Friday, January 9, 2009

It's All Gehrke to Me: Zavós Opens in East Nashville

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 7:00 AM

East Nashvillians never thought they'd see the day. Three or so years ago Niko and David Gehrke took over the space at 1115 Porter Road, across from the Family Wash, and after months and months of dealing with codes and liquor license hassles and a brief life as Niko's bar (not to mention working other jobs to pay the bills), the brothers have retooled the space and reopened as a restaurant, Zavós--a development that makes the liquor license more attainable, and that they hope will lead to a more profitable business.

So it sounds like the Gehrkes are just going to serve passable food to get the liquor license, right?

WRONG! After two trips to Zavós, I can tell you it's one of the most exciting East Nashville dining developments in years, rivaling the opening of Marché in late 2005, for a couple of reasons. First, the food is really good, fresh and authentic. Second, it's very affordable and has a great atmosphere, a combination East Nashville is surprisingly lacking in. Though there have been some notable recent additions to the affordable-dining landscape--Mitchell's, Calypso, Pied Piper, to name a few--there's not much that offers a nice bar/restaurant atmosphere in the $5-$10 range.

The Bros. Gehrke have done an admirable job with the decor. (David is a talented carpenter, so it makes sense.) There's a cosmopolitan yet laid-back vibe, leading members of my party to say that it reminded them of places in New York, Portland or Chicago.

We tried the beefteaki plate (baked, chopped Angus beef with seasonings and Greek-style potatoes, $5), the beefteaki souvlaki (the same beef served in a pita with tzaziki sauce, shallots, tomatoes and a side, $6), the traditional Greek salad ($6) and the Mediterranean platter (tzaziki, eggplant salad, red pepper salsa, hummus, feta cheese and warm pita, $8). The potatoes were good, and the side of arraka (a rich pea stew) was excellent. There wasn't a dud in the bunch, and the servings were all reasonably portioned.

There are daily featured entrées, available in half and full portions. We didn't try the specials--moussaka and stuffed peppers--on either visit, but someone at a nearby table gave the moussaka the thumbs-up.

Over the two visits, I spoke with about a dozen neighborhood residents who were dining there, and all of whom shared my party's enthusiasm. If all goes well, Dave and Niko hope to eventually transition into an all-day bistro, with espresso and pastries in the morning, lunch and dinner.

For now, the kitchen hours are 5-11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The bar stays open later. They currently sell beer, and David says the liquor license should be coming soon.

Zavós is at 1115 Porter Road. Phone: 258-4637.

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