Nashville Restaurants and Food
818 Palmer Place
Location is everything in the restaurant business. Salsa is breaking new ground, but wisely placed new ground. The area in between the Mercy Lounge and Cummins Station has been a bit of a no-man’s-land. Salsa, the creation of Juan Reyes and Dr. Marcos Cruz, provides a much needed shot of restaurant style for the area in both the upscale vibe and the Puerto Rican and Latin American menu.
Salsa is made for evening dining and drinking. The interior is sleek and chic. There are a few odd choices: we counted seven different types of light fixtures. The now ubiquitous barn wood (the exposed brick of 2013) also makes an appearance. The bar begs for you to come have a seat and enjoy a pina colada or a coquito (eggnog like Puerto Rican favorite). This can make a lunch visit seems a bit odd. The food makes it a worthwhile stop at any hour.
A solo visit and the choice of the day is the lunch special: fried pork and onions. There’s a delicate pan fry to the pork and even if it is a tad dry, it’s still a welcome lunch. I opt for rice with pigeon peas on the side. The rice is rich with fried plantain. It’s not a cheap lunch, coming in at $16.50 with tax and tip. Most dinner entrees range from $15-$26. Lunch sandwiches are closer to $10.
The menu offers many Caribbean classics, such as ropa vieja (stewed shredded beef), arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) and chuelta can-can (fried pork with a Puerto Rican garlic sauce). The mofongo is one of the better I have tasted in Nashville. The mashed fried green plantains are a hearty side dish and perfectly seasoned. The criollo steak sandwich is exceptional. It’s wonderfully tender. The well-marinated steak strips are served on a grilled bun with onions. Sweet corn fritters are crisp, moist and very good on their own. The remoulade is welcome for dipping. The chickpea and garbanzo bean salad is light, fresh and perfect with the mango dressing. The Puerto Rican use of chickpeas perhaps makes the hummus a better fit for the menu then you might expect. There are also a range of American offerings, including chicken wings and burgers. There are not many entrée items for veggie eaters, although a fair number of veggie friendly sides, salads and appetizers.
Veggie Eater: As noted by Meat Eater, entrees for veggie eaters are limited, but quite a few other apps, sides, and salads are available to mix and match. More recently, I spied a special which proudly noted it was veggie friendly: a Latin version of lasagna. On my visit, I went with the pita sandwich and was not certain what this would entail. It was a hearty, if a bit greasy, mix of grilled veggies, including broccoli, summer squash, cauliflower, asparagus ( little stingy on portion), tiny legumes, caramelized onions, peppers, and cheese. I paired this with the yucca mash, which was quite herby and a tad salty. There’s enough here to make me willing to accompany Meat Eater again and he also verified during his reconnaissance that they would be happy to make a Puerto Rican veggie jambalaya (not on the menu) for an entree. At an evening visit, I might have to try to develop an affinity for rum drinks, given the many varieties available.
Meat Eater: It’s nice to see an upscale Latin American restaurant in Nashville and hopefully it’s a trend that will continue. The loud salsa music and stylish space offers a nightclub-restaurant feel that should be a welcome addition to the neighborhood at night- especially when the Music City Center opens to conventions. In the meantime, help out a new joint and get down there soon. It’s not easy breaking new ground.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Nashville Restaurants and Food