Sunday, August 28, 2011
4425 Murphy Road
Let’s not bury the lead on this one: Neighbors is serving some of the best chicken wings in Nashville. They’re dry rubbed, char-grilled perfection. The smoker is the first thing you notice when you take the back entrance to the new Sylvan Park bar and restaurant. Taking the back way in is a good idea just from a practical standpoint. At most hours parking out front is a bit of a problem, especially if folks at Local Taco are in a feeding frenzy. The tucked away back lot is surrounded by trees and you descend down a covered wooden walkway to a shady covered deck- a tree house of a place designed for drinking beer and enjoying conversation with friends.
Step inside and it looks like Neighbors had been there for years- well worn in the true neighborhood bar tradition. In reality, they have only been open since May. They’re taking it slowly by focusing attention on the bar business first and adding food in increments. That can be seen in the evolution of the menu. They started with just a couple of sandwiches and snacks. They’ve stepped it up a bit with the addition of the smoker. A recent visit offered a pulled pork sandwich, Chicken chili, smoked turkey legs, a few sides and the aforementioned wings.
That smoker gets a workout. The pulled pork is moist, smoky and served on an upscale floury bun. The sweet and smoky tomato sauce brought it all together for a solid sandwich. That smoke is also a feature of the excellent red beans. They’re refried and mixed with cheese. Red potato salad is the old fashion egg and mayo dressing with big chunks of potato. The Deviled egg version is the Southern classic with full flavor.
Just seeing the dry rubbed and smoked wings on the menu made it a must-try for visit two. Unlike fried wings, grilling can build up a nice char for extra flavor and that char adds to a good seasoning. It’s hard to find wings like this around Nashville and the places that try it usually back off on the char, probably for fear of offending the customers. The order at Neighbors was sporting a seriously great char and meaty, juicy wings. They serve what appears to be house made blue cheese and I have probably never said this before, but perhaps the chunks of cheese are too big for the dressing. It has great flavor and yet it’s hard to dip the wings in the container when the chunks are that big. Hell, forget that last suggestion. I have a better solution: bigger containers!
Veggie Eater: The menu is stingy with veggie friendly dishes, with veggie friendly items being relegated to side dishes and dippy items. On our first visit, we opted for smoky beans (I was advised no meat products added, but smokiness is attained by cooking on the wood fired grill). They are as advertised. Next up was the guacamole, which originally arrived with steam billowing from it. Both the owner and bartender noticed immediately, as evidenced by their perplexed (and slightly alarmed) looks…apparently the cook had heated up the guacamole in the microwave…odd to say the least. This was immediately remedied by a room temperature version. We found it to be fresh, but a bit bland, lacking salt and acid. Next visit, we opted to start with the spinach dip, which suffered an opposite fate of the guacamole; it was only lukewarm. It had a simple, fresh spinach flavor studded with hints of artichoke and would have been elevated had it been served piping hot. Being that I had already blown through most sides and apps on the menu, I asked if they would make their tacos for me subbing the smoky beans; they were happy to oblige. This made for a somewhat sloppy taco, as the beans are pretty juicy. The chipotle salsa made for a wonderful accompaniment to the beans. My only quibble is that the flour tortillas are not great; a really good corn tortilla would have complemented the ingredients much more. The deck is a wonderful space with a great music mix playing in the background and multiple large screen TVs flashing sports (on this particular day, we got to watch the re-play of our beloved Packers) and topped off with the wonderful, light aroma of the smoker swirling about. The staff is almost unnervingly enthusiastic and peppy.
Meat Eater: This is a group partnership of several folks, including a former Titans player and the owner of the hair salon next door. We enjoy the humor of the place. One day a Guinness chalk sign reads “Every book is a children’s book if the kid can read.”
We paid $29 with tax and tip on one visit (excluding drinks) and $34 on the second visit.