Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek: Willie Mae’s Barbecue
Take a left hand turn off the Southern courthouse square and find the smoky joint decorated inside with bluegrass posters and country album covers. Sound like classic Dixie? It is and yet it’s all new at Willie Mae’s Barbecue in Springfield. Joe Tuten and Gail Norman have outfitted the joint in fine barbecue fashion. It’s smoky inside and that’s okay because it’s put to good work on the ribs. They’re finely cut beauties with a nice dark char from a Texas-style dry rub. They have a balanced hickory smoke and fine flavor. Willie Mae’s has been open a few months and is attracting quite a bit of attention in Robertson County. A lunch or early dinner visit is in order. It has to be on a weekday though. Right now they are only open Monday through Thursday 11am to 7pm and Friday 11am to 4pm. You can visit their Facebook page:
Willie Mae’s Barbecue
200 8th Avenue East
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Sunday, September 25, 2011
110 Old River Road
We’ll be up front with you from the get go- we moved this review way up in our schedule. The reason is simple: this deck has one of the better Cumberland River views in the Nashville area and, given the time of year, to fully enjoy it you’re going to have to visit soon. The May Floods of 2010 left many a business ruined. The Riverview Restaurant and Marina arose from the soggy devastation in a grand rebuilding that quite frankly is light years beyond the original. Not only did owners Walt and Lori Randolph jack up the restaurant to survive future high water, they added a huge deck, a vaulted ceiling dining room and did it all in style. The roof of the deck is almost cathedral-like in construction and finished on the upper-interior in dark wood. The result is more than pleasant al-fresco dining.
We enjoyed a crisp evening on the deck with our good friends Jerry and Kelly and a bucket of beer.
The food probably does take a bit of a backseat to the new digs. The Riverview is a marina catfish joint at heart and they do a good job for the most part. The delicate batter and fry leave the fish to do the talking. One visit finds the catfish to be well-cooked and moist and another visit has a companion declaring it a bit dry. They nail hush puppies on every visit with a slightly sweet flavor and light texture. Bobbers are a house specialty. They’re a hush puppy-like fried ball of grits, bacon, cheese and garlic. If that’s sounds heavy it’s actually not. They have a smoky and slightly spicy flavor that works. Another dining companion enjoyed them paired with garlic-wine shrimp. The menu is split between meat and fish options. The redneck taco brings together the catfish filets with chow-chow and slaw. The mix of flavor and the corn tortillas make them a winner with any name. The meat side of things includes a ribeye. It’s a decent cut and was cooked to specification. The brown sugar butter served with the baked sweet potato is a bit over the top. The sides may not get the attention they need. Baked potatoes were pronounced overcooked by most at the table. White beans were typical and boring.
Veggie Eater: This is not a veggie eater’s paradise, but I am happy to tag along with meat and fish eaters, if for nothing else than the view. There’s something quintessentially relaxing and hypnotizing about eating and drinking next to water. I could watch tug boats, barges, weekend skippers, and carp (I’m like a 5 years old kid, pronouncing, “Look, fish!!!”-you can imagine what it was like for my companions travelling with me in Ireland…) all day long and never be worried about the food. That’s a good thing because it’s slim pickings here. The menu proudly boasts that most veggie side items are slow cooked with bacon. The appetizers are meat and fish heavy. This left me with a grilled cheese sandwich and salad bar on my first visit and a loaded baked potato and salad bar on my second. I’m not sure even a five year old kid would be thrilled with the grilled cheese; it’s a single slice of American cheese not even fully melted. I’m fine with a baked potato with a little crispness to the skin, so I didn’t mind the loaded baked potato at all; not interesting, but filling. The salad bar is tiny with only traditional toppings, but I’ve never met a salad bar I didn’t like. Sometimes the veggie eater just has to take one for the team, and with surroundings like this (and reasonably priced buckets of beer), I don’t mind at all.
Meat Eater: The Riverview is located just across the Cumberland River from downtown Ashland City. It’s a half-hour drive from downtown Nashville. These folks know how to handle big crowds. We arrived at 6 p.m. on a Friday to find a packed parking lot and surprisingly a short wait. We quickly found ourselves seated and served. The waitresses on both occasions were excellent. We’ll be back and probably soon. We want another run at that deck before fall comes to a close.
We paid $25 with tax and tip for lunch and $58 for dinner and beer.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek: Farmers' Market for Dinner
You can’t beat the fun of strolling through the Nashville Farmers’ Market and figuring out dinner based on what catches your eye. This weekend it was a newcomer that inspired our Mexican night. Our first stop is usually to peruse the table vendors set up in the Market House. FireSpice is a relative newcomer. It’s run by Nelson Williams an engineer with a love of food. He sells Fire Roasted Salsa that is akin to a traditional Mexican salsa in some respects. It’s a thick, dark and smoky blend of peppers that would be familiar at many of the better taquerias in town. It’s in the finish that Mr. Williams veers off the traditional path, adding lime and brown sugar. Sweet heat is a pretty common idea these days. What makes it unique here is the complexity and depth of this salsa.
Using that salsa as a starter we were quite pleased to find the Tamale Pot folks set up in the second shed. Owners Glenda Knox Carter and Tammy Whitehouse make traditional Mississippi delta style tamales in three styles: veggie, pork and beef. They serve them hot for lunch or frozen for later. You simply pop the entire frozen bag into a pot of boiling water. They come out nicely steamed. The savory veggie version has a strong back-end heat and excellent flavor. They have been selling tamales at the Farmers’ Market since July and already have a bit of a following.
The Veggie Eater cooked up poblanos and onions for rajas with a little Greek yogurt for topping. We had a fine meal.
Our AM@FM visit (see our last review) was topped with what has become a regular and sinful stop for us at the Farmers’ Market: the Butter Cake Babe. We were pulled in with the promise of pumpkin butter cake: a mash-up of butter cake and pumpkin pie. It’s a messy and wonderful dessert. The Veggie Eater also insisted on the toffee butter cake, which is a bit more bar-like in consistency and as decadent as always. Julie Granda says that business has been quite good as of late. The Folk Festival, Night Market and various walks and runs in Bicentennial Park has made for some busy days and evenings. The Farmers’ Market was certainly hopping on this Saturday morning. It’s so good to have it running at full-steam again.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Nashville Farmers’ Market
900 Rosa Parks Blvd.
AM@FM is more than just another place to have a good meal at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. We think this latest Arnold Myint project has given the Market House a new feel. What’s so different? You sit at the tall counter on comfortable bar chairs and chat with the knowledgeable wait staff. Linen napkins and real serving-ware are laid out on the tiled bar. You watch the chef meticulously assembling a crostini. You gaze out over the bustling Market House and feel like you’re in the American equivalent of a European café. This is a real upgrade from the usual plastic tray, cafeteria-style dining that the rest of the Market House offers. Don’t get us wrong, Jamaicaway and B&C Market BBQ do a fine job with their seating, and we certainly enjoy the diverse affordable dining options. However, Arnold has taken it up a notch or two, not only with the bar itself, but with the stylish seating area nearby and the table service.
The crostini bar is the real standout thus far. They offered eight or nine different crostini options on the days we visited. Creative combinations included tapenade and local feta; andouille and goat cheese; local farm egg salad with capers and dill; and smoked turkey and chutney. They come three to an order for $6 or $7. We bite into the poached shrimp with smoked slaw and find a perfectly balanced match of tender shrimp, a little bite from whole mustard seeds, fennel and caper berries with a creamy slaw all perched on lightly toasted bread. The light toasting is significant as it helps the creation meld together. It’s an excellent start. Next up is artichoke, goat cheese and truffle; a creamy concoction with pink peppercorns and a little tart finish from an arugula topping. We’re quite happy.
The crostini bar is a great addition to the AM@FM lineup, which is founded in more of a deli-style. They have a daily selection of wraps, salads and side dishes. If you eat-in they offer a little complimentary bowl of crunchy house made chips to get you started. The smoked potato salad is spot-on in flavor with just a touch of coarse-ground mustard and smoke. The hummus naaan one day has the refreshing fresh snap of cucumber and greens, but suffers from a slightly uninspired hummus. Rosemary macaroni salad is quite good and shows the lighter touch that Myint chooses in seasoning. It all strikes us as an inventive and slightly international version of a Southern picnic.
Veggie Eater: Almost half the crostini options are veggie (ovo-lacto) friendly and the deli case options are as accommodating. The staff are knowledgeable about the ingredients used in all items served and can steer you in the appropriate direction. They are genuinely proud of their product and chime in on their favorite items (consensus regarding the smoked potato salad). I obsessed about the little red balls served atop my truffled goat cheese crostini (vaguely peppery, crispy, with a faint rose hippy flavor) and the chef was happy to respond to my query and discuss the use of pink peppercorns. Everything we sampled on our second visit was thoroughly satisfying and the faces of the other diners around us confirmed that they were having the same experience.
Meat Eater: Kudos to the Nashville Farmers’ Market folks for having the vision to expand the Market House in new directions. We look forward to what will come next.
We paid $18 with tax and tip on one visit and $20 on another visit.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Midweek: The Pharmacy and Five Points First Visit
The Holland House folks are getting ready to open their newest venture this fall. The "Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden" is located just around the corner from Holland House. It’s a stylish renovation with a huge beer garden space. The Anderson Design Group worked on the retro logo (very cool) and describe the concept on their blog as “Southwestern/German beer garden”. That certainly sounds interesting.
Pharmacy facebook page. From outward appearances and recent posts it looks like they are getting closer. It sounds like a great concept and we’re looking forward to the opening sometime this fall.
We had our first taste of the new Five Points Pizza in East Nashville. It certainly looks and feels like an East Coast pizza joint. The paper plates and napkins reinforces that feel…although, who knows, it could be a recent opening kind of thing. The pies are perhaps a tad thicker than the typical New York style, but still proudly flat and wide. Good ingredients and well-chosen herbs made for a satisfying result on our first go-round. They have a bunch of beer on tap and a number by the bottle. That combination should prove popular with Five Points partiers. The place is well-staffed and trained, all of which will be critical if the demand is what it seems to be thus far. At 11:15 a.m. this Sunday (just 15 minutes after opening) there were already 15 people putting in orders. No take-out quite yet, although that is apparently in the works. We’ll get back in a few weeks and have a review.
Five Points Pizza
1012 Woodland Street
Sunday, September 11, 2011
5532 Old Hickory Blvd.
Out with one Thai restaurant and in with another. The good news for folks in Hermitage is that Dusit Thai is a definite upgrade in quality. Owner Chutima Treesri took over the former Royal Thai location and has kept much of the décor. It’s a large, stylish dining space with tall ceilings. They’re still hustling to get the place going. The staff is limited. Just one person worked the front room on our visits and yet service was attentive and swift.
The menu is the usual Thai fare. We began with deep-fried veggies and found the tempura-like fry flavorful and the salty-sweet dipping sauce a worthy companion. The fresh rolls are wrapped up plump and filled with crisp veggies inside. Seafood curry comes sealed in foil to steam the seafood. I order medium and yet it has pretty decent heat. If you ask for hot they’ll give it to you, and that’s nice to see. The red curry has an excellent flavor. Some of the seafood was a bit overcooked. The menu promised a soup or salad with the curry and nothing materialized.
Our second visit started with Tom Kha soup. The coconut broth is deep, rich and slightly spicy. Pa-Ram is a satay-like peanut sauce served with choice of meat, tofu or veggies. The pork is tender and the creamy noodles are a standout. It’s an excellent dish.
Dusit Thai has a vegetarian section on the menu and offers most entrees and curries with veggie and tofu options.
Veggie Eater: Dusit Thai is definitely accommodating to the veggie eater. They even have a vegetarian veggie soup, a delicate affair of peas, cabbage, carrots, bean thread noodles, and tofu, flavored with lemongrass and cilantro. During our first visit, I had the Panang Curry with tofu and found the velvety sauce mildly spicy. Second time out, I opted for the Pad Kee Mau (advertised as “basil noodles” on the menu). Wide rice noodles are topped with peppers, carrots, onion, mushrooms in a moderately peppy sauce. I could in fact see the speckles of pepper flakes in my dish. What was harder to discern was the basil; seemed a bit stingy on the one ingredient for which the dish is named. Almost every single dish has a “Tofu” or “Vegetarian” option. Annoyances: the very loud beeping every time someone enters the restaurant through the front door (it’s almost jarring) and during our first visit, the soft rock station was not fully tuned and so we listened to static-y music. Second visit had the same soft rock station playing in the background, but thankfully no reception problems, allowing me to at least tune out the bad soft rock. (M.E. The door beep, necessary for the hardworking staff to know when someone has entered the restaurant, has been an issue for the Veggie Eater for some years now, at many a restaurant. The cause of her distress? Who knows. Perhaps some sort of aversive training experienced as a child).
Meat Eater: Satisfying is the best way to sum up our experience at Dusit Thai. Aside from a couple of glitches, the food, the surroundings and the service left us contented. We paid $43 with tax and tip on one visit (and for a bunch of food) and $37 on the second visit.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek: Benchmark, Five Points, and Arnold Expands
The loss of Mulligan’s Pub was considerable on Second Avenue. It was one of the few non-corporate establishments left in the District. While Benchmark, the new bar and restaurant occupying that space, seems a bit corporate on entering, we soon discovered a few unique features and actually pretty good bar food. They knocked down some walls and opened up the main room and even added a second floor. Quite frankly, it now looks like most other bars on Second Avenue. Take a look at the menu though, and you’ll notice some interesting items. Fried cheese curds captured our attention. We ordered up, awaiting disappointment, and found they were near perfect: light batter, firm and squeaky inside (yes, a good curd is usually squeaky...I know that sounds weird until you’ve had them). Staff members report that the managers are from Wisconsin and Michigan. They also have this Hawaiian thing going on with various skewered meats served, in a rather over the top manner, on what appears to be a hanging gyro contraption of some sort. The Veggie Eater appreciated the tofu offering. They have a bunch of cool Belgian beer offerings and a ton of friendly staff working the bar. Benchmark opened up just a few weeks ago and the food seems promising thus far. We’ll catch up with them in a few more weeks and have a full review.
117 Second Avenue North
There are many folks keeping an eye on the development of Five Points Pizza in East Nashville. As is the fashion these days, they’ve been updating the construction progress on their facebook page. Now they’re finally open for business. They call it East Nashville pizza with NY Style. The menu shows garlic knots and caprese salad among the starters. The thin crust pizza comes by the slice or by the pie and range out from the classic cheese and pepperoni to a bunch of specialty pies, including veggie options. We’ll have to join the rush soon to check it out. Feel free to chime in on comments if you have already visited.
Five Points Pizza
1012 Woodland Street
We haven’t been to the Nashville Farmers’ Market for a while and were pleasantly surprised to see the full extent of AM @ FM, the Arnold Myint lunch joint. As we mentioned earlier this summer the sandwiches and sides are a welcome addition to the Farmers’ Market restaurant scene. The expanded seating they have since added classes-up the Market House significantly. We’re also completely intrigued by the Crostini Bar advertised on Sunday: tapenade and local feta; andouille and goat cheese; egg, capers and dill; and smoked turkey and chutney. Mmmm.
AM @ FM
Nashville Farmers’ Market
900 Rosa Parks Blvd.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Nashville Restaurants and Food
Top 3 for Summer 2011
It’s been a slow period for new brick and mortar restaurants. The food truck craze is understandable. The mobile stands are less of an investment and less of a risk. Plus if you don’t like the location, you just pick up and move. Hopefully, the more successful food trucks will be able to develop into permanent locations. We do have a few new sit down restaurants to plug in our Top 3 for Summer 2011.
1. The Wild Hare
An inventive and yet comforting menu combined with solid execution make this West Nashville eatery a promising newcomer. There’s plenty of experience at the Wild Hare, both in ownership and in the kitchen. The restaurant has become quite popular, very quickly, and that’s never easy on a new business. We think they’ll handle the crowds and keep growing. The quality and freshness of ingredients stand out in nearly every dish we sampled. Pizzas, salads, sandwiches and sides provide a good variety for almost any taste and enough to give the vegetarian some options as well. We look forward to seeing how that menu grows.
2. Pig and Pie
Pig and Pie is a welcome addition to the local barbecue scene. It takes skill to turn out smoky and tender beef brisket and everything at this West Nashville restaurant gets that kind of attention. It’s no wonder, owner John Hamilton has been doing barbecue for years, and smoked meat has been a fascination in his family for several generations. This may be my new go-to spot for barbecue in Nashville proper.
We’re always up for a new twist on the classic meat and three. Quite frankly it doesn’t even have to be new; just top-notch ingredients and care in the kitchen makes a difference. The folks at Luna on Franklin Pike in the Melrose neighborhood clearly sweat the details. The dishes they turn out are quality southern fare with a nod towards Yankee sensibilities. They’re equally at home with Chicken parmesan and bacon specked green beans. Those green beans are some of the better the Meat Eater has sampled in some time. The only downsides: the menu is teeny-tiny and once stuff sells out- that may be it for the day. We look forward to seeing how they grow.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Restaurant week starts on Monday...it's a great opportunity to support Nashville independent restaurants. It's promoted by the Nashville Originals, a group of independent restaurant owners. Restaurant week brings special offers at restaurants all over town, many for $20 or $30.You can find a list of participating restaurants on their website: http://www.nashvilleoriginals.com/
When you support independent restaurants you support local flavors, originality and choice.