Here's an abridged version of Edge's introduction to the article:
Based on my time at table in 2012, I believe the following dishes, from both steam-table cafes and white-tablecloth bistros, will catalyze conversations in the coming year. ... I can tell you that all ... celebrate the best of Southern senses and sensibilities, histories and futures. Nota bene: Great eats are ephemeral. Here last night. Gone this afternoon. If the dish I love is not in the rotation when you arrive, call an audible, for none that emerge from these kitchens will be duds.
Tuesday is baked neck bones. Thursday is beef liver with onions. Saturday is pigs’ feet and fried chicken. But every day is fried cornbread day at this workhorse of a meat-and-three cafe, set in a dusty pink bungalow in the decidedly unhip Inglewood district of decidedly hip East Nashville.
(Author's note: Inglewood unhip?) (Author's note: Author lives in Inglewood.)
Robert Bailey and his family cook the most elemental cornbread imaginable: cornmeal, water, salt, and a pinch of sugar. Fried hard, that cornbread emerges from the roiling oil with a sandpaper crust and a creamy core.
Gaze upon that oval of goodness before you dunk it in a bowl of collard greens. You can see the handprints of the cook who shaped it. Now crack it in two and sniff the streams of sweet corn aroma that rise ceilingward. Terms like handcrafted are employed too often these days. Here, my fellow eaters, is the real thing. Also on the menu: pork chops, girded by a sweet mantle of fat and fried in a parchment-thin batter.
As far as I can tell, Bailey & Cato are the only restaurant whose dish isn't pictured in the Garden & Gun slideshow. Maybe the would-be photographer was busy. Maybe Bailey and Cato were busy (they almost always are). Maybe cornbread in and of itself just ain't that photogenic.
But maybe, just maybe, Bailey & Cato is a little slice of the real Southern experience to begin with, and a picture would only tell a second-rate story heard second-hand from the food, which, to this eater, speaks for itself.