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 food...so 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 chips...it’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 about...it’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.