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.