Monday, November 17, 2008

Marche’ Artisan Foods – 11.07.08

Irony hung thick in the air as we entered the door of of today’s lunch spot and spied this sign awaiting our arrival.    
It is almost as though the man upstairs had been reading our mail.  Nashville Eats It’s ABCs  was out on a special birthday edition of our alphabetical lunch saga as  tomorrow is Eddie’s FOURTIETH birthday.  Eddie got to pick out any restaurant staring with the letter M and he wisely choose Marche’s Artisan Foods for the very last lunch of his 30s.  But before we get down to the brass tacks of our food extravaganza, let’s take a moment for you to get you know Eddie a little better, shall we?  
In the tradition of banal, myspace profiles, here is a Q&A snapshot of our fairly reserved and always frugal Eddie….    

Music: Sarah McLaughlin 
Movie: Tombstone 
Book: The Icarus Agenda by Robert Ludlum 
TV: The Office 
Hero: My grandpa  (both of them, actually) 
Who I’d Like To Meet: Tiger Woods 
Hometown: Albany, NY 
Height: 6’ 2’ 
Smoke; no 
Drink: no 
Children: more than 4 
Education: Canadian community college, eh? 
Favorite childhood activity: riding bikes 
Favorite color: silver 
Sport played: Basketball 
Favorite Nice Dinner Out: Cheesecake Factory 
Junk Food: Peanut Butter M&Ms 
Best Thing About Turning 40:  gray facial hair 
Can’t Stand The Thought Of: listening to the girl from Sugarland sing (Jennifer Nettles)     

And now that the world knows Eddie a bit better, here are our thoughts on Marche’ Artisan Foods…   

Marche has become one of my favorites by far.  It's the closest thing to a European café' that you'll find in Nashville.  I haven't been able to find something to complain about in all the times that I've been there...and that's a rare thing for me.   I went with our server's recommendation and got the Roasted Butternut Squash Bread Pudding that came with a spinach salad that was topped with a warm hazelnut vinaigrette.  Bread pudding for lunch sounded a little strange...but was one of the best lunches I've had in a long time!  The best way I can find to describe it is...3 parts savory to 1 part sweet...all parts freakin' good!  (My mouth is watering as I type this)  And for only $8...I thought it was a deal.   It's also worth mentioning that they've got a great breakfast menu and one of the best cups of coffee that I've had.   Check it out...tell them Hank sent you.  They'll reply..."Who is Hank?!?"...and you'll say..."I don't know!".  Then there will be an awkward silence.  At this point...feel free to talk about the weather, the economy or politics...those are always good conversation fillers.   

For me, Marche’ will always be the place where Jack White first had the opportunity to shake my hand.  (lucky devil)  But besides that, Marche’ is certainly now (and hopefully, will always be) my favorite breakfast place of all-time in Nashville. This is the one place that my Williamson County friends are truly envious of.  Great, imaginative food, consistently good service and a panoramic view of Main Street…  what could be better?  In Nashville, not a whole lot.  Other than Crema, this is the place I try and schedule the bulk of my morning meetings so as to enjoy the company, atmosphere and food.

For lunch today I had the Boar’s Head Hot Roast Beef Sandwich.  It was great.  And by great, I mean awesome.  What else do I need to say?  I suppose if I were forced to make a critique about lunch, I would have preferred that the baguette be toasted, but that would have been the icing on the cake.  But the cake was delicious.  And by cake, I mean the roast beef sandwich.

One request for Margot though,  please bring back the poached eggs on creamy-tomato-polenta.  I’ve tried to recreate this at my house (came somewhat close) but I really need this back on the menu.  Seriously.  Best breakfast ever...
Oh, and happy birthday Eddie!  You’re getting OLD.   


Thanks Eddie for that illuminating review.  And that does it for another installment of Nashville Eats It’s ABCs.  Next time won’t you eat with…. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lil Cees – 10.29.08

What happens when you arrive at the letter L, wonder where to eat lunch AND aren’t really in the mood for Mexican food?  You freak out, that’s what.  And frantically scour the phone book + internet for the most obscure restaurant possible that doesn’t start with La, Las or Los.  Not an easy task, friends.  But it is possible.  And the possibility that emerged was a little-known-to-us East Nashville soul food eatery on Douglas Street named Lil Cee’s.  And here is the verdict…       

I really liked Lil’ Cee’s!  Not because it was in a swanky building in a primetime location, not because a fancy menu, not because it was it was the most perfect dining experience ever.  I liked it because it was REAL.  That was their X factor.  It trumped the fact that it wasn’t the cleanest place in the world (health score of 82...not bad...not great)...that they didn’t have the first 2 things I tried to order off the menu...and that the soft drinks were paid for at the register and then bought out of a pop machine (weird).  None of that was a concern of mine...because as I was sitting in there watching the steady line of neighbors coming in to hit me that Lil Cee is making good food for the people that he lives and works with.  That’s a pretty great thing!  I got the baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans w/ fried cornbread.  The chicken had a great flavor, as did the green beans (it tasted like there may have been some brown sugar in there).  The fried cornbread was pretty awesome was basically a cornbread donut...which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.  Overall...if I found myself in that part of Nashville during lunch hour again...I’d go back.   

I was in the mood for some comfort food and I must say, Lil Cee's was surprisingly comforting.  The meatloaf and mashed potatoes were fresh and flavorful, and the portions were quite generous for the price... a great value.  Although the building looks a little run-down, the tables and chairs were very clean.  The owner was real friendly and made us all feel welcome. 
This is the kinda place that I like to pull up to. An unassuming, gray cinderblock exterior that houses who-knows-what-kind-of-food on the inside.  We walked in the door to find run-of-the-mill interior, BET blaring on the TV overhead and a small but eager line of folks moving down the steam table to get their grub on.  This place is not unlike a place like Monell’s Express on 8th Ave South as far as the low-rent vibe goes, but much better food.  Lil Cee’s employees were of the friendly but no-nonsense sort and the owner and/or manager made note that we were evidentially not regulars and asked how we found the place.  (The phone book, said we.) 
I ordered the fried chicken, red beans and turnip greens, all of which were good.  Not mind blowing, not lousy, but good.  Solid.  I also ordered the grape drink out of one of those convenience mart type juice fountains.  It seemed appropriate for my meal somehow.  So while everything was good and tasty, there one was super-great part of my meal.  The hot water cornbread!  This freakin’ cornbread rocked my world and was the second best I’ve ever tasted (first place goes to Nero’s Grill’s famous corn cakes in Green Hills..).  Lil Cee’s does cornbread RIGHT.  High-five, thumbs up, five stars.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ken’s Sushi & Japanese Restaurant- 10.16.08

Here is the latest installment of Nashville Eats It’s ABCs.  Coming right at you with no apologies and no regrets.  The straight talk express is chugging it’s way into the station and taking no prisoners.  All we can do is hope for change.  Spare change, that is. To feed our bellies.  So today we’ve arrived at the letter K.  
Friends, may we introduce you to Ken’s Sushi?  Thank you, we will.   

This is the true confession of a self-described “adventure eater”….  I have been a lazy eater of late and feel like I have lost my edge.  I used to keep notes of strange little restaurants that I’d drive past in hopes to drag Hank and Eddie off to some far away culinary land and taste the bounty of the unknown eatery.  But that seems likes like the distant past. These past few months I’ve been all about the quick, easy, painless and bland lunch.  Maybe I’ve had too much on my mind lately.  Or maybe it is that I still remember that mystery illness from that dad-blame Indian buffet in England …  (probably the later).  But surprisingly, Ken’s Sushi sounded like a fine idea for lunch today.    

I’ve been to Ken’s probably a dozen times before.  It is one of those places that you either love or vehemently don’t love.  The vibe and décor is less than appealing.  Cheap chairs, bad lighting, linoleum floor and not particularly inviting.  Some folks claim that is it inexpensive and a good bargain for great sushi.  Well, I don’t really agree or disagree.  Let’s just say that I’m a moderate as it pertains to Ken’s.    

Today I went “all-in’..  and going “all-in” at a sushi place means flaunting my love and ability to eat slabs of raw fish in front of people who shudder and wince at the thought.  Namely Eddie. (Hah!) I ordered the sashimi and received squid, tuna, salmon, yellowtail and some other thing that I’ve had multiple times but never remember the name of.  
The food was good.  However, the setting was less than good. So, if you want good, quick, dependable sushi for lunch, Ken’s might fit the bill.  If you’re looking for great sushi and a great vibe during lunch, there are better.  Ken’s = passable.    

Sidenote:  A few days ago when hanging out at my regular morning coffee haunt (Crema – Nashville’s BEST coffee shop), I was introduced to Jim Ridley of the illustrious Nashville Scene.  This is one good guy so I wanted to give a shout-out to Jim and say thanks for his fine work in the field of culinary journalism.  I can only hope to have his job one day... (hint hint)       

This was my first visit to Ken’s Sushi in the Vandy neighborhood.  This was my last visit to Ken’s Sushi in the Vandy neighborhood.  Ok...the only thing I could think about while sitting in the restaurant was how in the world this place got a health score of 89!?!  The floors were filthy...probably hadn’t been washed in months!  The back dining area, where we were seated, seemingly doubled as a storage area with clutter spilling out from behind a partition wall...and while walking out I couldn’t help but notice the dirty chest freezer behind the sushi bar.  I’m sure I could go on...but you get the picture.  I’m not asking for perfection when it comes to cleanliness...but please put forth a little effort.  It’s really not that hard!   I’ll get off my soapbox for a second and talk about the food.  

I got a California roll, a spicy tuna roll and water to drink.  It was fine...probably would have tasted much better if I wasn’t so hung up on the dirty floors!  With tax & tip...the total came to $11 and change.  Honestly...I would have rather saved $5 and picked up sushi at Kroger and ate it back at my office.   

Here’s a quote from me that Ken’s can use for their marketing...FREE OF CHARGE!    
“If you like eating at dirty’ll LOVE Ken’s!!!” -Hank   

I will proudly admit that I am not a fan of sushi; not that there's anything wrong with it; just not my thing.  Thankfully, Ken's menu has a decent variety of non-sushi options.  The Bento Box was tasty and very satisfying; and appropriately priced too.  Both the exterior and the interior were noticeably grimy; especially in the back dining/storage room.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jackson’s Bistro – 10.13.08

Today was a typical Monday - mostly cloudy out but no rain in sight.  Ho-hum, hooray.  We were all dragging our butts and really needed a shot in the arm to get our week off to a better start.  The lure of a mystery-letter lunch outing seemed ripe with possibilities, however, a quick glance at the phonebook and revealed too few options for the letter J.  Not many places to try that weren’t chains or too far to travel.  Yes, we were feeling lazy.  Add to that our recent, back-to-back, less-than-spectacular lunch outings and we really wanted a sure thing. That led us to an old faithful standby…  Jackson’s Bistro in Hillsboro Village.  Without further adieu, here’s our review.    

For as much as I like to think that I get around the Nashville restaurant scene, I think I’ve only been to Jackson’s once before. I don’t know why but I always overlook this place even though plenty of my friends are regulars.  
Today we opted to sit outside since the weather was decent enough and there’s nothing better than getting outdoors during lunch. Nice patio, but nothing too special.   The service at Jackson’s was spot on and our server was friendly but to the point - always on hand at the right moments.  I ordered the Ahi tuna sandwich with a side salad.  I requested the tuna medium rare but it came out more on the medium plus side and was a bit drier than I’d like.  However, the sandwich comes with a killer wasabi  sauce on the side so I slathered that on and was more than pleased with the overall result.  Next time I’ll order an extra cup of the sauce and dip any and everything in it.  Yes, it’s that good.  I also liked the little side salad which had diced tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and chick peas. Tasty.  
Overall, Jackson’s was a good experience.  The next time around if I remember to, I’ll probably be back.     

Good food, friendly staff, great location...this place has all the elements in place to maintain it's status as a Hillsboro Village hotspot.  It's also worth noting that Jackson's is one of the top spots to partake in a favorite pastime of mine...people watching.  The day we ate there...they were also offering a brunch menu...which when added to the usual lunch offerings...made for a menu that is pretty tough to beat.  Now...being 2 days into another health kick...I went against every rule in my book and went with the Caesar salad w/ grilled chicken - dressing on the side (I told you I was on a health kick!).  It tasted like...lettuce with grilled chicken...mmmmm!  No was a pretty good salad and I thought fairly priced at $9.  To finish off a great lunch experience...I recommend walking a few doors down and picking up a coffee at Fido afterwards...but that's another day and another letter.   

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've been to Jackson's over the past several years, and every visit has been enjoyable.  The vibe is cool but not too trendy, the suspended fireplace is unique, and the menu has a nice variety of lunch options.  I went for the tuna & cheddar panini, which did not disappoint.  The prices certainly fit the menu/locale.  Service was attentive and friendly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Dream Of Weenie – 10.1.08

We’ll make this one quick, because you’re just dying to know our thoughts, nay, our dreams of I Dream Of Weenie.  This review might get us kicked off plenty of RSS feeds, but we’ll just have to take our chances.    

It was a beautiful day to eat outside. But not too much time to spare.  We decided to bust a move and tackle the letter I – which would be fairly easy since we had already agreed to try the much ballyhooed East Nashville haunt I Dream Of Weenie.    
When I stepped up to the window, there was no question what I had to order.  
My namesake, the Flamin’ Frank, is a wee little dog + bun that was covered with chili, cheese, mustard, onion, salsa and jalapeños.  It was fine, but didn’t warrant a high-five, satisfied grunt or any other such gastronomic celebration.  I did enjoy sitting on the curb in the 70 degree sunshine and watching the parade of satchel wearing scooter riders drive down Woodland Street.    
I Dream Of Weenie is a nice idea and they are sure friendly folks but I didn’t see much to brag about, food-wise. (Sorry Nashville Scene and Tennessean "Best Of" readers polls…) Hot Diggity, Zackies’ and Noshville all do a better dog.  In fact, I’ve had better at the Home Depot (Thompson Lane) hot dog stand.  But the East Nashville hipster crowd has crowned IDOW the queen of Nashville hotdogs.  Kitschy?  Yes.  The best dog in all of Nashville?  Not even close.   

Ok...they get points for being clever with the name...and for being creative with the conversion of an old VW van into a hotdog stand.  But aside from that...this place isn’t much to write home about.   Compared to the two other hotdog joints that I’ve been to in Nashville – Zackies’ and Hot Diggity Dog – this place comes in dead last.  And compared to other walkup-and-order establishments I’ve been also comes in last.  There was nothing about the experience made me feel like I NEED to go back.  I got the bratwurst w/ spicy mustard, chips and a can of diet coke for $6.50.  It was good...but can you really screw something like that up?!?   

I Dream Of Weenie...a lot cleaner than you would think...friendly service...the chili dog was okay...a little on the small side though...not really worth the price.  My suggestion?  Bun length dogs.

House of Pizza - 9.19.08

We’re not going to make excuses as to where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to because you know what happens when you do that.  A global financial crisis, that’s what.  And election promises.  Those too.  It all boils down to making lame excuses so we’re not going to do that.  Instead Nashville Eats It’s ABC’s is going to talk about the letter H and how that stands for downtown Nashville’s very own House of Pizza, located in the heart of The Arcade off Church Street. Today we were joined by our lovely friend Wendy Woodywood, who made the long trek all the way from downtown Franklin to lunch with the fellas and pitch in her 2 cents on what would be a memorable dinning experience.   

First, let me say that it was a honor to be invited as a guest of Eddie, Frank & Hank on the A-Z restaurant tour through Nashville. "H" led us to House Of Pizza, formerly known as Manny's House of Pizza, H O P, not to be confused with I H O P.  Entering H O P took me back to my years living in N Y C, the smells, the dirty grime that covered every surface and then the surprisingly tasty meat lovers stromboli with a delicious side of tomato dipping sauce on the side.  While waiting to place our order, we got to observe the staff of H O P.  One employee coughed several times while removing the stromboli from the tray with his bare hands - I was thankful that it was headed to the hot over to remove any germs. Another employee remarked that he had been working at the H O P for 23 years - he did know how to make a tasty pizza dough.  Would I return to the H O P?  Mmmm, I just don't have a peace about it...  But thank you  Eddie Hank and Frank for allowing me an insiders look at the A-Z Restaurant Tour de Nashville.    

In general, I like these kind of places.  Small and cramped with those big old pizza ovens giving off enough aromatic heat to fill the Sahara desert.  
Surveying the menu board and being pushed along by the longish line, I had to act quick.  Dang it.  No spinach calzone … so I opted for the next best thing - a meatball calzone and root beer.  Root beer is, by the way, the perfect compliment for calzone.  The pizza pie man behind the counter, aside from the aforementioned coughing fit, was flinging dough around the room like the seasoned pro.  Someone in line asked the pie man how long he’d been at the pizza trade and I think he said that he’d been doing it for 23 years.  That’s pretty dang long… and probably the same length of time since they scrubbed this place down.   The back dining room could’ve doubled as a dirty and dimly lit rural juke joint from a bygone era, sans pool table or juke box.  Virtually all of the cloth seats had disgusting stains on the seats and I had to find a plastic chain instead..  I’m all for dingy hole-in-the-walls, but I couldn’t bring myself to plant my butt in those seats.    As for my food, the calzone ranked a 7.5 out of 10, somewhere just south of Joey’s HOP and Pizza Perfect.   This thing was oozing ricotta cheese and the meatball was tasty.  It sat in my gut all afternoon like an iron fist.  An iron fist wrapped in cheese.  But I’m not complaining.  Solid.   

Dirty.  That’s the best way to describe this place.  From the moment I walked in I was hit with a stale mildew scent that doesn’t especially get me excited to eat.  Then...while ordering my food...the guy behind the counter was coughing and touching the food with his bare hands...nasty!  I went with the meat stromboli and it was just ok.  It was a bit dried out and hard...but tasted ok.  I’m not going to waste more words on this...I don’t see myself going back to this place.   

Eddie: House Of Pizza has certainly earned it's rightful spot on my worst of the worst list.  The whole place smelled like a dank basement and all the wobbly mismatched chairs had nasty food stains.  The food selection was surprisingly minimal.  At peak lunch time, all they had behind the glass were 2 calzones, 4 pizza rolls, and a few pizza slices.  I ended up with a calzone, which I managed to long as I forced myself to block out the images of the grumpy dude handling my food with his bare hands after coughing all over himself.  Also, the layout was not very ergonomic; the narrow entrance where you place your order is also the only exit, and would create a bit of a traffic jam if they ever became a busy lunch spot.  Which is unlikely considering the nasty.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ghot Wingz – 8.29.08

Last week as we were heading back to the office from our favorite East Nashville recording studio, we spied a simple sign on Gallatin Road that asked “Ghot Wingz?” with an arrow pointing down a side street across from Nashville Auto Diesel College.  Hank whipped his head around, made the mental calculations and exclaimed that we had just found the place to go for letter G.  Cool.  We’d discovered a brand new lunch place with a nifty spelling that nobody’s heard of and Nashville Eats It’s ABCs would be the very first to bring it to the attention of all the adventurous Nashville lunch lookers. But later that same day our dreams were dashed as a RSS feed confirmed our worst fears.  Ghot Wingz was old news.  A Nashville Bites Scenester got there first and reported back to their blog.  Good for Ghot Wingz, but bad for Frank Hank and Eddie.  However, we are a resilient trio and generally unperturbed by this sort of disappointment so we struck out for a lunch date at East Nashville’s latest and hopefully greatest lunch spot.  Here are our ruminations.

Frank:  I’m not a fan of wings in general.  I don’t really know why this is but probably has something to do with laziness.  Too much work for so little reward.  It’s like ordering quail at a nice restaurant.  Sure, it’s delicious, but really…  was it worth all that effort?  However, I am a fan of locally owned eateries and chutzpah.  Ghot Wingz has both in spades.  Being across the way from the NADC, the décor is spot on with b&w tiled floors and a tool-box counter motif with a few pool tables in the next room.  I ordered a dozen wings - half Hot Garlic and the other half Original with onion rings on the side.  As my number was called, Sharonda (the owner) opened my styrofoam container to be sure that they had my order right.  Nice touch.  The Hot Garlic wings came “naked” and the original arrived breaded and fried.  Both were messy but delicious. The onion rings were great also.  I think I was able to finish all but a couple of wings.  I had no idea that a dozen tiny wings was actually a lot of food but it sat heavy in my gut all afternoon in case I were to forget.  All in all, I love this place.  Great service and very courteous.  But next time I go there, I still think I’m going to try the burger…   

Hank: I don’t claim to be an authority on wings...but I’d like to think that I know when food tastes good...and these wings were good.  The first thing you’ve got to figure out when ordering is what flavor wing you want.  Sounds easy enough...but when you’re presented with 13 different flavors and then the option of fried or becomes a bit of a daunting task.  Instead of laboring over the choice...I went with the house recommendation and got Asian Heat and Garlic Parmesan...half fried and half naked.  Asian heat was a little sweet and a little spicy...and Garlic Parmesan was exactly as the name would lead you to believe.  I got the 12 wing basket (probably 4 more than I should have ordered)...a drink and Cajun fries for under $10.  The cleanliness factor was above average.  The health score was in the high 80’s...which I thought was pretty good for the age/type of building it was in.  Add to all of that the fact that the Ghot Wingz staff were genuinely happy we were there...and this a no-brainer recommendation to friends.  So...go ghet you some wingz!   
*note to Titan’s tailgaters: This place is close enough to LP field for you to pick up some great wings before the game.   

Eddie: There are only a handful of local chicken places that offer a notable variety of sauce options.  And still, most of them only give you a choice of 4 or 5, maybe 6.  Ghot Wings had at least 9 sauces.  Of course there were the standards (BBQ, Teriaki, etc.), but there were several unique ones too, including one called "Summin Different".  I'm not sure what was in it, but it made my chicken tenders summin gooood.  The honey bourbon sauce was fantastic too.  Value alert: for only a couple dollars you can add a side item and a drink, but get this... the drink is
one of those big 20 oz. coke bottles.  The staff was really friendly and welcoming.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Frist Center Café - 8.21.08

In the words of Lionel Richie, “Hello”.  Today is feels like a Lionel Richie day, don’t you think?  Maybe it’s the unseasonably decent weather we’re having here or maybe it’s just that “All Night Long” was playing as we walked into our weekly lunch destination.  This week, the letter F and the Frist Center Café, housed at the rear of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts on Broadway.  

For our foray to the Frist Café, we again extended an invitation to another guest commentator who’s got a taste for the finer things in lunch fare.  She is the maven of a local non-profit media company and holds court from her corner office in Metro Center. She is pretty much the glue that holds lots of things together, namely Frank, her lesser half.  She is also affectionately referred to as the Red Tornado.  Welcome Red, to our F fiesta..!   

What a treat to join the esteemed Frank, Hank & Eddie for lunch!  At the Frist Center Café, you order your food at the counter and then they bring it your table.  The menu is decent – some of it I might call “faux fancy.”  I opted for the tuna nicoise salad, after being enticed by the seared tuna on the sample in the display case.  It had mixed greens, various colored potatoes, haricot verts, capers and cherry tomatoes.  All of those ingredients are a recipe for something delicious in my book, but the finished product was just okay.  Nothing bad about it – it just wasn’t amazing.  The dressing, which I always order “on the side” just in case a restaurant has a penchant for drenching, didn’t add much flavor.  I am always a sucker for homemade potato chips, so I ordered a basket of those for the table, too.  They were good, but again, not fantastic.
This is a fine place to eat if you’re going to the museum or if you work downtown, but there’s probably not a whole lot of reason to go there otherwise.  Also, it has a paying parking lot, and even with the validation I got at the restaurant counter, I still had to pay $2 to park for 45 minutes.   

I have to be honest, I don’t give a flip about food today.  Given the lingering effects of a bad Indian buffet in England four days ago, all I want is bland food and close proximity to a restroom. That’d make me a happy camper. The Frist Center Café sounded like a good, safe bet and we’ve heard they serve up pretty decent food.  I ordered the special of Grilled Pork Chop with Caribbean BBQ sauce and  Roasted Corn Mashed Potatoes.  I should’ve read the menu more closely.  What is “Caribbean” BBQ sauce?  Nasty is what it is.  In this case, probably straight out of a can and slathered all over a dry but otherwise passable pork chop.  The mashed potatoes were tasty however!  And there was another side item of diced tomatoes, maybe onion and possibly tiny little pineapple bits?  I don’t remember..  probably because I barely tasted it.  I was too busy sneaking those homemade chips off Red’s plate when she wasn’t looking.  The overall feel of the Frist Café is great.  Very light, breezy and calm.  The café staff were nearly all of the preppy, neo-goth hipster variety, which seemed slightly at odds with the overall atmosphere, but they were nice enough.  My take on the Frist Center Café is that they sure do their potatoes right.  And art.  But that’s another part of the building.   

I love art...and I love eating at The Frist made perfect sense.  It had a solid café menu (soups, salads, sandwiches) featuring ingredients that were a cut above what you’d find at a typical deli.  I went with the Turkey Saga pannini – turkey, chipotle cheddar, blue cheese, bacon and guacamole.  I did get the guacamole on the side...I only eat it if my wife makes it...I’m weird like that!  The sandwich came with your choice of fruit or potato chips.  Studies have shown that if given the choice between fruit and chips – I will pick chips 10 out of 10 times.  I was happy I did.  I was expecting your typical Lays selection...but they were actually homemade potato chips...that were great!  Make sure to ask for the dipping sauce to go along with the’s nice.  Honestly...the only issue I had with the place was that they served mini bottled Coke products.  The upside is that you feel like a GIANT...but the down side is that it’s 2 sips and done.  But...if that’s all I have to complain’s a pretty good indication that I’ll likely eat there again.   

Every time I visit the Frist Center I find myself marveling at the architecture as much as the exhibits.  The art-deco/slightly-gothic vibe always reminds me of the first Batman movie.  In the cafe', the decor is not unlike the rest of the building; and the large windows that span the entire length of the cafe' look out over a tree-lined grass courtyard... a refreshing change of scenery after being in an office all morning.  The menu has a nice balance of the standard hot and cold sandwiches, salads, daily specials, and kid friendly options.  I was sort of in the mood for soup, but the two soup options didn't grab me so I went with a pressed sandwich.  The Smokey Joe was a fine sandwich, but was thoroughly upstaged by the homemade chips...kinda like what Jack Nicholson did to Michael Keaton.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

H is for Hiatus

Grazie to Jim Ridley at Nashville Scene Bites for the kindly look in our direction.  We'll admit that we get quite a number of lunch time ideas from the Scene anyhow, so this is starting to feel like a sweet feedback loop.  

We also wanted to let you know that Nashville Eats It's ABCs is on temporary hiatus this week while Frank is off wandering around in Europe.  Don't fret because he'll and we'll be back next week with your next regularly scheduled, alphabetical lunchtime stop.  In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of a perfectly prepared dinner from a swell little place in Como, Italy.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ellendales – 8.1.08

So today marks another first for Nashville Eats Its ABCs.  We are pleased to pull up another chair and welcome our first-ever-guest-lunch-reviewer for our romp thru the letter E and Donelson's delightful Ellendale's.  This guest reviewer is a good friend of ours and also one of those powerful, music executive types who like to sit in his corner office, chomp his cigar and tell wide-eyed aspiring musicians that he can make them 'famous'. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and make welcome our very special guest, Mr. Jorge' Azoff

Jorge': I was bestowed with the high honor of joining your regular trio of reviewers for a bite at Ellendale's restaurant in Donelson. I must say that I was impressed overall. The building was clean and welcoming, set in an old house that made it feel inviting. The bathroom was a little spooky and dark, but...overall nice! We partook of the lunch buffet and I was overall impressed! The variety of food was a little disjointed, with pastas and buffalo fried chicken somehow coexisting together...the number of options was satisfying to my palette, with everything from salads (pasta and the lettuce variety) to potatoes, fried rice and FONDUE!!!! You can never go wrong with fondue...I liked Ellendale's quite a bit...i would go back, with or without the trio...   

Hank: Buffets scare me.  That’s a fact.  So when we walked into Ellendales and saw that the lunch buffet was the main attraction...I had my reservations.  However...after taking a walk down the buffet line...seeing a cook swapping out dishes for freshly cooked ones...and realizing this wasn’t your fried shrimp, chocolate pudding and pancakes buffet...I went for it.  The food was actually really good.  Some of the highlights included fresh fruit and salads (boring)...some mighty fine Swedish meatballs (I don’t know what makes a meatball Swedish...but let’s just go with it), oversized buffalo wings with blue cheese, cheese fondue, chocolate fondue and a couple pasta dishes.  I pretty much got a little bit of everything...and enjoyed almost all of it.  For $ was actually a pretty good deal.  Add to that a health score of 98 and the fact that it’s fairly easy to get to off the highway...I’ll probably be back.  Overall...a good lunch to end the week.   

Eddie: When we first walked in I felt a little under dressed.  My jeans and sneakers didn't quite fit with the cloth napkins and the fine china.  But one glance over at Frank put me at least I wasn't wearing cut-off cargos.  After settling at a table and scoping out the menu, it took about 4 nanoseconds to figure out that the buffet was the way to go.  Unlike some buffets that put out every conceivable food type in its most generic form, Ellendale's opted for quality over quantity.  The selection of salads and hot entrees was well-chosen, fresh and flavorful... throw in a little cheese fondue, some fresh fruit, and a chocolate brownie, and I was one satisfied customer.   

Frank:  Whatever, Eddie.  I’m no slob!  I like my cut off army pants, black t-shirt and flip flops.  This is my summer uniform and I wear it proudly – multiple times a week… and into restaurants of every ilk.  And speaking of restaurants, what about Ellendale's?  Ellendale’s is the mothership that launched the unsuspectingly tasty Phat Bites, which we visited some time back.  Ellendale's was another great find but there’s not much more I can add to what the guys have already said thus far.  For a buffet, the food was great.  If Shoney’s ranks a 1 and Copper Kettle is a 9, Ellendales ranks a solid 8.5.  I decided to try a bite of every item on the hot bar and the following is what I happily crammed down my gullet:   

Red pepper mashed potatoes, Swedish meatballs, vegetable lasagna, green beans in a cream sauce, roasted pork loin, broccoli casserole, rice pilaf, hot chicken, tortellini in marinara, some other pasta deal, cheese fondue and steamed mixed vegetables.   It was all delicious, but my favorite was the meatballs...  mmmmm.
Ellendale’s does have a weird vibe to it though, but it is hard to put my finger on what it is.  An old school, medium-upscale place that tries to land in the 21st century somehow.  I will call the vibe “Donelson Dandy” for lack of a better term.  But go check it out for yourselves..  I’m pretty sure that you’d like the food. 

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dee’s Q - 7.31.08

WORD, people.  We’re back and feisty as ever.  Can’t believe it’s been a month since our last post but we’ve been pretty awesomely busy lately.  Hank was out rockin’ Los Angeles for a spell and trying to avoid the paparazzi (unsuccessfully), while Eddie and I were hunkered over the piles of paper on our desks.  Needless to say, not much Nashville ABC lunching has happened recently.  BUT, for the hundreds of you daily checking this site with baited breath…  lean back, let go and enjoy our glorious return.      

Today’s lunch was brought to us by the letter D.  And who should be the lucky recipient of our lunchtime presence and wadded up paper money?  None other than East Nashville’s own Dee’s Q, that’s who.  A clue for those of you playing along at home, the Q is short for BBQ.  Furthermore, BBQ is short for barbeque. And barbeque is short for deliciousness.      

Here is what we thought: 

Hank: This walk-up restaurant sits right off train tracks in the middle of an East Nashville neighborhood...housed in a bright yellow shack.  Walk up and order places are a gamble...but this one paid off.  I went with the brisket sandwich combo – sandwich, fries & drink.  The sandwich probably had twice the meat than a normal bun can handle...which was nice.  The fries were fries.  And the bbq sauce was actually really good as well...I just wish there was more on the sandwich.  When I asked for extra bbq sauce I was informed that it’d cost $.55.  To me...that’s kind of like charging people for ketchup at a french fry stand...not cool.  But overall...for under $7...I’m not complaining!   This place had all the charm that you miss in the big chains.  I have a feeling that the owner’s touch was on everything there...down to the hand painted menu and signage...the pieced together tin roof porch covering the order window...and the metal carport-turned-dining area...where a number of modifications were made - including screening it in, putting in doors and installing 2 floor fans into the wall as “air conditioning”.  Add that to a health score of 95...and I’m a fan.   Good food + charm/cleanliness – location = I’ll probably check it out again if I’m ever out in that area.    

Eddie: Whenever I'm eating at a BBQ joint for the first time, I always order a pulled pork sandwich.  It's like the standard by which BBQ is measured.  If a joint can't get a BBQ sandwich right, then why bother going back.  Since this was my first trip to the eastside for some Dee's Q, I stayed true to my policy and ordered the pork sandwich combo... and Dee definitely got it right.  The sandwich was awesome, the fries were those thick cut steak fries (and a generous portion too), and the drink was an ice cold Coke in a can.  Overall, a very satisfying and reasonably priced lunch.    

Frank: So today I decided to order last and get something different than Hank and Eddie, just for variety’s sake.  I got the whiting (fish) sandwich combo.  Never had whiting before.  Maybe never will again.  Not because it wasn’t delicious, because it was.  But we’re talking fried fish, which was not too much different from fried catfish, but it was fried fish all the same. There were four slabs of fish in the sandwich (read: giant) and came on white bread with hot sauce and mustard with a few onions and pickles.  Fries on the side.  I also ordered a side of wings, garlic & parmesan style, which were the highlight of the meal.  Lest I sound like a glutton, I did share then with Hank and Eddie.  Overall, I loved the low-rent vibe and the girl who took our orders was great, but sitting outdoors in the muggy, screened-in shed had me sweating bullets.  I’ll be back for sure, but next time it will be in October and I’ll be ordering the shoulder plate…

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Christopher’s Pizza Company - 7.1.08

With no conflicting lunch appointments and a short work week, we decided that we should check another letter off the lunch list today.  C it was.  It always takes a bit of wrangling for the 3 of us to get on the same page about where to eat, but we ended up in Eddie's silver Exterra and headed for...  Christopher's Pizza Company.

Here's the skinny...

Frank:  When I go to a pizza place, especially for lunch, I’m looking for a spinach calzone.  I’m not into this idea of splitting a pizza because who wants to be forced to eat someone else’s topping preferences?  Most of my friends prefer meats on their pizzas while I like veggie.  Thus I order my own personal calzone.  When we sat down and looked over the menu at CPC, I was bummed (no calzones) but decided to try their 9 inch Fancy Pants pizza.   The upside:  I loved my little pizza.  Great crust - crust that wasn’t too sweet (this is the first mistake pizza places make – too dang much sugar in their crust!).  Pine nuts, goat cheese, spinach and olive oil makes for a fancy pants pizza indeed.  Bonus: the check came almost right away after we were finished.  (This is another of my pet peeves – having to wait an eternity to PAY for lunch and get on with life.)  They have nice servers as well.   The only downside: Their straws were too short for the glass and I had to keep fishing mine back out.    All in all, I like this place.        

Hank: Overall it was pretty had a health score of 90...which is nice, the service was friendly and the pizza tasted good.  However, an 8” pizza for $9 + a drink for $1.50 + $2 tip = a little too pricey to become one of my staple lunch stops.  I think combo pricing is in order.  Dear Mr. Christopher - if you can figure out how to get me in and out of there for $10 for pizza, drink and tip...I’d be willing to reconsider.  THE END.     

Eddie: What's the deal with sit-down-style pizza joints and scribbling on the tables?  I don't get it.  The staff was very friendly.  The pizza was not bad, but it wasn't great either.  I was expecting something a little more gourmet, considering the price.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Boswell’s Harley Davidson Grill - 6.27.08

So today we went to Boswell’s Harley Davidson Grill.  Aside from seeing a pretty sweet trike in the parking lot, we only wanted to see if a motorcycle dealership could serve us up a decent lunch.  Here's what we found:

Frank: Liked it. Totally fun atmosphere and our waitress was great – she sorta bullied me into having the catfish and onion rings, which was fine.  (How do you screw-up deep frying anything?)  It was worth the slight wait for a table.  The only drawback I could project on this place is Harley Davidson riders themselves.  You see, I ride a nice old ’73 Honda and those Harley guys won’t ever wave back at me.  They’re too cool to wave.  Which is lame.   

Hank: This place was a random surprise!  It’s a small diner tucked into a Harley Davidson Dealership.  There was a line when we got there...but it didn’t take more than 10 minutes for a table to open up.  The staff was very friendly and on top of things...they didn’t let your drink get half finished before they got you a refill!  I got a burger and fries and really enjoyed the meal.  The burger was a little over done...but the flavor was great.  And with a health score of 94...I will for sure go back!

Eddie: Super friendly and attentive service.  A bit cramped.  The BBQ sandwich was average, but the fresh-cut fries were a nice bonus.  The prices were a little on the steep side, considering the no-frills menu.    

Friday, June 27, 2008

Alley Cat Lounge & Tex Mex Grill - 6/19/08

The letter A stands for...   Alley Cat Lounge & Tex Mex Grill

Here's what we thought:

Frank: So-so for me.  Decent atmosphere but food took forever to come out.  I’ve been trying to eat better so I had a chef salad.  That's lame, right?  Whatever people..  I’m down nearly 20 lbs from Christmas, so bring on the bland salads!

Hank: It could have been cleaner...but it could have been dirtier.  The big turn off for me was that due to the fact that it’s a bar...there was smoking allowed in the restaurant.  The service was good...but with only 4 tables sat during lunchtime...there was no excuse for any less service.  I had a chicken sandwich with fries and I thought it was good.  Nothing to write home’s hard to screw up something like that.  Overall...good bar food...not somewhere I’ll probably frequent.

Eddie:  The menu had some interesting variations on the standards.  Not what you'd expect from a bar located in an alley.  The Tortas, which is essentially a pork BBQ sandwich with a few extras, was fantastic.  The prices definitely fit the fare.

A Quick Recap

So, before we launch into another restaurant round, we've decided to do a succinct recap of our lunchings thus far.  Ladies and gents, we present to you, the best and worst of Nashville Eats Its ABCs...  (with expanded commentary by Hank)

Eddie's Top 3 picks:  
  • Uncle Gio's (r.i.p.)
  • Bro's Cajun Cuisine
  • Joey's House Of Pizza 
Eddie's Worst: 
  • Wendell Smith's 
  • Muddea's Famous Chicken & Waffles
  • Twin Kegs 

Frank's Best Nashville ABCs discoveries: 
  • Honduras Restaurant 
  • The Factory Grill
  • Richie’s “Hot & Spicy” Kastle 

Frank's Worst Nashville ABCs experiences: 
  • Twin Kegs
  • The Pie Wagon
  • International Market and Deli 

Hank's Top 3 ABC Nashville restaurants:
  • Zackies Original Hot Dog (Germantown) - I can go with or without hotdogs...and usually only have one if I’m at the ballpark.  But Zackies may have changed me!  This place is great!  Very clean...great service...they even remembered our names!  My winning meal was a brat w/ spicy mustard, crinkle cut fries and a Jones Soda Rootbeer.  I’ve been back a number of times since and have not been disappointed!
  • Judge Beans – I love baseball and I love I was quite excited to get the news that Judge Beans had relocated to Greer Stadium (home of the Nashville Sounds).  It doesn’t get any better than eating brisket at a table overlooking a great ball field!  It’s open every day...but if you go during a game the Judge gives you a free ticket to the game along with your meal!  The downside is that it’s packed on game days and the service suffers...but when you’re watching baseball...what’s the rush?!?
  • The Copper Kettle – Where do I start???  When trying to think of a place to eat for lunch...this is always the first thing that comes to mind.  It’s clean...friendly staff...and the food is always good!  I call it a gourmet Meat & 3.  They have a rotating menu of specials and on each day you are bound to find something you’ll like.  I’ve got 2 favorite meals there: 1) Coconut chicken fingers, mashed potatoes & green bean casserole. 2) Grilled Chicken salad with cranberry vinaigrette dressing, spiced pecans and a fried ball of goat cheese.  I would recommend this place to anyone!  If you are will like it.

Hank's Worst ABC Nashville experience:
  • La Luna Cafe' -NOW CLOSED- We walked in and the first scent to hit my nose was was disgusting!  That made me scan quickly for their health score...which was 47!  I looked at Frank and Eddie...gave the signal...and we walked right out!  Not hard to see why it ended up folding!
  • Twin Kegs – OK...I know...we were asking for it when we chose this place.  But the sign said that they were world famous...and we had heard they had great burgers...we were dupped!  It was a small, dark and dirty space that reeked of smoke!  Our “server” was quite entertaining and quite possibly drunk.  When asked “Do you have crinkle cut fries?”...his response was...”Huh?!?  Crinkle cut this!”.  Overall...the place was filthy, the food was not good at all, and the “server”, although very entertaining, did not cut it!
  • White Trash Café – I would add one word to the name of this restaurant...NASTY!  I appreciate kitsch décor with the best of them...but that wasn’t enough to outweigh the fact that the service was horrible, the food was dreadful and it was DIRTY!  One of the specials that day was a baked chicken dish.  I thought it couldn’t be all that bad until I asked for a description and someone at our table ordered it.  It was essentially frozen fried chicken breast that had been cooked in a pan of gelatinous brown gravy.  The look and smell of it was enough to turn my stomach.  Haven’t been back since...and will not go back again.

And now we return you to our regularly scheduled program...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A-Z part #3, 2007

2/12/07 - Arnold’s Country Kitchen

2/13/07 - Broadway Brewhouse (and Mojo Grill)

2/26/07 - Chile Burrito

3/2/07 - Dan McGuinness’ Irish Pub (a sort of chain)

3/13/07 - Elliston Place Soda Shop

3/22/07 - Fido’s

4/11/07 - Green Hills Cafeteria (in the Retired Teachers Bldg)

5/1/07 - Hot Diggity Dogs

5/7/07 -  The Italian Market (a repeat)

5/21/07 - Joey’s House of Pizza (B’wood)

5/30/07 - Kalamata’s

6/18/07 - LaPaz (chain alert!)

8/27/07 - Muddea’s Famous Chicken & Waffles

8/13/07 - Norman Cousers Country Cooking

9/21/07  - Ombi

9/25/07 - Puffy Muffin

10/8/07 - Rose Pepper Cantina

10/17/07 - Super Pollo

11/8/07 - Tangredi's Italian Kitchen

12/3/07 - US Border Cantina

12/17/07 - Varallos (Too)

1/11/08 - Wendell Smith’s

1/18/08 -  Zackie’s Original Hot Dog

Round #2... 2006.

7/17/06 - Athens Family Restaurant

7/24/06 - Bobby’s Dairy Dip

8/4/06 - Copper Kettle

8/10/06 - DaVinci’s Pizza

8/28/06 - El Mariachi

9/8/06 - The Food Company

9/11/06 - Germantown Cafe

9/25/06 - Hog Heaven

9/26/06  - International Market and Restaurant

10/3/06 - Judge Beans

10/9/06 - The Knife and Fork (“Where The Locals Eat” - is now Sylvan Park)

10/27/06 - Las Chivas  

10/30/06 - Molly P’s (r.i.p.)

11/8/06 - Nick’s Italian Deli

11/14//06 - Oasis Restaurant (Mexican/Caribbean)

11/20/06 - The Pie Wagon

??/??/?? - Rotiers

11/21/06 - Swett’s

11/29/06 - Twin Kegs (Internationally Famous)

12/1/06 - Uncle Gio’s Italian

12/5/06 - Valentino’s (West End)

12/11/06 - Woody’s Steak House

12/15/06 - Yamamoto

12/18/06 - Z’s Deli

Our first round.. 2006

1/2/06 -  Anatolia Turkish Restaurant

1/9/06 - Bros Cajun Cuisine

1/16/06 - Café Coco   

1/23/06 - Dalts Grill

1/30/06 -  Eddie George Grill (r.i.p.) 

2/6/06 - Factory Grill, The (Aladdin plant)

2/13/06 -  Gerst Haus

2/20/06 - Honduras Restaurant (yes, that’s it name)

2/27/06 - The Italian Market

3/7/06 - Kien Giang

3/13/06 - JJ’s Bistro (in the retired teachers home, Metro Center.  r.i.p?)

3/22/06 - Loveless Café

3/27/06 - Mason Jar (Hendersonville, TN)

4/17/06 - Nick’s Famous BBQ

4/23/06 - Otters Chicken Tenders

4/28/06 - Phat Bites

5/8/06 - Qudoba (yeah, yeah - it’s a chain, we know…)

5/12/06 - Richie’s “Hot & Spicy” Kastle

5/19/06 - Silver Sands Soul Food

6/1/06 - Tex’s World Famous BBQ

6/5/06 - Unique Flavors

4/6/06 - Vandyland (r.i.p.)

6/12/06 White Trash Café

6/30/06  - The Yellow Porch

7/10/06 - Zoes (Brentwood - we didn't know it was a chain!  promise)