Chef Donnie Counts came on board earlier this year after opening chef Kenneth Jenkins had a medical issue and decided to step down. The Gray's folks sought to find another chef who shared their vision for what the restaurant should be. Counts had approached Gray’s owners, Michael and Joni Cole and Andy Marshall, when he wanted to relocate to the area. Since Chef Counts has worked all over the middle, deep and coastal South, his background perfectly suited Gray’s mission of serving traditional yet eclectic food from all over the South. According to Marshall, “Donnie's experience — and grasp of flavors he brought from the coastal Carolinas — paired well with our original vision for Gray’s.”
One of the new menu items — the Jack and Coke Bread Pudding — was actually what sealed the deal for the new chef during the interview process. I tried it at the end of my visit, and it is truly fantastic, though I couldn’t help but think that a few chunks of Olive and Sinclair chocolate would take it to the next level. (Though what doesn’t benefit from the addition of chocolate?) Among the other items I tried was the new Grilled Pear Pizza, which pairs the pears with arugula, mozzarella and cambozola, which is a cheese that’s essentially a combination of gorgonzola and brie. These flavors blend together incredibly well and are served on a perfect thin and crisp crust.
Because it was lunch, we opted to have a selection from the appetizers menu, which included the pizza. We also ordered the fried green tomatoes, fried pimento cheese fritters, and the pecan-crusted fried okra served with comeback sauce. Yes, that’s a whole lot of fried food, but it was very worth it. It’s difficult to choose favorites, but the pizza and the pimento cheese definitely made an impression.
But there’s a lot more on the menu than just fried food. Shrimp and grits, barbecue pizza, deviled eggs and cornbread are also on the large Southern-inspired “shareables” menu, and other new additions for spring include a wild elk filet, catfish po’boy, Carolina pork chop, swordfish pasta, and a rainbow trout cooked in a corn husk. Desserts include the Moon Pie fondue and Goo Goo s’mores pie in addition to the bread pudding. There’s an accompanying spring cocktail and spirits menu from beverage director Jon Yeager, as well.
So, if you haven’t yet made the trip, now is a good time to visit. Budget about 40 to 45 minutes to get there from most of Nashville that’s not along I-65 and take advantage of downtown Franklin’s free garage that’s just around the corner.
Gray’s on Main
332 Main St., Franklin
Tuesday through Thursday , 11 a.m.-10 p.m
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight
Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (open for brunch)