Monday, January 31, 2011

Blind Pig is Done

Blind Pig No. 55 has closed up shop. The 12 South enterprise was lauded for it's attention to creative side dishes and frequently criticized for mediocre, over-priced barbecue selections. Chris at the Scene broke the news this morning and the Blind Pig web site confirms. Fish & Co., the new seafood restaurant by the same ownership group will move from it's current location into the Blind Pig spot.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

NY Pie

Nashville Restaurants and Food
NY Pie
6800 Charlotte
Nashville
615-915-1617
www.realnypie.com

Floppy, crispy, foldable- these are essential elements of a real N.Y. style pizza. Oh, and you have to be able to get that pizza by the slice, and the slice should be able to make a modest lunch. NY Pie serves up big, wide, and high quality slices of pie and the style is remarkably authentic N.Y. street pizza. It all adds up to make NY Pie one of the best new pizzerias in Nashville. It looks like Greg Meyer and his talented staff will be keeping busy in 2011- the word is out and the joint has been hopping.

Do yourself a favor and start with a simple slice of cheese. You’ll find a crackling brick over crust on the bottom, tangy tomato sauce kissing the top and just the right amount of quality cheese. Quite frankly, of the four slice styles we tried the cheese was actually the best. And that’s okay, because the others were damn fine. The Greek is built on a bed of fresh spinach leaves and modest amounts of feta and olives. Modest may sound like a criticism in the Pizza Hut and Dominoes topping -frenzied world. Modest at NY Pie simple means that you get the right amount of toppings for the slice. Those toppings are carefully chosen. The pepperoni has some tongue-tickling spice to it and the sausage is herbed-up and savory. They have 11 pizza styles and give you the ability to make your own from 27 topping choices. You can get a slice or small, medium and large pizza. You’ll find the 18 inch large a serious slab of pie, easily able to feed a family (perhaps an abstemious family).

In true New York pizzeria style, you’ll also find a few subs, calzones and Stromboli. The calzone comes out of the brick oven as a lovely browned hill of crust filled with bubbling ricotta and mozzarella. That cheese is high quality and it’s the perfect partner for the crispy, doughy half-moon crust. You get the choice of one topping to go into that calzone and while the Meat Eater wanted to jump back into those meat selections, the chosen artichoke proved toothsome enough.

Even the humble pizzeria salad gets treated with respect at NY Pie. The Caesar is a more than generous bed of fresh greens, adorned with real, aged parmesan slivers and decent croutons. The salad dressing is house made, and while hearty and flavorful, probably should have been tossed with the salad for the proper effect.

You can watch Meyer and the other pizza makers spinning the dough in the open kitchen. There is a counter right next to the prep area, and it’s been a popular spot with the kids. The inside dining area is a little cramped, given the popularity, and seems to fill-up quickly, especially on weekends. The good news in warmer months will be the patio area next door.

Veggie Eater: There are two basic pizza types you find around Nashville, Italian-style (think City House) and American-style. Given my New Jersey birthplace, I am biased in believing that New York/New Jersey pizza is best (as opposed to the abomination known as Chicago-style pizza). This has been a source of conflict both in my marriage and in friendships (sorry, I enjoy Chicago-style and New York-style - M.E.). It has taken seven years, since our move to Nashville, to find a pizza joint that harkens back to my New Jersey roots and I am thrilled to say NY Pie has finally filled the void. As Meat Eater noted above, the crust is the perfect combination of crisp and floppy. The cheeses are better than the stuff served in on most pizzas. If I had to take a guess, whole milk mozzarella and ricotta are used, which leads to a creamier, much less rubbery and stringy, product. The tables are all supplied with the necessary accessories: garlic powder, oregano, parmesan, and red pepper flakes, but there is little reason to use them, as the food is able to stand on its own. The topping items are standard- this is not frou-frou food. My biggest gripes: green olives are not a topping item on the menu and the Caesar salad really needs to be served tossed to be fully enjoyed. 70’s rock (love a restaurant where I can hear Neil Young singing “Old Man”) serenades in the background and the space is peppered with nostalgic photos of New York.

Meat Eater: Owners Greg and Jessica could not have picked a better location. Publix and Costco are just down the street and Target and World Market just across the parking lot. This makes NY Pie a prime weekend lunch spot before or after shopping. The prices seem reasonable for such good food. Slices currently run from $2.50-$3.50 depending on the toppings. An 18 inch large pizza averages $19. We paid $22 on one visit and I paid $9.50 on another visit.

NY Pie on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Swagruha Expands to Brentwood

One of the spiciest Indian joints in town is expanding with a new location in Brentwood this spring. We're just a few of the many fans of the Southern Indian restaurant Swagruha, currently located in the Nashville Farmer's Market. They confirm that they will be keeping that location and adding a new restaurant in the Target Center at Old Hickory Blvd. near I-65. The owner says they hope to have it up and running by May or June.

This tip comes courtesy of mIKES, a longtime reader and contributor. He has apparently become addicted to the place. We can only hope they keep piling the plates full of spicy food, like they do at the Farmer's Market location. It's one of the best, quality food bargains in Nashville.  But given a dining room it will probably be a more traditional affair.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Jerusalem, Sportstown, 400 Degrees and Jackalope

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek Odds and Ends

Jerusalem Middle Eastern restaurant in midtown has finally succumbed, after a long, and by many accounts, rather sad fall into disrepair. It is replaced in that location by Sportstown BarBQ Grill. The web site promises that they will be smoking daily and the menu offers the usual sports bar/barbecue joint offerings. The Meat Eater has an inquiring mind, and stomach, when it comes to barbecue, and decided to pop in and check out Sportstown. All I can say is this: nice folks, but there is some major work to be done in the barbecue department, at least from what I sampled on this one visit. I did enjoy my beer. Lest that sound like too bleak a statement for a restaurant that has only been up and running for two weeks, I do promise to return in the future and report back. It’s only fair. Great barbecue takes real skill and hopefully they will work out the kinks. Midtown could use another good barbecue joint.

Sportstown BarBQ Grill
1805 Church St
Nashville
615- 678-7116
www.sportstownbarbqgrill.com

As first reported in the Nashville Scene, 400 Degrees restaurant, purveyors of fine hot chicken, have pulled up stakes and moved to SOBRO. They were located on Clarksville Highway. The new spot is at 319 Peabody Street, in the Peabody Corner building. It’s more sad news for the Clarksville Highway stretch, which loss Peter Chinn’s last year. It does bring some spice to that rather boring section of near-downtown and hopefully sets the trend for things to come. http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2007/07/400-degrees.html

We also have an update in the beer world. Nashville-based Jackalope Brewing Company is getting geared up to go from a great idea to a real operation. The Tennessean reports that the start-up microbrewery now has a building permit for the location at 701 Eighth Ave. South. On their blog, owners Bailey Spaulding and Robyn Virball say they hope to be open in March or April, but you know how that goes…especially when Metro Codes gets involved. Here’s hoping for a fast opening! This city could really use another microbrewery. Check out their blog for updates: http://blogalope.tumblr.com/

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant-Downtown

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant-Downtown
500 Church Street
Nashville
615-770-2772
www.puckettsgrocery.com

Puckett’s seems to be holding onto the grocery shtick for marketing and nostalgia. There is certainly plenty of history with the original grocery store and restaurant in Leiper’s Fork. That location has been around since the 1950’s and expanded rapidly under the business eye of Andy Marshall, who took over in 1998 and moved to expand the empire in Franklin. He sold the Leiper's Fork location and concentrated on the Franklin restaurant. The new downtown location provides a cooler of milk, some coffee and peanut butter to maintain the grocery moniker. Tourist gimmicks aside, this eatery provides an important function for downtown visitors and residents- a full-service bar and restaurant serving up a decent breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It’s tough to find weekend breakfast downtown, let alone a place that offers menu items and a buffet. The menu is simple: the standard egg, steak and pancake line-up. There are only a couple of original twists. The Elvis inspired King’s French Toast: egg dipped white bread filled with bananas and peanut butter and then pan fried. The Bubba’s Eggs Benedict replaces the Hollandaise with white pepper gravy and puts the eggs and sausage on top of split biscuits. They ask you how you want your eggs cooked, which quickly means that this isn’t a Benedict at all anymore, just a heaping plate of country breakfast. And that’s fine with the Meat Eater. The biscuits are reasonably fluffy and the gravy okay. They serve a decent herbed sausage patty. The home fries on the side are precisely cooked for a nice skin and yet radically under-seasoned. The buffet on this day offered 13 items, all the usual suspects, with a couple of creative touches. The cheesy hash browns are sticky and flavorful; almost mac and cheese with potato instead of macaroni. The French toast is done casserole-style, with the syrup baked-in. Pecans provide a nice texture contrast and the cinnamon a zingy finish. The sausage links are maple flavored and the bacon is thick and crispy. It’s a reasonable, if unremarkable, buffet at $10 for adults.

We found breakfast crowds a bit sparse when we visited and yet at dinner the large, loud dining room was packed. They have bands starting after 8:30 p.m. on many nights and that means an extra cover charge that can be as high as $10. Folks familiar with the Leiper’s Fork or Franklin locations will find their old favorites on the downtown branch menu. Fried green beans are well-seasoned and appear to be tempura-like in frying style. They hit the table about five minutes after ordering, despite the big crowd. The bad news with burgers is that they won’t go less than medium on the temperature. Still, the Double Puckett comes out fairly juicy and covered in pepper jack. It’s a good, but not great, burger. Super-crisp sweet potato fries are a highlight. They come with finely grated cheese on top.

Veggie Eater: On the first go round, I opted for the pimento grilled cheese. I was a little put off by the lukewarm pimento cheese filling; seems to me if a sandwich is billed as a grilled cheese, then it should be warm through and through. The pimento cheese itself was creamy and savory, with a bit of spice. The fries on the other hand were perfect: skinny, crispy and flavorful. On our second venture, we came for breakfast. I opted for the breakfast buffet, as it offered more veggie options than the menu. The high note had to be the cheesy hash browns. They are very cheesy and it appears they were made with cream of mushroom soup (as opposed to cream of chicken). The grits seem to be real stone milled grits with texture. They weren’t seasoned much, but nothing that a bottle of hot sauce could not correct. Other buffet options included a light and fluffy spinach egg bake casserole. The French toast casserole was good, but would have been better if served with real maple syrup.

Meat Eater: Sure, there are plenty of touristy and kitschy elements to the d├ęcor and the grocery store thing is a little silly at this point. But it’s easy to look beyond all of that and find a stylish and warm dining room- remarkable really, given the size of the place. They have a full bar and a wine selection. Get a Bloody Mary with that breakfast or a small batch bourbon with that burger- it makes Puckett’s downtown a nice option for tourist, transplant and native alike.

We paid $34 with tax and tip for dinner and $30 with tax and tip for breakfast.
Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Brunch at Cooper’s

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Brunch at Cooper’s

The corned beef hash is bold and popping; grilled up with hash browns, it’s an excellent foundation for scrambled eggs and lemony hollandaise. It’s a good start to a relaxing Sunday brunch visit, which brings positive first impressions of the new bar and restaurant, Cooper’s on Porter. It’s a woody, European pub-y place with a dash of modern style. While it’s a bit dark inside for this brunch, it looks like a fine space for beer drinking. And beer is what they do- they have 24 drafts on tap. No liquor now and perhaps not ever, according to the staff (wine is on the way). Instead, ask for a bloody beer for brunch: Scrimshaw pilsner, V-8 juice, Tabasco, lime and pepper. Certainly an eye opener. A huge mug of the strong French roast coffee might also do the trick. Quiche and bourbon mascarpone French toast round out a successful first visit. We predict that the huge wood deck outside is going to be the “it” East Nashville beer drinking spot come spring. We think chef and owner Cooper Brunk has a good thing going here. We’ll get back for a dinner visit in a few weeks and have a full review later.

Cooper’s on Porter
701 Porter Road (corner of Eastland and Porter)
Nashville
615-739-6624
www.coopersonporter.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Simplicity at No. 308

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Simplicity at No. 308

Our first look at the new East Nashville bar No. 308 has us thinking of the ultimate retro rec room bar. Owners Alexis Soler and Ben Clemons have decorated in a clean, sleek, and spare 50’s hipster style. The lofty ceiling gives the room a wide-open and airy feel. You’ll need to put in some work getting up on the tractor seat bar stools and once up there you may want to stay a while. The bar is super-high and a dismount is best performed carefully. Luckily, the skilled and friendly staff will help you pick cocktails to sip on the lofty heights. The pisco sour has an excellent consistency. The house made syrup mixers (with on the spot carbonation) make a simple whiskey and ginger a real revelation. The drink menu is straight to the point and that seems like a blessing in these days of fifty page monsters. The small plate food line-up is also stripped down. We enjoyed far too many of those plates, ranging from expertly fried yam chips with sorghum aoili to a nicely dressed steak salad.

They’re still waiting on a beer license, so right now it’s high gravity only, a bit pricier and packing more of a wallop. As with similar establishments you can go wild and spend a bunch of dough (which we did) or pick and choose a more cost conscious route. The $5 Bukowski boilermaker is a shot of Four Roses bourbon and Carlsberg Elephant as the short glass beer chaser. That’s a damn good deal and just one of the many writer themes in this tavern ode to subversive literature. Those writers would probably feel right at home in this particular neighborhood (and especially at Dino’s). Here’s hoping No. 308 can start a new trend for the area (although please leave us Dino’s). We’ll gladly make our way back and have a full review soon.

They just put the menu up on their Facebook page. Visit the website to connect: www.bar308.com

No. 308
407 Gallatin Avenue
Nashville
615-650-7344

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why? Frequently Asked Questions

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Frequently Asked Questions

From time to time people have questions about the Nashville Restaurants blog. Here are a few answers:

1. You seem to post at 5 a.m., are you insomniacs?

We have had the blog time set for Pacific Time. This has been adjusted. Sadly though, we are often up at 5 a.m., although not usually blogging. We have a funny farm and the animals are quite demanding.

2. If Katie, the Veggie Eater, is a pesco-lacto-ovo vegetarian (which means she eats eggs, cheese and occasionally fish, but never meat) why do you only have two vegetarian restaurants listed?

We will only list a restaurant as vegetarian if the entire menu is vegetarian (and yes, we are missing one long-time Nashville favorite and hope to correct that soon). While we would love to see more entirely vegetarian restaurants in Nashville, we think the real value of the blog is in helping scout joints that have decent vegetarian options.

3. Why do you keep using the word “joint” to describe restaurants?

We have been kidnapped by a group of 50’s beat poets and it has affected our language.

4. Why does the Veggie Eater only chime in on some reviews?

The Meat Eater really digs barbecue and figures it will preserve the marriage by not forcing his wife to watch him eat a rack of ribs while she eats cole slaw.

5. Why vegetarian?

20+ plus years ago, Veggie Eater went to a large hog confinement operation in Iowa and noticed that none of the pigs had ears or tails. This is apparently a technique to prevent them from nibbling on one another due to overcrowding. The following week, she found she could not eat the stuffed pork chop before her. Veggie Eater stopped eating meat on that day (save for the exceedingly rare shrimp or scallop deviation when presented with limited options). Alas, the pig farm visit did not have the same impact on Meat Eater. Ultimately, Veggie Eater is an animal nut (see #1 above).

6. How do you maintain a marriage between a Meat Eater and a Veggie Eater?

The Veggie Eater is very understanding and will even help the Meat Eater prepare meat-based meals. The Meat Eater respects the Veggie Eater and her reasons for being vegetarian. Most of the meals we eat at home are vegetarian, except on the weekends when the Meat Eater will usually cook-up some variety of dead beast (mmm…like the West African-style pot roast last weekend). He too is an animal lover and believes that all animals should have a good life, whether they will be eaten or not. We do our best to buy local, free range, and humanely raised meat, eggs and dairy products.

7. Where do you find out about the new and interesting restaurants?

We read plenty of other food blogs. Nashville has a great food blogging community and we’re proud to be a part of that community. Scroll down the right hand side of the screen for some of our favorites. We peruse a bunch of other social media sites for ideas. We also keep track of the traditional media and the fine work done at the Nashville Scene. We appreciate the restaurant stories by Tennessean writers and wish the Tennessean would show Nancy more love, giving her reviews better placement and an opportunity for her to expand. However, the best ideas always come from you, the readers. We get tips all the time. If you have one, drop us a line at the address on the right hand side of the screen.

8. How do you keep posting every week, especially since you are visiting each restaurant twice?

What can we say? We love to eat and we enjoy exploring Nashville. It’s a win-win situation. Thanks for reading the blog and here’s to great meals in 2011!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pepperfire

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Pepperfire
2821 Gallatin Pike
Nashville
615-582-4824
www.pepperfirechicken.com

Jumping into the Nashville hot chicken business takes some guts. Prince’s continues to dominate the hot chicken scene, which forces the newcomers to put a different spin on the Nashville favorite. For those not familiar, hot chicken is spicy fried chicken. The key to Nashville hot chicken is the way you put that spice on the bird. It is often breaded, pan or deep fried, and then covered in a spicy lard sauce. But it can be breaded and covered in the hot sauce paste first and then fried. While cayenne and other peppers dominate, additional spices can be important for a depth of flavor. This is where Pepperfire stands out- they have a unique blend of spices that is well worth tasting at any heat level.

Let’s talk about that heat level first. With hot chicken, depending on your preference and heat tolerance, the level of heat can be the difference between an enjoyable meal and an eye watering trip to heartburn hell. Pepperfire comes in on the milder side of the scale. It has been said before, and I would agree, that Pepperfire hot is a Prince’s medium. That given, the levels at Pepperfire run mild, medium, hot, x hot and xx hot. So, if you want to give your taste buds a flaming workout xx hot would probably do some damage. The hot offers a pleasant and manageable burn and is a fine place to start. Now, I also suggest sampling the mild at Pepperfire at some point, because it is at this level that you can truly appreciate those interesting spices. The complex combination is almost Hungarian in style. The mild level jumbo hot wings have a great depth of flavor. You really don’t need the ranch dressing on the side. The wings themselves are meaty, juicy and a good way to get your hot chicken fix on the go. The more traditional breast quarter at hot is sweat inducing enjoyment combined with expertly cooked juicy chicken. In traditional form, it’s served on top of white bread, which is always interesting because you can see the depth of color in that sauce as it seeps into the bread. It’s a quality piece of hot chicken. There is no doubt that Pepperfire is here to compete.

The menu is blissfully simple: quarter, leg, wings or tenders for the chicken. The usual sides round out the orders. The Fried Peppercheese is the only other main menu item and it is a must-do. The Pepperfire take on grilled cheese sports cake-like bread, stuffed with cheese and then battered. A drop in the fryer produces a sinful combination of sweet decadence. It’s gooey, crisp, just a little spicy and very much like fair food. And at just $3 a shot the Fried Peppercheese may be one of the better, cheap sandwiches in town.

Owner Isaac Beard and his staff clearly like what they are doing. You’ll get a smile and plenty of heat advice if you need it. They’ve added a covered patio to the take-out stand, with a couple of plastic tables and a picnic bench. It’s pretty noisy on Gallatin Pike, but in nice weather it’s not a bad place to hang out and eat your chicken. In the winter be prepared to get things to go. There will be a short wait for your bird to be prepared, usually about 10-15 minutes, as everything is cooked to order.

A focused attention to the main product seems to be the key to Pepperfire’s success. They’re not trying to cover the entire gamut of Southern cuisine. They do one thing and they do it right. I’ll be back.

I paid $5.50 with tax for a breast quarter on one visit and $12 in total for the order of jumbo hot wings and the Fried Peppercheese on another visit.

Pepperfire Spiced Chicken on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NY Pie!

Nashville Restaurants and Food
NY Pie Lands in West Nashville

Alright, so I’m a bit of a skeptic at times. Lately though, that skepticism has been answered by a resounding slap up to the side of the head. To wit- NY Pie. I opined on these pages about the claims on their website and how I have usually been disappointed by such boasts. Not this time. NY Pie puts out some damn good pizza. The slices are wide, thin and blessed with a crispy brick oven crust, a style not unlike the New York pizza I’ve had in the past. To really do it justice you have to try the cheese first- most New York places don’t load up the toppings. You’ll find flavorful cheese and a nicely balanced tomato sauce. When you do indulge in the toppings, be prepared for quality stuff: spicy pepperoni, succulent sausage and solid ham. This is only visit number one and just first impressions. We’ll be back to sample more pizza and perhaps move on to the calzone and Stromboli. In the meantime, the word seems to be out. The place was hopping at 11:30 a.m. on a recent lunch visit. There may be chain places in town with a similar name- this is a locally grown operation.

NY Pie
6800 Charlotte Pike
Nashville West Shopping Center
Nashville
615-915-1617
www.realnypie.com