Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Jam Coffee House

Nashville Restaurants and Food
The Jam Coffee House
1210 Wedgewood Avenue
Facebook page

The Newton family has transformed this small storefront in a tiny strip mall a stone’s throw from the Belmont campus. The retro sixties DIY décor is both warm and whimsical. It’s just far enough from the edge of campus to make it a pioneering project for the Jam Coffee House. One year in and things seem to be going well. Sisters Bethany and Maile Newton spend most of their time smiling behind the counter and that’s always a good sign. The ladies serve coffee roasted locally by Beck’s Farm House Coffee and Tea. Hoist a mug and find a good seat at the bar or in one of the mix and match tables and chairs. Some Louis Armstrong on the stereo and the sound of laughter from the counter mingle well.

They serve a limited selection of sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. It’s certainly enough for a meal and unlike some coffee joints, these sandwiches are lovingly created to order behind the counter. The breakfast sandwich is a hearty affair on toasted Provence sourdough bread. Egg, pesto, avocado and Dubliner cheese meld together for a warm and satisfying sandwich. It’s simple and probably better for it.

The Provence rosemary olive oil bread is the toasty foundation for the Mama Mia lunch sandwich. Chicken, bruschetta and Dubliner cheese are crowned by bacon. It’s a messy treat, full of flavor thanks to pop from ripe cherry tomatoes and a generous dose of balsamic vinegar. They serve cashews on the side, a nice twist.

Bakery items come from Lucy’s Kitchen. These include a range of muffins, scones, and cupcakes. The Break-Up Cake was perhaps a bit too far over the top: a dense fudge-like version so incredibly rich that one piece nearly killed us.

Veggie Eater: Breakfast and lunch menus seem to make a conscious choice to include a veggie item. The menus are designed daily and are tailored to what locally sourced foods are available. The Veggie Reggie allows choice of veggies, choice of cheese, and choice of bread. You can slap on avocado (big, thick slices) for an extra charge. My version included carrots, zucchini, red onions, and spinach. This is drizzled in balsamic and Dijon. I opted for flax seed for the added bonus of nuttiness. It’s a wonderful combination of textures and flavors. The next time out, we went for breakfast and I had the delightful breakfast tacos. The corn tortillas are lightly grilled, stuffed with perfectly cooked and fluffy scrambled eggs, a smattering of shredded cheese, large chunks of sliced avocado, and a homemade taco sauce, that has a bit of heat and a little bit of smokiness. It’s a wonderful way to start the morning while lounging about and reading the paper (OK, so our local Gannett cloned paper takes only five minutes to read; Jam has plenty of other reading material available to fill the void).

Meat Eater: They keep fairly long hours, allowing the place to be a breakfast, lunch and even an early dinner stop. Just check the Facebook page first for the latest hours. We like the laid-back atmosphere of Jam Coffee House. It’s much more relaxing than the big coffee houses in town. Sometimes smaller is better.

The Jam Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 17, 2012

West End Café - First Look

Nashville Restaurants and Food
West End Café - First Look

There’s been a serious breakfast and quality sandwich shortage in the West End area for some time now. The West End Café opened three weeks ago to fill the void. It’s an upscale diner in concept and menu, with an emphasis on breakfast and lunch. The good news is that they stay open until 9 p.m. for dinner, including some small plates. The sandwiches we tried hit the spot. Hot and tender roast beef paired with brie and horseradish aioli is a simple and yet effective combination on lightly toasted and thin-cut sourdough. This isn’t a “stuff the sandwich full” type of joint. Expect carefully chosen ingredients and moderation in construction. The house made chips are big, thick and flavorful. A spring mix salad was fresh and crisp. They serve wine, beer and have bar selections as well. We spotted a number of folks doing mimosas on a recent Sunday. Breakfast is primarily the usual line-up of egg choices. Check out the web site for complete menus.

The West End Café should be a prime hang-out for hung-over college students and those of us older folks just looking for some good food. It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood at 17th and West End. We’ll be back again soon and have a full review.

West End Café
1720 West End Avenue

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Butterbean and Santo Nino

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Two Reasons to Visit Gallatin on a Weekday

I had my first look at the new Butterbean Bakery and Bistro in Gallatin last week. It’s nestled in a stately older home a couple of blocks off the courthouse square. The concept of a vegetarian and gluten-free restaurant in Gallatin seems a bit odd, but once you visit, you realize that the overall effect is one of a warm and comforting lunch spot, with a touch of new-Southern homespun charm. The waitresses sport artistic tattoos and on closer inspection at least one is religious themed. You sit at a slightly wobbling table and examine the specials for the day, hand-written on little note cards. A cherry tomato Panini is flavorful thanks to nicely pressed gluten-free bread topped with Dubliner cheese and lovingly roasted red peppers and zucchini. It’s a good sandwich and yet perhaps outclassed by a cup of silky and rich potato- leek chowder. The broccoli pecan, golden raisin salad is not only sweet and tangy, but vegan as listed on the menu. They offer to switch any dairy options to dairy-free for vegans.

They serve small portions for the money, but the food is well-crafted and worth the expense. On the way out I sampled a bit of an excellent raspberry bar of some sort and realized that I need to sample more of the expansive display of gluten-free bakery products.

Now for the sad truth for Nashville vegetarians- right now they are only open for lunch and on weekdays. Perhaps that will change with a little nudging. It would be worth a visit to their Facebook page to show a little encouragement.

112 College Street
Facebook page

If you do make the trip to Gallatin there is another stop I recommend. Santo Nino de Atocha Tortilleria is located in a strip mall at 720 Nashville Pike, on the way towards downtown. Just take the Vietnam Veteran’s exit 14, head down to Nashville Pike and take a left. It’s a couple of miles down the street on the left coming from Nashville. They make fresh corn tortillas daily. You can watch the machine at work from the window. While the tortillas are good the corn tortilla chips are even better: hearty, crunchy and with just the right amount of salt. They use canola oil to cook the chips. It’s a tiny storefront with just tortillas, chips, corn husks and some frozen tamales for sale. It would make a good two-fer with Butterbean.

Santo Nino de Atocha Tortilleria
720 Nashville Pike

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last Minute Valentine's Day Ideas

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Last Minute Valentine's Day Ideas

Okay, so you blew it. You didn't make dinner reservations for Valentine's Day and now your significant other is going to be sad. A couple of weeks ago we gave our ideas for places that you probably need reservations (scroll down) and while there still might be the odd reservation or two available out there (and by odd we mean midnight or 3pm) for the most part last minute folks will need to think outside the box. Might we suggest one of the mom and pop Mexican joints in town? We have a bunch of reviews if you click on the Mexican section on the right hand side of the screen. Sure, they're not fancy by any means, but they can be quite a bit of fun. And who knows...combined with some Kroger flowers and an Olive and Sinclair chocolate bar (click here to find a location selling Olive and Sinclair) you might just get out of hot water. In fact, any of the better Hispanic spots could be fun...El Salvadoran, Honduran etc. Anyway, best of luck and Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Edley’s Bar-B-Que

Nashville Restaurants and Food Edley’s Bar-B-Que
2706 12th Avenue South

Edley’s Bar-B-Que is off to a smoky good start. The crowds are flocking to the new 12 South restaurant and for one primary reason: these folks know their meat. Take a bite of the brisket: smoky and tender with just a little fat and bit of charred rub for flavor. Paired with a grilled, toasty bun, mild, tangy sauce and a pickle and you have a truly excellent sandwich. The brisket test is important- so many places abuse the cut by overcooking and drying it out. Launch into the pulled chicken and you have another winning combo. This time the smoky (thanks to white oak) and moist chicken is accompanied by a flavorful white sauce. The minced pulled pork also proves to be smoky and juicy. My dining companion Ben pronounces the catfish to be thickly bread, crunchy and tasty. There isn’t a slouch in the bunch. Right now they’re only doing ribs at dinner and that will call for a return trip. Wings, turkey, sausage and shrimp round out the main items. Check the specials board each day for creative sandwiches.

You’ll find a revolving line-up of sides also gracing that specials board. The regulars include mac and cheese, which is sticky and cheesy and perhaps lacking a bit in the seasoning department. The baked beans make up for the slight with a spicy, tangy flavor and a variety of beans for a fun texture. And those beans go miniature for the bean salad. It’s a unique blend of black beans, corn and diced peppers with a subtle and yet pleasing flavor. The pork chili is primarily pulled pork sauced savory and spicy with just a few bits of tomato and a couple of beans to remind you that this is chili. It’s a really good special on this day. Grilled cakey corn bread is well worthy of the plate.

Owners Will and Catharine Newman clearly did their homework and built the joint with the growing neighborhood in mind. The Edley’s feel is upscale road house. There’s the usual barbecue joint plank wood and loud rock and roll. The difference here is that some of that wood actually comes from an old Tennessee barn for an authentic heft and style. The full-bar seems a bit out of place at lunch, but one can imagine it making plenty of sense for the dinner crowd, especially on the weekend and even more so with the 11 p.m. closing time. The deck overlooking 12th Avenue will likely be popular for people watching once the weather warms up. The staff is fun and knowledgeable and there already is a pride evident when they talk about the food. They don’t hesitate to tell you how long something has been off the smoker and that’s appreciated. They also stress that they only smoke meat for the day, avoiding the day after nastiness that some folks in town ply on early diners. I arrived at 11 a.m. one day to find them almost fully up to speed in the offerings, fresh off the smoker.

There’s plenty of marketing platitudes on their website, not the least of which is the proclamation that they will be a “Nashville institution.” Of course the big question with barbecue is consistency. Great places manage to turn out quality cuts of meat each and every day, year after year. If Edley’s can keep it going, the location and the food should keep them quite busy and who knows, institution may follow.

I paid $13 with tax and tip on one visit and $12 on another visit.

Edley's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nashville Valentine’s Day Suggestions 2012

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Nashville Valentine’s Day Suggestions 2012

It’s time to start making those reservations. Here are some ideas for Valentine’s Day dining in Nashville 2012.

1. Table 3

They’ve had fits and starts at Table 3 due to the fire, but the place is back in business and seems to be doing quite well. It’s a warm and comfortable dining room thanks to dark wood and plenty of nooks and crannies. That makes for romantic dining atmosphere. While the menu isn’t particularly vegetarian friendly, the Veggie Eater did find enough to make her happy during our last visit. White Truffle Risotto is a highlight. The cheeseboard has a solid selection. A rich Croque Madame with grilled ham and gruyere helped to accent the French bistro vibe. They will have the regular dinner menu for Valentine’s Day. Another option is to pick up food to-go in the Market. They plan Valentine’s specials there and chocolate gift boxes, in case you have to do last minute shopping.

Table 3
3821 Green Hills Village Drive (Green Hills Mall)
Web site

2. The Silly Goose

Chef Roderick Bailey goes well beyond the inventive couscous and sandwich regular menu for a four course Valentine’s Day prix fixe menu. There are vegetarian options at each course. The menu is posted online and we’ve been eyeing the curried sweet potato soup and the roasted beet and butternut squash Napoleon. If you haven’t been to Silly Goose yet, you need to go. And even for regulars the Valentine’s menu is probably a bit of a departure from the dishes you have had before. We heard the reservations filled up quickly last year, so make sure you get yours in. The good news is that with the expanded dining area they have more tables available.

Silly Goose
1888 Eastland Avenue
Web site
Our previous review

3. Holland House

Holland House has become our go-to cocktail and small plate spot in town. Along with another favorite, No. 308, they manage to maintain a laid back East Nashville vibe despite careful attention to those cocktails and the food. When they get busy you should be prepared to wait a bit between cocktails (probably not a bad idea anyway). The bartenders take their time crafting each order and usually chat a bit with the guests. It’s personalized service, but can seem a bit slow at times. That said, we have always had a good experience. It’s a romantic spot for pleasant conversation and hand-holding if you wish. No word back from them on any special menus. Something tells me the ownership is a little busy with a certain popular project down the street. We’ve even used Holland House as a back-up spot recently when wait times at the other joint got too long. It’s a bargain at happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with drink and food specials.

Holland House
935 West Eastland
Web site
Our previous review