Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cockeyed Pig, Rooster's and Tapas

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Cockeyed Pig, Rooster's and Tapas

A first visit to Belcourt Taps and Tapas shows eclectic decorating in a cozy Hillsboro bungalow. The house has been converted into a mellow little dining room and bar. They have quite a ways to go to get the small plate restaurant up to full steam. The pleasant rustic mustard and crimson walls need some adornment. The simple menu shows promise. It’s a selection of cheeses and breads in an appetizer format, with some pan-European and Southern influenced small plate dishes. Prices and portion sizes are still a big issue, shown by the slash through three dollars for toast points on the menu to read one dollar. We found the three dollars spent on a tiny piece of cornbread (thoughtfully sliced into four microscopic sections) to be absolutely outrageous. There is much time to get these things sorted out and the food we tasted showed thoughtful touches from the kitchen. There are no taps as of yet (they are waiting on a beer license..they do have high gravity bottled beer). They have a meager wine list for a tapas joint (please…Spanish reds or Shiraz?). This type of restaurant would be a great addition to Hillsboro Village dining. We will pop in again in a few weeks to see how things are going.

Belcourt Taps and Tapas
2117 Belcourt Ave.

Rooster's Southern Smokehouse has closed up shop in Gallatin after just a short stint in the business. It’s a shame because the ribs were some of the best in Sumner County. The odd location probably didn’t help matters much. Meanwhile, the Cockeyed Pig has picked up the hickory flame and is turning out barbecue in a roadhouse style atmosphere a couple of miles down the road. Aside the great name (the logo is a pig hugging a chicken) the food is pretty decent. The ribs were tender and with a nice char. The meat is really laid back in the seasoning department and yet perfectly cooked. Just a little bit of the tangy hot barbecue sauce brings it all alive. Pulled pork proved to be plenty moist and with nice chunks of bark here and there. The thick, grilled cornbread pancakes were excellent and after the cornbread experience noted above, provided quite a laugh from this eater. The entire meal was $12 with tax and tip.

Cockeyed Pig
1581 East Broadway

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kaput and Rolling Along

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Friday Notes

Es Fernandos at FooBAR is officially kaput. The Mexican/Southwestern food was appreciated by the crowd inside the East Nashville bar, but apparently not enough to work out financially. We’ll miss those quesadillas. It was a nod to the menu of the long time favorite Mexican restaurant on Gallatin Road.

Meanwhile, we passed Phil’s Bar-B-Que at 2821 Gallatin Pike and found it closed up on a Friday night. Not a good sign. Who knows, they may just be on a vacation. Keep us updated on what you hear.

In better news we’re keeping an eye on Bicyclette Café on Lebanon Road in Hermitage. The French themed joint has a light, laid back and yet sophisticated menu. The do lunch and dinner during the week and later hours on the weekend (closed Sundays). Let us know if you have had an experience you would like to share.

And even better news, our friends at the Pickled and Fried blog report that there is a new wood fired pizza place called Bella Napoli Pizzeria opening up next to Taco Mamacita in Edgehill Village. It's a new venture from the executive chef at Valentino's. Check out the Pickled and Fried blog for details:    Or search Bella Napoli on Facebook....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Bunch of New Joints: New Tapas,Guatemalan, Honduran and Nicaraguan

Nashville Restaurants and Food
New Tapas

Belcourt Taps and Tapas is apparently open for business. The Hillsboro Village restaurant is located at 2117 Belcourt Avenue. They have had a soft opening going for about a week. Just last night they reported on Facebook that they are now serving drinks as well as food. Has anyone seen the menu yet? Is it tapas by style only or is it actually Spanish in influence? We're hoping for the later. Small plates are cool, but we still hanker for actual Spanish tapas. This web site doesn't have much yet. You're better off clicking over to the Facebook page for more info:

Breaking Away from Mexico

Mexican joints dominate the Latin American restaurant scene in Nashville and not surprisingly: the Mexican population is the largest in our area. There has always been some cross over, with a few adventurous places like Las Americas offering a wider variety of cuisine from a number of countries. Lately though, the number of specialty places is on the rise and we’ve been having fun tracking them down.

Nica’s Restaurant at 314 McCall (just off Nolensville) features Nicaraguan food. Like much of Central American cuisine there is plenty of cross over, but Nicaraguan is their thing. Vigaron (slaw piled on top of yucca with chicharons-fried pork skin), gallo pinto (rice and beans) and papas rellenas (fried stuffed potato) are the better known members of a menu that is best expressed in picture form on the wall. And folks that’s about the only decoration you get at Nica’s. It looks like a dance/pool hall with a few tables pulled out. You can hear the pleasant sounds of ladies cooking in the back and they are gracious hosts. Atmosphere here is about non-existent. It’s dark and DIY. We’d like to see what they do with the place. Our first visit was hit and miss. That vigaron seemed pretty bland. Carne asada though was moist and delicious. The Veggie Eater says the papas rellenas is her favorite version outside of Peru. We’ll give them some time to get situated and get back for a full review.

It’s a whole different ballgame at La Antigua. The Guatemalan/Honduran restaurant is in a cinder block building at 2600 Grandview (really Woodbine near Nolensville) that has housed about a million different meat and threes, including a Sylvan Park outpost. The interior is painted bright red and yellow, warmly decorated and suffused with a positive and mellow vibe. At first Central American folk music plays in the background, and it’s then replaced by Christian Rock. It all works. They serve up big plates of huevos for breakfast, Guatemalan style with hunks of cheese and fried ham on the side. Pollo en Pipian sports a savory, nutty pumpkin and peanut sauce with chicken and boiled potatoes. They do the baking in house and make a strong and tasty cup of coffee.

Of course the El Salvadoran thing was the first to really break out in the area. There are now several pupuserias and at last check our favorite, La Usuluteca, is still going strong. Check out our previous review:

Now we just need Peruvian, better Brazilian, focused Costa Rican…the list goes on and the quest will continue. Let us know where you go when you want to step away from Mexico for a trip in the Latin American neighborhood. Also has anyone taken a trip to the new Caribbean joint La Cocina Dominicana? It’s at 1568 Bell Road and destined for a visit from us soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Burger Up

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Burger Up
2901 12th Avenue South
615- 279-3767

You walk out of a burger joint and a half-hour later you’re at the farmer’s market chatting with the farmer that raised the beef you just ate. That’s pretty cool. And the quality of the beef and local sourcing is one of the things that make Burger Up a welcome, albeit expensive, addition to the dining scene.

Burgers using locally sourced, grass-fed beef have been around for years in Nashville fine dining joints. What makes Burger Up different is that it combines the quality ingredients with a bustling and festive vibe. It may not be a typical burger joint, but it manages to give that comfortable feel, even in a modern, well-designed room.

Bite into the Woodstock burger and you can taste the sweet and dense beef immediately. It comes from Triple L Ranch in Franklin, and it is different from what you get at a typical burger spot. Benton’s bacon provides salty pop and Jack Daniel’s maple ketchup some zip. The soft, fresh buns are made in house and they bring it all together. Interesting- no tomato or lettuce for some burgers and veggies for others. They clearly have thought through what actually adds to the flavor, not just providing an obligatory topping. The meaty sweet potato fries arrive standing up in a silver cup. They’re a bit floppy and kinda mushy, but still rather tasty. Throw in a Yazoo Pale Ale and you have the makings of a fine lunch. The price tag for this: $22 with tax and tip. Is it worth it? We argue yes. If you were simply paying extra money for hipster surroundings we wouldn’t say that. What you do get is a better burger.

The lamb burger is juicy and also featuring a dense consistency. Melted boursin cheese and peppermint Dijon puts it over the top. It’s an excellent combination of flavors. You can smell the truffle oil as soon as the truffle fries arrive. The bartender recommended the honey Dijon aioli and they worked well together. A stack of Vidalia onion rings was unremarkable although not unsatisfying. They make a big deal out of the various condiments here, even having someone work a condiment station of sorts. The spicy lemon lime remoulade perked up the onion rings.

Veggie Eater: OK, so the bar is really tall. And if your ethnic heritage harkens back to Sicilian washer women, you practically have to climb the bar stool and perform a dismount upon exit. That aside, the space has soul. The old barn boards (rehabbed? Distressed to look old?) add to the overall charm. On to the food. We started with the cremini mushrooms in a Yazoo beer batter; the mushrooms were juicy with an almost tempura like batter. These are served with ranch ketchup. My quibble was with the parmesan dusting; it’s superfluous; it doesn’t stick to the shrooms and then you look like a yahoo as you try to scoop it up with your fingertips. I opted for the Marathon, which is a quinoa black bean burger. The quinoa adds great texture to the burger, but the burger was a bit dry. Perhaps the mixture is too difficult to keep together on the grill if it’s moister. It’s serviced with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a cilantro lime crème fraiche. It could have used more of the crème fraiche to even out the dryness and although the crème fraiche was advertised with cilantro and lime, they did not appear to be willing to make an appearance on this visit. We opted to sub truffle fries and onion rings for the usual fries. The truffle fries are hearty, greasy, and a bit limp. As you get to the bottom of the silver cup housing them, they are downright soggy. The flavor was great, but a bit of a texture violation. There are all sorts of fabulous looking salads and a Portobello burger as well to entice a veggie eater to this burger joint. If I lived in the 12 South area, I think I’d probably visit regularly.

Meat Eater: I still love the divey, greasy burger joints in town. To pay a few dollars more for something different doesn’t seem out of line. You gotta love a burger place with a bunch of small batch bourbons, interesting wine selections and some decent beers. Some folks have complained about the noise, but I think the loud nature of the room matches the fun vibe of the place. If you’re looking for a quiet, romantic dinner, go elsewhere. First visit for one was $22 as previously mentioned. The second visit for two was $50 for two burgers, two beers, sides and an appetizer.
Burger Up on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Vietnamese and Alfresco Pasta

Nashville Restaurants and Food
New Vietnamese on Charlotte

There's a new contestant in the Charlotte Pike Vietnamese restaurant competition. Ben Thanh opened two months ago at 6317 Charlotte. A first visit shows a restaurant still waiting to happen. There is virtually no decorating and a huge, nearly empty room. Everyone is quite nice. It seems like mom may be cooking in the kitchen while the kids wait tables. We explained the vegetarian situation and the waitress came right back to the table to report that the dumplings we had ordered came with chicken. We always appreciate that level of attention and honesty. They have a menu of about 60 items. We found care in the cooking process and some reasonably tasty food. There are many other issues though, and we will need another visit in a few weeks to see how they are doing. We can't really recommend this one quite yet. We'll report back soon.

Alfresco Pasta

Many folks are familiar with Alfresco Pasta. The Nashville company services restaurants all over the area and have begun to sell at farmers markets. We picked up some frozen pappardelle and enjoyed the creamy, wide strips with a spicy puttanesca sauce that the Veggie Eater threw together. It's a pretty good deal at $2 a serving. We bought five and stored the rest in the freezer. The pasta list is extensive, covering many types of ravioli, agnolotti, cappalletti tortellini and tortelloni, and potato gnocchi. Among a few that jumped out at us: Fettuccine with Spanish Saffron, Benton’s Smokey Mountain Bacon and Onion Ravioli with Tennessee White Cheddar in Fresh Basil Pasta, Ashley Farms Rotisserie Chicken Ravioli with Sun dried Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Fresh Basil in Herb Infused Pasta, Ravioli with Andouille Sausage, Fresh Vegetables, Crayfish Tails and Pepper Jack Cheese in Roasted Red Pepper Pasta.

Next time we'll go more exotic in our selection.

They have been set up at the West Nashville Farmers Market on Saturdays. Check out the website for the complete list of offerings:

Friday, July 9, 2010

First Visit to the Blind Pig No. 55

Nashville Restaurants and Food
First Visit to the Blind Pig No. 55

Upscale barbecue? And on the same street as upscale burgers? Isn’t 12 South fancy lately. The Blind Pig No. 55 just opened in the same building that used to house Mirror. It’s a big room with a bunch of sports bar TVs and some of the most desperate exposed “brick” decorating that we have ever seen (please people, let it go- if the exposed “brick” hasn't been exposed in a semi-natural way it just looks silly.) The patio completely rocks. It’s large enough for a good crowd and that section of 12th South is getting pretty vibrant, given the patio crowds across the street at the 12th South Taproom and Mafiaoza's.

The smoker is puffing outside and a chef is checking that pork. All that leads to a bit of a wait. Not a problem thanks to the attentive wait staff. Probably the big headline from our first visit is the array of creative and tasty side dishes. This place seems to do best when the chefs get a chance to stretch a little and try new things. Witness the Potato Cake with Russian dressing. Kinda boring? Kinda out of place? Not at all. It’s almost crab cake like in construction and cooking, leaving a moist interior and crispy shell. Poblano and corn pudding. Blue cheese sweet potatoes. The Veggie Eater has a big kudos to the creative folks who have decided barbecue could use some reinforcement.

The meat line-up itself covers the usual ground: Memphis baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken and lamb. They have entrees designed to break the barbecue mold: hickory grilled trout, chipotle marinated steak and lemon garlic chicken.

This is the latest concept from the high power ownership responsible for Watermark and Miro District. Look for prices above your normal barbecue joint. And a number of other interesting dishes that we have yet to mention. Why? Because we still have to do a formal review. This is just a preview and we have already probably said too much.

The Blind Pig No. 55
2317 12th Avenue South

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fogatas Mexican and Baraka Bakery

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Fogatas Mexican and Baraka Bakery

Readers have been telling us to get our butts down to Nolensville Road and Old Hickory Blvd. Fogatas is the new restaurant inside the former El Manjar space next to the Lowes store. They blew out a wall and opened the place up quite a bit, which helps because El Manjar was usually packed. There is a new owner and yet they kept much of the El Manjar menu. Our first visit didn’t start well at all. The salsa is watery and flavorless. Then they put bottles of salsa Verde and Rojo on the table. The creamy, spicy Verde is smoky from roasted peppers and perhaps one of the best in town. We perk up a bit and hit the menu which is traditional Mexican with a few twists you don’t see everywhere. Pambazo (adobe bread and sausage), Tlacoyos (thick tortilla stuffed with beans and served with grilled nopales cactus), Zincronizada (tortillas grilled with ham and cheese). Mole poblano is featured in a couple of dishes and not just as a special. Our first visit put us in a happy place. Homemade flour and corn tortillas make a big difference. Fogatas is campfire in Spanish and we’ll be gathering around it again soon to put together an official review.

5560 Nolensville Pike

Baraka Bakery is just a few doors down from Fogatas. We popped in and found the place has expanded quite a bit in recent years. The meat counter has Halal beef and chicken cuts. They have dozens of cheeses from Syria, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. There are several aisles of specialty items (at least ten kinds of Tahini, grape leaves for rolling) from all over the Mediterranean and Middle East. They specialize in Iranian foods and also have a number of Eastern European items. Of course you can’t go into Baraka without getting some of those baked goods. You’ll find their pita and desserts at restaurants all over town. That baklava pretty much rules and the soft, fluffy pita promises some great sandwiches this week.

Baraka Bakery
5596 Nolensville Pike

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hot Chicken and July 4th Weekend

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Hot Chicken and July 4th Weekend

Sunny, about 88 degrees and the smell of Hot Chicken wafting through the park: must be July 4th! Of course that was 11:45am- when we arrived at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival. We were surprised to see virtually no one in the vendor lines. They switched it up this year opting for one gigantic free Hot Chicken line, freeing up the vendors for paying customers. That’s fine with us. I love the concept but standing in line for a free piece of Hot Chicken has never made much sense to me. That line did seem to be moving much quicker. They had volunteers doling out the Hot Chicken samples from the various vendors and it appeared to be a good system.

We look for the new stuff and were pleased to find a couple of new vendors trying out Hot Chicken concepts. It seems to me that this is the only way the festival is going to expand- other Nashville businesses incorporating the Hot Chicken thing into a specialty item. B and C Market hit a home run with their Hot Chicken grits. They’re tangy, with a buffalo style sauce and a dark, smoky finish. We spied an Amerigos tent and nearly dropped our beers. Then we remembered that they’ve been serving Hot Chicken pasta. Seemed like a bit much for such a hot day…I went for it though. It’s basically Hot Chicken served over pasta with a sticky cream sauce. They’ve got some work to do in the Hot Chicken department…it’s the seasoning folks, combined with the heat, that makes it great. Anyway, kudos to them for getting out there. It would be great to see more Nashville restaurants do Hot Chickeny things next year.

As usual the Yazoo beer tent provided a nice break from the sun. A hoppy Yazoo summer ale went down well with the spicy chicken. We didn’t have time to stay for the amateur Hot Chicken contest; we think they may have started a bit later this year because the hand-outs were in the same tent as the contest. By the time we left around 1pm it was getting a little nutty in the parking lots.

On Saturday we enjoyed Peaceful Pastures burgers, topped with the first tomato out of our garden and four year-old cheddar from Wisconsin. A couple of Moscow Mules cooled us down. We picked up provisions that morning at the West Nashville Farmers Market, which was crazy busy and yet still fun.

Veggie Eater: OK, so some of you may have already read my gushing “I met Emmylou Harris at the West Nashville Farmers’ Market” story. Really, could you ask for a better way to kick off a holiday weekend? We went home that night and listened to the Opry as we had a bonfire and got to listen to Emmylou host and sing. A perfect day. Today is the happy tradition of the Hot Wing Fest which has typically been a Veggie Eater’s nightmare. I am happy to report, things are looking up. Pied Piper is there, as well as folks serving fancy veggie dogs (The Dog of Nashville?). And now that other vendors are getting involved how about the Wild Cow doing some Hot Chicken tempeh creation? Yazoo at noon on the 4th always kicks it off well. We finished the day with pool, friends, and fabulous food. We brought the elotes: roasted corn, rolled in crema, dusted with queso fresco, and sprinkled with Peruvian aji hot chile pepper powder.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hot Chicken Festival Details!

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Music City Hot Chicken Festival

Yo, fire up your's almost time to celebrate Hot Chicken! Of course every day is a good day to celebrate Hot Chicken, the Nashville original flamethrower dish. July 4 is a little hotter because the celebration brings hundreds of chicken lovers out to the park to sweat together. The Friends of Shelby Park have announced the event line-up for the 2010 Hot Chicken Festival. It's this Sunday, July 4 from noon to 5pm in East Park, 700 Woodland Street in East Nashville.

The Music City Hot Chicken Festival features free hot chicken samples for the first 500 people from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, The Chicken Shack, 400 Degrees and Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish. Those lines get pretty long, so we usually just end up buying some later. There is a beer tent and plenty of other things going on, including our favorite the amateur hot chicken contest. Here's the music line-up and don't forget to wash it all down with a cold Yazoo!

12:00 noon - Welcome by Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, greetings from DJs of  WRVW The River and WUBT The Beat
12:15 - Singer Wendy Jans (solo),
singer-songwriter with a soul-pop-jazz sound
1:10 - change bands
1:25 - Eileen Rose, with guitar and
snare (3 performers), a little bit country/rock
2:20 - change bands
2:35 - Centennial Hiptet -
straight ahead jazz
3:00 - 3:15 - Amateur Hot Chicken Contest winner announced - Ralph Schulz
3:15 - Centennial Hiptet resumes
3:50 - change bands
4:05 - Kevin Ball and The Busters - blues