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.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek: Ifuku and Southern Bred RIP
One of the great restaurant names in Nashville is no more, and it only lasted a few short weeks. Yes, ladies and gentlemen Ifuku is no longer Ifuku. Owner Nicole Tran came up with the memorable name after taking over the former Pho Yen Hoa location at 5821 Charlotte Pike. While many of us were instantly bemused by the name, apparently the folks at the Head Start children’s center across the street were not fans. The wait staff tells us that the complaints prompted the name change to Hieu Giang. While we are bummed that we never had a chance to eat at Ifuku, we can report that they serve a good bowl of pho at Hieu Giang. The joint is billed as an Asian restaurant, but quite frankly with a menu that includes fajitas, Caesar and Greek salads, Kim Chi and Mandarin Chicken, we think they’re selling themselves short. Most of the menu however, is Vietnamese. If you haven’t heard of Ifuku and think we are crazy you can still visit their facebook page.
Southern Bred on Trinity Lane featured one of the city’s better bread basket starters and offered an elevated meat and three menu. The comfort food they served certainly lived up to the promise. This week we learned that the owners are calling it quits, at least for the brick and mortar restaurant. Owner Sharon Johnson has done catering for years and according to the Tennessean that will continue. I can still taste that country fried steak. Mmmmm. Good luck on future ventures.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek: Hot Chicken in Hendersonville
For the most part Hot Chicken places in Nashville have that designation as their primary identity. A few places though, keep it on the down low. Scoreboard Bar and Grill in Donelson serves up some mean hot chicken and yet you have to get a look at the menu to notice. Moore’s Famous Chicken in Hendersonville bills itself as a fried chicken restaurant. If you look closely you at the menu you’ll notice spicy listed as an option. Ask a few more questions of proprietor David Moore and you’ll find he serves up chicken spicy or hot. At first I think perhaps it’s just seasoning in the batter, but when it comes out it sure looks like hot chicken. And in case you’re still thinking it’s not really hot chicken take a bite: big, spicy, complex flavor (a little sweet) permeates that fry and with just enough heat to qualify. I’d give it a Prince’s mild at spicy. You’d be perfectly safe to do hot at Moore’s. If you’re in the area and want to give it a try you’ll find Moore’s tucked into a well-worn strip mall just off Main Street on Walton Ferry Road. I’m heading back for catfish and will update you on that adventure.
Moore’s Famous Fried Chicken
115 Walton Ferry Road
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek: Neighbors and Fiestas
It’s amazing how quickly the new Neighbors bar in Sylvan Park has grown comfortable on the interior. It opened in May and yet the joint feels like it’s been there for years. The staff and owners were having fun and getting ready for a busy night when we visited. They have fired up the hickory smoker out back and are turning out pulled pork and smoked wings. The pork sandwich is tender, juicy and served on a floury, quality bun. The menu is miniscule right now…just a couple of other options and some sides. They tell us they’re keeping things simple on purpose: they want to do it right. We did some sampling and were impressed. We’ll be back and probably out on that covered deck/patio, which may be one of the shadiest spots in the city and we mean that in a good way.
4425 Murphy Road
You gotta have some money to lease or buy a former Applebee’s and convert it into a Mexican restaurant. Las Fiestas on Gallatin Pike in Madison looks like a sprawling corporate affair, but from what we can tell it appears to be of local ownership. The most notable aspect of the place is the display window next to the kitchen where you can watch ladies hand rolling and grilling the tortillas fresh for service. They do up flour and corn tortillas, although expect flour unless you say otherwise. They come out piping hot, fluffy and light. The rest of the menu is pretty much your Americanized standards, although wide-ranging enough to include a few interesting possibilities. It’s definitely a good place for kids and for those fearing the Mexican hole in the walls, even if those joints often have better food and more interesting diners. We’ll get back in a few weeks and have a full review.
1557 North Gallatin Pike