Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Sands Soul Food Diner


Nashville Restaurants and Food
The Sands Soul Food Diner
937 Locklayer Street
Nashville
615-742-1562

Some of the best food in Nashville is served in the most modest of surroundings. The Sands Soul Food Diner looks like a bar or a liquor store from the outside. Inside you’ll find a well worn dining room. You stand next to the glass display, and try to figure out what is what as the array of food is laid out, steaming in front of you. There are no signs to help, so you have to ask. The kind ladies behind the serving line are more than happy to point out what may be your next new favorite dish.

The Sands Soul Food Diner used to be called the Silver Sands. It’s located in the residential neighborhood just across the street from the Nashville Farmer’s Market. It has a legendary reputation and for good reason: this is some of the best meat and three around.

Meat loaf, beef tips, chicken in gravy, broiled chicken, and fried chicken were among the items the ladies had cooking on a recent lunch visit. You can ask for catfish and they’ll fry it up. After asking for a recommendation, I went with the chicken and gravy. Back at the table it proved to be a good tip. The gravy is rich and savory. It’s thicker and browner than your usual chicken gravy. It packs tons of flavor and goes well with the perfectly cooked chicken. The hot water corn bread is exceptional: sweet, moist and really tasty. Everything is nicely seasoned, including the surprisingly light and airy macaroni and cheese. I’m not sure what they do to get the delicate texture, but it’s good. The okra was the only dish I had issue with, and that’s mainly due to preference. The Sands serves up a traditional southern version, cooked whole in water and coming out with a bit of slime, which is often a problem with Okra. It was cooked al dente though, which is a good thing for veggies, and I still managed to clean the plate.

Around you every other customer walking in the door is like a family reunion for the staff. Everyone is asking about everyone’s family. You can sit there for a moment, enjoy the feeling of good food in the stomach, and relax with a bit of classic Nashville. And that’s what I call a great lunch.

I paid $8.80 for meat and two with tax, tip and a drink.
Silver Sands on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mitchell Delicatessen Breakfast

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Mitchell Delicatessen Breakfast
1402 McGavock
Nashville
615-262-9862

We’ve raved about the sandwiches at Mitchell Delicatessen, and now it’s time to talk breakfast. The Riverside Village joint serves it up by the pound, and as generic as that sounds, it is a great concept for many reasons.

Mitchell Deli has made a name for itself by using top quality ingredients, carefully selected and crafted into inventive sandwich combinations. The breakfast lineup may be more traditional, but the ingredients still shine. It’s not a huge menu: this day offered biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal, French toast, roasted cheddar grits and Benton’s bacon. You order at the counter. Simply point at what you want, and how much you want, and they put the tray on the scale to see how much you owe. The good news is breakfast items don’t seem to weigh much. At $6.99 a pound we averaged about $5.50 each for a filling breakfast. There are enough items to keep the vegetarian happy, although not a huge amount of choice.

The biscuits are fairly average, but that smoky sausage gravy has a deep flavor that is a nice change from the usual. There are big chunks of sausage and bits of onion that give the gravy a real country bite. The eggs are fluffy and unassuming: a savory foil for the full flavor items. The Benton’s bacon is 75 cents a slice, the only item not priced by the pound. That’s because it’s premium bacon, packed with premium flavor: saltier, smokier, greasier and tastier than the average pig. The thick slices are well worth the money. The roasted cheddar and garlic grits are surprisingly light, not the gooey cheese grits you get some places.

Be forewarned: they don’t serve coffee at Mitchell. Before you freak out, this is actually a good thing. All you have to do is step out the door and step into the Sip Café to order your java fix. We went for the full buzz with two giant 16 ounce lattes. They were expertly prepared and Sip, while small, is one of the friendliest coffee shops in town. The Mitchell folks encourage you to bring the coffee inside to enjoy with your breakfast, so it’s the best of both worlds.

Veggie Eater: I love the concept of breakfast by the pound. It allows you to determine the portions of the various items you want. For example: although I like eggs, I really only need one egg to satisfy me. So I requested just a dollop of scrambled eggs. They were well cooked; light, fluffy, well seasoned; not the rubbery crap I have frequently been served by other places. My next request was for a more generous serving of grits. Not those awful quick grits routinely served by others. These had whole heads of roasted garlic smushed into them and a bit of cheese to finish. But the star of my breakfast meal was the French toast. I’m not really a sweets eater and usually stay away from pancakes, waffles, etc. But these intrigued me and again, I could opt for just a single piece. I was surprised, but not disappointed. I think they were made with Silkies whole grain bread, which made for a real treat. They were lightly coated with batter and each bite had a chewy bit of various fresh grains. A definite do-over.

Meat Eater: We enjoyed Wilco on the XM satellite radio and a nice chat with the owner. Mitchell opens for breakfast at 7am on Sundays. We were all on our own at 8am. The East Nashville crowd probably doesn’t come in until later. Currently, they serve breakfast seven days a week from 7am to 11am, but if this is an older post we encourage you, as always, to check exact times before you go. We paid $13.60 with tax and tip at Mitchell and $8.60 with tax and tip for those giant Lattes at Sip.
Mitchell Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine’s Day Ideas

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Valentine’s Day Ideas

Are you looking for a Valentine’s Day dinner spot in Nashville? Some people have favorites that they always visit on V-Day. For the last few years we’ve enjoyed the atmosphere at the Yellow Porch in Berry Hill. The little rooms are packed and festive, which combined with mood lighting, and great food, makes for a romantic dinner. We see the same people there year after year, so we’re not the only ones who play V-Day favorites. Here are some more romantic possibilities:

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Eastland Cafe: Vibrant, buzzing and fun this bistro offers great food and a nice, chatty staff.

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Zola: We’re ashamed to say we haven’t been back in some time, which is crazy because it’s one of the best restaurants in town. Zola certainly fits the romantic need with cozy rooms and warm, responsive service. Plus, the Scene Bites Blog is reporting that they have a revamped menu line-up with several new vegetarian friendly items.

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Margot: Who would think a transformed garage could be romantic? But it is a great room for an intimate dinner and the food is top-notch. Be prepared to rub elbows with some other diners and a few waiters, since it is a bit of a squeeze. That just makes it more fun. Once your entrée arrives you may have trouble remembering the name of your date. The food is that good.

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Anatolia: There isn’t much romantic about a strip mall on White Bridge Road, unless of course you’re talking about Anatolia. The dining room is just right for feeling at home and comfortable. The Turkish food can help take you out of that V-Day dining comfort zone. And it is perfect winter cuisine: hearty and savory.

There are two newcomers that could fit the V-Day bill and while the rooms are not exactly romantic per se, they are fun:
Café Rakka in Hendersonville and City House in Germantown both offer excellent food and a knowledgeable staff that cares about what they are doing.

If you are dining on a budget, we suggest
PM Restaurant near Belmont or the Black Horse Pub in Clarksville.

Be sure to check to see if the restaurant has a special V-Day menu, especially if you are vegetarian. We have found some places tend to go a bit meaty on V-Day. And of course call for reservations.

And let’s hope it is busy. If you can afford a nice dinner, please visit one of Nashville’s independent restaurants. Times are tough and they could use our support.

Okay, now your turn. Use the comments to tell us about your favorite place for a romantic dinner and any V-Day dining traditions you have.