil and vinegar dressing, which is so light you can still taste the pleasant smokiness of the vegetables. Not your usual meat and three offering, and certainly welcome on the plate. About the only average item was the cakey corn bread which seemed a bit dry and rather tame.

Dinner is a much mellower scene, compared to a bustling lunch. Some of the items just before closing seemed to have been out a while and were not super hot, which is understandable. The pork loin was still reasonably moist and accompanied by a sweet and sour sauce with a hint of apple. Mashed potatoes were sticky and reasonably tasty.

The Sunday brunch at the Copper Kettle Green Hills location is legendary and it was here we worried most about the quality making the trip across town. Well, no worries. The Sobro restaurant joins the original as one of the finest Sunday brunches around. The lineup is expansive: veggies, cheeses, salads, meats and breakfast favorites. You can sample a comforting hash brown casserole and then taste fresh greens topped with a raspberry sauce and fried cream cheese balls. They make eggs Benedict with croissant instead of English muffins, which is both easier to cut and melds well with the eggs. You can find three separate versions of brie en croute, including one with maple syrup soaked walnuts on the side. There’s smoky salmon, cheese biscuits, herb cheese, roasted veggies…we could go on and on. Meat is well represented with an excellent bourbon glazed turkey. The only downside for the entire buffet was a roast beef that proved a bit chewy. It may have been that particular cut. You can finish with more desert options than your brain may be able to handle: banana pudding, chocolate covered cream puffs and tongue tantalizing raspberry bread pudding, with a Jack Daniels sauce. It is well worth every bit of the $16.25 per person.

Veggie Eater: I was not terribly impressed with the dinner meal we had there. I had various veggie side items and they all seemed to be on the verge of disintegrating. The staff was able to point out all things veggie and warn me about things that appeared safe, but were not (the mashed potatoes apparently have chicken stock in them). Perhaps our own fault since we visited at the end of the night. I was much happier with the brunch. It is, as I remembered it from the other location, spectacular. Great roasted veggies, all sorts of pickled veggies, great cheeses, salad, deli items, etc. Many rolls, Danishes, and sweets. I am extremely happy to report that the hash brown casserole does not have any meat based soup (generally cream of chicken) in it and is veggie friendly; that is a rare find in the Nashville area. The chefs are happy to make veggie eggs Benedict (they ditch the Canadian ham). The staff is attentive and happy to answer questions . The original location has been my favorite Sunday brunch and I am glad the new spot did not let me down.

Meat Eater: I think the issues with the dinner visit had to do with the hour we arrived. The Copper Kettle SoBro puts out a great lunch spread and a truly amazing Sunday brunch. The lunch visit was $9.50 with tax, tip and a drink.
Copper Kettle Sobro on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2009

La Usuluteca back open and expanding

La Usuluteca folks report that they are back open. They say business has been great and they are expanding into the next room. Good news all around. Thanks again for the tip Alan. If you see anything interesting you think we should know about, or if you have tips, email us and we'll track it down and let readers know.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

La Usuluteca update

This comes from a reader, Alan:

After reading your blog and your review of La Usuluteca restaurant---I went there today for lunch. Apparently it's closed for renovation.I went in the front of the establishment and noted that there were several workers sanding on sheet rock and general construction disarray.I didn't ask but the impression that I got was they were combining with the store next door which had all its windows covered up.

Anyway I offer this info so perhaps someone else doesn't make a special trip to the restaurant only to find it closed.

When/if the restaurant reopens I will email you an update.

Thanks for the tip Alan. I really hope La Usuluteca is going to reopen and perhaps expand. The food is certainly worthy of it. I'll make some calls tomorrow to find out.


Sunday, January 4, 2009


Nashville Restaurants and Food
415 Thompson Lane

The lunch buffet can be a mad rush of workers trying to cram in as much food as possible, with steam tables full of items that all taste the same. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are several places in Nashville where quality buffet food can be found in a peaceful environment. Gojo Ethiopian Cafe is one of those restaurants.
It’s hard to miss Gojo: the orange building sticks out on the Thompson Lane strip of mattress and furniture stores. You’re greeted with warm smiles by the owners, Shemsia and Ahmed Maregn. Pleasant African music rests comfortably in the background. A light incense wafts through the air. The walls are adorned with woven baskets, instruments and other artifacts of East African culture. Even the buffet serving line is simple and elegant. Six stylish, silver chafing dishes are poised on a table, with signs describing the item and ingredients. On this day those items include three vegetarian and three meat, and sides that include injera and injera salad.
Injera is spelled enjera at Gojo, which is another translation. The flat bread is a staple of Ethiopian cuisine and a big part of any meal. The look and feel of it may put off some people. It’s gray, cold and spongy. The taste is sour, because of the sour dough starter style fermentation. It’s made with Teff flour, which is a grain found in East Africa. Injera is often served underneath the other dishes in Ethiopia, with another piece used to grab the many stew like entrees. My personal preference is to try everything with and then without injera, because the sour flavor provides a great accompaniment to some dishes and not others.
At Gojo you take a piece or two of injera from a basket and you’ll find forks and spoons to give you the choice to scoop or not to scoop. Of course it would be a shame not to eat some of the entrees in true Ethiopian style. MiserWet benefits from the injera sour. Split lentils are cooked into a creamy consistency with onion, garlic and ginger. It has a lovely, subtle flavor with just a little mild kick in the background from garlic and hot pepper. The Beef Stew tastes like it was made for injera bread. It’s moist and with a mellow taste that is brought to life with a bit of sour flatbread to scoop up each piece. The cabbage with turmeric sauce is one dish perhaps better eaten alone. It’s plenty sour on its own. Yellow split pea has some ginger and garlic but remains rather tame. Laid back, savory flavors are the centerpiece for this lunch and that’s okay. The only entrée with some zip is Bozena Shiro, beef with chickpea. It’s bolder and with a bit of heat.
The injera may be best when paired with tomatoes, peppers and vinegar for the Injera Salad. You can finish up with a nice fruit salad in syrup. In all, it’s comforting food on a chilly December day.
The dinner menu includes a couple of pastry dishes for appetizers and a selection of salads. Entrees cover a range of meats such as Kifto beef, Yebeg lamb tips and DoroWet chicken. They always have several vegetarian items, including the Vegetarian Combo which allows you to get smaller portions of four different veggie entrees.
Gojo is the name for traditional Ethiopian homes and you’ll probably feel right at home in this Nashville restaurant whether it be for lunch or dinner. The lunch buffet is $7.99. I paid $10 with tax and tip.
Gojo Ethiopian Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon