Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Drifters Update, New Arnold and Food Trucks

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Drifters Update, New Arnold and Food Trucks

We appreciate it when readers give us a heads up about a changed or revamped menu at a restaurant we have reviewed. Restaurants develop over time and sometimes those developments deserve a second look on our part. Thus we did the East Nashville Five Points bar hop last weekend and made a visit to Drifters. The reader tipped us off to the fact that Drifters is now actually smoking their barbecue. The original incarnation of the menu featured barbecue staples: brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken. However, the cooking method was a bit unusual- a slow roasted method done in a cook and hold oven made by a company called Alto-Shaam. They may still use the oven, but they are quick to point out the smoked meats. The difference is appreciated. The juicy ribs have a solid flavor. The pulled pork is a noticeable improvement with taste accompanying the moist meat. The Johnny cakes served with the barbecue are very good and studded with corn kernels.

Matt Charette and crew have also expanded the commitment to vegetarians with a number of new offerings: a fried tofu sandwich, veggie burger, barbecue veggie burrito and even a vegan burrito. They have even kept the barbecue tofu entrée on the menu. With all these choices you would figure the Veggie Eater would branch out, but her heart was set on the barbecue nachos.

Veggie Eater: I promise that next time I’ll branch out to another item, but I remembered the barbeque nachos to be among the best bar food nachos in Nashville and I remembered correctly. The chips are fresh fried. There is now an option to select black beans as a protein and the chips are heaped generously with beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese, and the Texas barbeque sauce. I would come back for these alone, not to mention the additional veggie items on the menu. Of note, we are told the veggie burger is made on premise.

Meat Eater: The patio space has also greatly expanded, making this an excellent outdoor dining destination. We’ll add this update to the old review and remember if you think a restaurant deserves another look make sure to let us know.

In other news, Arnold Myint will be opening a new eatery in the Nashville Farmers Market. There is a big sign inside the market announcing the new venture as “gourmet grab and go.” Sounds like a great new addition to the Farmers Market line-up. We’re still waiting for the new Asian restaurant, announced some time ago, to open.

We agree with the Nashville Scene folks  that it’s tough to keep up with the burgeoning Nashville food truck options. There’s a new Philly Cheesesteak truck and Barbie’s burgers, first reported with glee by Lannae Long. The Scene points to hope in keeping up with the barrage of mobile food joints- a new blog called Nashville Food Trucks: http://nashfoodtrucks.wordpress.com/ 

They offer the locations of several food trucks each day- a great service. They also have short postings on new food trucks. We wish them the best of luck with the new blog- it’s a much needed addition to the Nashville food blogging world.

We have been watching to see if the state of Tennessee would put restaurant inspection scores back up on the web. It appears the Department of Health has done so. You can now find the searchable database at: http://dogwood.healthspace.com/tdh

We have also updated the link on the right hand side of the screen. We also have a link there for the Metro Nashville inspection score database. Just please remember that scores alone are not enough to judge the safety of a restaurant, knowing the exact problem is important. In the state version you can click to find the specific citations and perhaps more importantly the history of the scores.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

El Tapatio 1 and 2

Nashville Restaurants and Food
El Tapatio 1
4801 Nolensville Rd.
Nashville
615-835-4419

El Tapatio 2
Nashville
3611 Nolensville Rd.
615-445-7781

There’s a bazillion taquerias on Nolensville Road in Nashville and they seem to change monthly. The joint you loved for the melty al pastor tortas could have new management, or it could be a used car lot. A new spot offering up awesome pambazo could crop up overnight and be gone two weeks later. The restaurants that do linger over the years often have specialties to round out the typical line-up of tacos and tortas. The El Tapatios, 1 and 2, are just a few miles from one another, and each is worth a visit.

You’ll notice the smoker puffing away on most days at both locations and that’s for good reason. The El Tapatio folks know chicken. Pollo al carbon is grilled chicken. The al carbon part simply means that it’s cooked on coals. They keep those charcoal grills jumping with flame, and best of all they know how important a nice rub and careful char can be for chicken. The pollo is excellent: moist, smoky and tasting very much of the coals. At Number 1, the half-chicken is a crazy-big mound of chopped pollo pieces and a bargain at $6.75. The pico de gallo is fresh and a peppy foil for the chicken. You’re supposed to rip that chicken up and make your own pollo tacos. Sadly, at Tapatio 1 the mediocre beans and rice are not up to the task. Even the tortillas are dry and lifeless on this day. No worries, the bird is a meal in and of itself.

El Tapatio 1 is basically a taco truck with a small dining room next door. We’re not sure if the place is ever heated correctly, but the space heater was not up to the job on a cold winter day and everyone was eating lunch with their coats on. Number 1 does seem to take its Tortas seriously offering up pierna (pork leg) and salchicha (hot dog) versions as part of a robust torta line-up.

El Tapatio 2 is much more restaurant than taco truck. There’s an order counter and a well-worn, much-abused dining room. This place also has the spotlight on that charcoal chicken, but they offer a bigger line-up that includes seafood and sincronizadas (an overstuffed quesadilla with tortillas on each side, like buns on a sandwich.) The stand-out items for us though, are the special plates. This grill based set of dishes could be described as a Mexican fry-up. The playfully named Que Me Vez (what are you looking at?) is a grill-up of chopped steak, bacon, pork, pineapple mounded up and topped with a layer of melted cheese. This is certainly not for the dieters. It is however delicious and a nice twist for taqueria food.

The smoky rojo sauce has great depth and a real whack, and even the verde sauce at Number 2 is spicy. Salty and creamy guacamole has plenty of cilantro and comes served with hot fresh-fried chips. The side items at Number 1 are limited and not as good.

Veggie Eater: El Tapatio 1 does not have much for the veggie eater, and El Tapatio 2 not much more. El Tapatio 1 is really just a food cart with inside space to meet food code regulations demanding plumbing. This menu is primarily meat and seafood, but they were happy to accommodate a quesadilla with beans and rice; not terribly interesting. Although El Tapatio 2 has only 1 veggie item, the one item they offer, the Alambre Vegetariano, rocks and is worth returning for. It’s kind of a fajita-y affair (minus the dreaded MSG); lots of grilled veggies, which are waiting for you to assemble with the accompanying sides. It is a wonderful concoction of mushrooms, peppers, onions, tomatoes, nopales, cheese, and their stealth ingredient, pineapple. The veggies are grilled to perfection and then broiled to produce an ooey-gooey delight. For the veggie eater, they may be a one trick pony, but I’ll happily ride the pony again at El Tapatio 2.

Meat Eater: It’s kinda bizarre to have two restaurants with the same name and ownership and have them be so different. While there are some weaknesses at both locations, we’ve ignored the El Tapatios for far too long. Those skillet dishes and the pollo al carbon are reasons to return. We paid $27 with tax and tip on one visit and $21 on another visit.

Number 1: El Tapatio #1 on Urbanspoon

Number 2: El Tapatio #2 on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Midweek Odds and Ends: Goose Expansion, Closings and Barbecue

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek Odds and Ends: Goose Expansion, Closings and Barbecue

The Silly Goose in East Nashville is expanding. The couscous inspired sandwich joint has been a big hit and they need more room. They tell us they're taking over a space next to the restaurant and hope to have the expansion work done by June. If you haven't been there yet you should check it out. Silly Goose is one of the most creative lunch spots in the city.

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2009/12/silly-goose.html

Longtime reader, and restaurant scout, Ken notes that the Havana Grill in Madison has been closed for some time. I tried calling this week and the phone is disconnected. Ken also found that Rincon Caribeno on Bell Road appears to be closed. The phone has been disconnected and the website is no longer in service.

It was a windy Saturday morning at the outdoor opening of the West Nashville Farmers Market. The tents were literally blowing away in the gusts. The market is set up closer to the library right now and organizer Sean Siple tells us that’s a spring location. They will move back to the other side of the library, and under the trees, in May. They had a number of vendors on hand for opening say, including a new business from the owners of Alfresco Pasta. Clear Creek Smokehouse offers hickory smoked St. Louis Style ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken. It’s vacuum packed and ready for serving or freezing. The pork showed off a fine smoke flavor and a light seasoning. You can visit them at http://www.clearcreeksmokehouse.com/ The website is pretty much a placeholder at this point. They do have an e-mail address if you want to contact them for more info. Otherwise, get out to the West Nashville Farmers Market on Saturday and tell them Kate and Eric said hello.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Los Gordos- First Look

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Los Gordos- First Look

Sunday lunch turned into a bit of an adventure when the place we had intended to visit decided not to open on time. We took a drive, looking for a new joint to try. We were almost to the end of the Nolensville strip when Los Gordos appeared. It’s across the street from the La Hacienda Market in the building that used to house the Flatrock Café. The front sign calls the place a “Hispanic Restaurant.” The owner is from Honduras and many of the specialties are Honduran.

The first visit reveals great flavors and a nice change of pace. Take the Honduran tacos- they’re tortillas fried-up super crisp (much like a Mexican flauta) bathed in cabbage (a slaw called repollio in Honduras), onion and a red sauce reminiscent of a delicate sweet and sour sauce. The dark meat chicken inside is hearty and combined with the crunch of those tortillas, and the sweet of the red sauce, the tacos are awesome. It’s unlike anything else we have had in town. Baleadas are a Honduran snack food and served here as puffy tortillas stuffed with egg, beans, cheese and whatever else you want. A fine dish on its own and made remarkable by some of the best house made tortillas we have had in Nashville. They’re puffed up, incredibly soft and hot off the press. In fact, we had to wait for them to come out of the kitchen- one by one. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. They’re still settling in, at least in terms of decor, having only been open for two weeks. The space needs some work to say Honduras and not coffee shop. We’ll be back and dreaming of those tortillas until then.

Los Gordos
2624 Nolensville Pike
Nashville
615-891-4844

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Top 3 (and one bonus) for winter 2010-2011

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Top 3 (and one bonus) for winter 2010-2011

A cold, snowy winter is yielding to a lovely spring. We take a moment to spotlight the best new restaurants, which warmed us up during the winter of 2010-2011. It’s been a good season for food in Nashville. Oh, and we have one addendum that we couldn’t leave out…

1.   Cooper’s on Porter

A deft hand in the kitchen and a cozy atmosphere in the dining room make this joint a great new bar and restaurant for East Nashville. The subdued lighting, wide-ranging beer selection and comfortable booths fit the bill for a Friday night. The straightforward menu line-up is enjoyable and creative, especially in the selections with a beer and booze twist. The seasonal salad is a fine example: Stone Smoked Porter beer glaze, endive, apple, spiced pecans and blue cheese, and putting it officially over the top: Benton’s bacon. The brunch menu shows plenty of promise, as well. We can still taste the bourbon mascarpone French toast.

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2011/03/coopers-on-porter.html

2.   No. 308

Another fabulous addition to East Nashville drinking and dining, No. 308 takes cocktails seriously, while managing to keep things laid back and reasonably priced. Make sure you try a drink concoction with the house made sodas- whiskey and ginger is a revelation, a simple vodka tonic is smoother than the usual and the whiskey and cola is excellent. It’s fun to watch the bartenders put them together in a process half-chemistry experiment and half -showmanship. Make sure you also take part in the small, but well crafted, food menu. Pumpkin raviolis have a sweet, creamy sauce and a savory filling. Thai chicken wings are a stand-out: plump grilled wings in a spicy sauce with just a hint of sweet.

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2011/02/no-308.html

3.   NY Pie

Ah, pizza, a dish with a million different styles. NY Pie does the NY version justice with floppy, crispy dough and superb ingredients. This isn’t fancy pizza, or authentic Italian, by any means. It’s supposed to be street pizza and they do that well. Try the sublime cheese before you venture forth into other toppings. The calzones and even the salads get props for both quality ingredients and well executed preparation. About the only downside is the size of the West Nashville joint- it fills up fast. We think spring and summer crowds will spill over onto the little patio next door, making for a first-rate, sunny lunch spot.

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2011/01/ny-pie_30.html

Bonus:

Okay, now we violate the rules. The Turnip Truck Urban Fare in the Gulch opened last year and yet we can’t leave it out of a top 3 list. We hit the hot and cold bar several times this winter and even at the end of a Friday night the food was still top notch. We would like to give it a special designation, because we think it is perhaps the highest quality cheap eats in Nashville. We never pay more than $10 per person for our plate of food. You can sample your way across the globe. A recent night yielded: herbed chicken, a red pepper quiche, hummus, and spicy tom kha gai soup. Damn, now that’s a dinner.

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2011/02/turnip-truck-urban-fare-in-gulch.html