Lately, some of our loyal readers have complained that Bites is starting to look like a graveyard, what with all the memorials to fallen restaurants in recent weeks. But where others see problems, we at Bites see opportunities--especially opportunities for new and varied forms of gluttony.
Of the many restaurants that have boarded up in recent months, some, such as Green Hills Grille or Beethoven's Grille in Cool Springs, sat in locations so choice, pricey and large that most likely only a chain would follow. So instead of sitting back and waiting for yet another Applebee's, we'd like to suggest some regional and national chains--among the single-digit few that haven't already invaded--that should take a chance on Middle Tennessee.
Would we prefer more chains? Oh, hell no. Would we rather some enterprising, talented local chef assumed one of these spaces and gave Nashville the bistro/charcuterie/world-class veggie cafe it deserves? Oh, hell yes. But damn, folks, if tomatoes won't kill you these days, the price of gas will. Who else is going to fill these empty spaces? Who else has the mad money? Who indeed: Chains.
With that in mind, we extend a muffin basket of welcome to these candidates for Middle Tennessee expansion, after the jump. Please weigh in with alternatives, thoughts, testimonials, blind searing hatred, etc.
What: You read the name, right?
Where based: Miami
Corporate Boilerplate Description: "A rapidly expanding franchise that features marinated grilled chicken, boneless pita 'pocket' chicken breast sandwiches, unique Chop Chop entrees, freshly prepared 'homemade' side dishes, and special proprietary sauces."
Translation: "Otter's goes global!"
Sample item: Cuban Chop-Chop ($6.29), chopped grilled chicken breast with lettuce, tomatoes and black beans served over white rice
Fun Fact: "Awarded a 'Kid's Crown Award' in South Florida Parenting Magazine as the Healthiest Fast Food."
What: Upscale Southwestern chow
Where based: Denver
CBD: "The design of our restaurants mirrors the idea behind our food: simple materials put together creatively, elevating them to a higher level."
Translation: "Please don't hate us because we're owned by McDonald's."
Sample item: Burrito--flour tortilla, cilantro-lime rice, choice of pinto or vegetarian black beans, meat, salsa, cheese or sour cream, and romaine lettuce
Fun Fact: Provides online hook-up to "avocado ripening cam."
What: Family restaurant with an outdoorsy gold-rush theme
Where based: Los Alamitos, Calif.
CBD: "Claim Jumper offers a selection of freshly prepared items using only the finest ingredients available. Favorites include USDA Prime and Choice steaks, fresh fish, rotisserie chicken, baby back pork ribs, fresh baked pot pies, specialty salads, wood-fired pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, burgers and more."
Translation: "Stoney River duels Tony Roma's for the love of California Pizza Kitchen in the rugged Yukon."
Sample item: Country-fried steak ($13.50 half-portion): "A Hearty Portion of Lean Cube Steak Breaded in a Traditional Country Seasoning. Fried Golden Brown and Topped with CJ's Creamy Sausage Gravy. Served with our Giant Buttermilk Biscuit and Red Skin Mashed Potatoes."
You Know It's Classy Because: The Las Vegas location is designed along the theme "Arts and Crafts."
What: Flame-grilled Mexican chicken
Where based: Costa Mesa, Calif.
CBD: "Citrus-marinated chicken flame-grilled right before your eyes."
Translation: "KFC, only F the KF."
Sample item: The Original Pollo Bowl, chicken breast, pinto beans, rice, cilantro, onion and pico de gallo
Fun Fact: "Pronounced 'L-Po-yo Lo-co' and Spanish for 'The Crazy Chicken.' "
What: Classic SoCal burger mill
Where based: Baldwin Park, Calif.
CBD: "The menu--burgers, fries and drinks--is still the same basic menu customers have enjoyed since 1948. There are no microwaves or freezers. Customers may observe french fries being made from hand-diced, fresh, whole potatoes. And the shakes are made from real ice cream."
Translation: "Carrington's dream come true: Five Guys with shakes!"
Sample item: The 4 x 4, four pure-beef patties stacked with "hand-leafed lettuce," four slices of American cheese, etc.
Fun Fact: Shhh! Don't tell about the "Not-So-Secret Menu," which includes down-low modifications like "cooked with mustard."
What: French bakery and bistro
Where based: Dallas
CBD: "Step out of the world and into la Madeleine, where you can enjoy the simple pleasures of French country life: fresh, flavorful food, welcoming people and good conversation."
Translation: "We even import the customers!"
Sample item: Beef Crepe Maison, "shaved roast beef sautéed with broccoli, onions, roasted potatoes and mushrooms tossed in a creamy cheddar cheese sauce, served with green beans almondine"
You Know It's Classy Because: They spell "soup" with an "e." Also, the name is French for "the Madeleine."
What: High-end Japanese cuisine
Where based: New York
CBD: "Nobu draws upon his classical training at sushi bars in Tokyo and his life abroad in Peru, Argentina, and around the world to create a whole new trend in Japanese cuisine."
Translation: "Oh, you mean like P.F. Chang?"
Sample item: Broiled black cod with miso ($24)
You Know It's Classy Because: The website makes special note of the architect.
What: Frozen-yogurt fairyland
Where based: Los Angeles
CBD: "It's frozen yogurt reinvented to create an experience that indulges the senses."
Translation: "It's TCBY with an account at IKEA."
Sample item: Pinkberry Green Tea, "soft swirls of chilly bliss with a distinct pouty peak"
Fun Fact: Offers as toppings both Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles.
What: Family-style casual dining restaurant
Where based: Valencia, Calif.
CBD: "With our open kitchen and mesquite fired grill, we are a high energy, fun restaurant with emphasis on delicious food and fast, efficient service."
Translation: "We turn over tables faster than Tom Sizemore."
Sample item: Tri-Tip Roast ($21.99)
You Know It's Classy Because: The categories on the website burst into flame with an audible poof! when you click them.
What: Cool superstore best known for hoagies, coffee and gas
Where based: Wawa, Penn.
CBD: "Wawa offers a large fresh food selection, including Wawa brands like Built-to-Order® Hoagies which come in four sizes: the Junior, Shorti, Classic, and Two-Footer."
Translation: "Come to the dark side, Jared."
Sample item: Meatball hoagie with melted cheese, thanks to "state-of-the-art toasting equipment"
Fun Fact: " 'Wawa' is a Native American word for the Canada Goose that was found in the Delaware Valley, that's why we use the goose on Wawa's corporate logo."