In this week's print edition of the Scene I reviewed The 404 Kitchen. Chef Matt Bolus — formerly the sous at Flyte and the chef at Watermark — has put together an extremely impressive restaurant wedged inside a shipping container stuck onto the front of an upcoming boutique hotel.
A couple of things that didn't make the final piece ...
— I'm fascinated by Bolus' Italian outlook on food. When he calls his dishes "uncomplicated," what he's talking about is a highly technical, yet non-French way of approaching a menu. There are few if any sauces, and the preparations tend to be very straightforward. When most of us think Italian, we think red-and-white checkerboard tablecloths and chicken parmesan. This is much more in line with the work Philip Krajeck is doing at Rolf and Daughters, but with fewer pasta offerings.
— There's no reclaimed barnwood in the place, which was nice. I was having coffee with someone a few weeks ago who argued that "Barnwood" should be its own category of restaurant: reclaimed wood on the walls, farm-to-table on the menu, etc. The next restaurant that opens as a Southern food place with all of these trappings should just lean into it and call itself "Barnwood 8" and leave R.E.M. on repeat in the background. Take a break, Barnwood 8, you've been on this shift too long ...
— As I was enjoying the meals there I kept thinking this is the kind of place Nashville needs to add if it's going to have a truly great dining scene. It's got a chef with a pretty strong point of view, the food is executed with a high degree of technique and care, and it's a completely unpretentious experience.
Thirty years ago, Christie Cookie started as a little fresh-made cookie shop on Church Street right here in Nashville. Founder Christie Hauck made the cookies based on the recipe of a neighbor. The cookies were so good that they were soon in demand all over the country. So Christie started mailing them as quickly as he (yes, he) could make them.
That mail-order business soon became a huge cookie-making operation that sends thousands of frozen and freshly baked cookies all over the country and makes custom cookies for some high-profile companies and restaurants. All based on that original recipe using the same ingredients you use at home. The famous Doubletree cookies? Christie Cookie makes them. Every day, cookies are freshly baked and shipped from Christie Cookie headquarters on Third Avenue North in Germantown, just steps away from some of the city’s most popular and renowned restaurants. If you're nearby during office hours, you can even stop in and buy a cookie or a tin of cookies to take with you.
Here’s a partial list of delectable concoctions from the restaurants participating in Christie Cookie's 30th anniversary celebrations. (Warning: This list may make you very hungry.)
• 55 South in Franklin - Peanut Butter & Apple Jam Snickerdoodle Tart: Christie Cookie snickerdoodle cookie tart shell filled with house-made caramelized apple jam and peanut butter mousse, topped with a sprinkle of roasted, salted peanuts.
There was a time when there was only choice when it came to sushi in Green Hills, Fox writes. That was Shintomi, the late Japanese restaurant on Bandywood. Now the neighborhood offers a few options, whether it's Ginza, Kohana, Tokyo Japanese Steak House or even the fresh sushi counter at Whole Foods.
"It is in the context of ever-rising expectations that we visited Green Hills Thai & Sushi and found a two-pronged menu that held up well in the Thai department but less favorably in the sushi category," Fox says.
Read her full review here. And has anybody tried Green Hills Thai & Sushi? What are your thoughts about Fox's idea of "ever-rising expectations"? Do you hold your meals to higher standards as Nashville's restaurant scene evolves?
It's hard to put a finger on why this hybrid oyster bar/bait shop/music venue recalls the ease of a seaside crab shack, when it sits two blocks off the square in landlocked Franklin. But history would suggest it has something to do with the Marshall family, who imbue their country-store-casual Puckett's restaurants — including eateries in the downtowns of Nashville, Franklin and Columbia — with an easygoing hospitality outside the band of the daily grind.
Another explanation could be the whimsical design, cribbed from so many Gulf Coast joints brined outside with ocean air and wallpapered inside with the dollar bills of sentimental spring breakers. Somehow, the Boat House captures all that patina without being ticky-tacky.
She describes the fare: "The made-from-scratch menu scratches the itch for Southern-style beach cuisine — battered, fried or on the half-shell."
Of special note is the selection of Gulf oysters: "Apalachicola oysters get their own section on the menu, headlining with a half-dozen raw for $8 or a full dozen for $14. If you're suspicious of raw shellfish, or superstitious about months without R's, there's an array of grilled oysters, with toppings such as cheese, chorizo and cilantro; cheese, bacon and jalapeño; and Rockefeller-style spinach."
Fox also enthuses about the cafe-market on one end of the long restaurant, with marble-topped tables and a fridge full of pastries. "The playful pièce de résistance hangs overhead — an elaborate light fixture fashioned from an upside-down rowboat."
What do you say, Bites readers? Has anybody charted a course to Puckett's Boat House?
Interestingly, Fox has two very different tales to tell: an evening meal that she describes as "a sultry, lips-parted love story of burning romance between a diner and her food," with her as the "besotted diner" swept up "Brock's dual passions for culinary tradition and modern technology."
After the feverishly satisfying dinner, Fox says, "We conceded that the hype about Husk Nashville is justified. We understood why the crowded dining room and bustling bar were dotted with chefs and owners from Nashville's 'It City' restaurant scene."
Then the review concludes with what Fox calls the "less engrossing" story of a disappointing lunch. Read the whole thing here.
What do you say, Bitesters? Anybody ready to comment on lunch vs. dinner at Husk? Is it wise to hold off on lunch and wait the time required to secure a reservation for dinner? And isn't is always puzzling when a restaurant shows a discrepancy between its midday and evening experiences?
As she explains it:
Whether you're craving an adult beverage or searching for something to quench your inner child's thirst, Nashville has plenty to offer. In the name of research, I rounded up some thirsty friends, and we ventured out to find the best summer drinks and the best places in which to enjoy them.
Some of the drinks she samples include the Porch Pounder at City House (endorsed by Zane Lamprey of Drinking Made Easy), the Chubby Checker milkshake at Bobbie's Dairy Dip, and the ginger phosphate (with jalapeño, ginger syrup and phosphoric acid for fizz) at The Pharmacy.
What do you say, Bites folks? Got a favorite for whistle-wetting in the summer months?
Nashville — in particular, its rising restaurant scene — is the story of the moment. From The New York Times to Food & Wine, reporters are chronicling the ascendancy of Music City with such breathless narration of kale salad and hot chicken you'd think life here was a cabaret of artisan bacon and craft cocktails against a backdrop of reclaimed barnwood and bespoke denim. It makes for a good read.
But there is a deeper, quieter, longer-running story about life in Nashville that's not so obvious to the visiting trend-spotter. For the layover journalist attempting to capture the character of the city — culinary or otherwise — might we suggest adding the Thistle Stop Café to your itinerary? Because you'd be hard-pressed to find a location that tells a more endearing or hopeful story about the people who live here.
The hotel has been an institution for decades, and it's nice to see such a robust infusion of newness in the restaurant and bar. Fox says:
In a cocktail lounge dominated by wall-sized television screens, comfortable cowhide-covered furniture stampedes across rusticated wood floors toward a dramatic chandelier constructed of hundreds of lightbulbs in Mason brand canning jars. ...
On our evening visit, we were stunned to see and hear such festivity in the formerly buttoned-up locale. Welcome to It City, baby. Across from the clattering bar, a more intimate dining room awaits, where carpeted floors and richly upholstered booths and chairs absorb the clanging cocktail conversation.
Fox notes that Mason's chef, Brandon Frohne is a familiar figure despite his youthful age (we at Bites have written about him quite a bit) what with "his prolific food blogging, his adventures in urban gardening, or his Forage South pop-up suppers."
"I would encourage you, in the first or second quarter of next year, to take a trip to where some of the stores have been remodeled and just take a look and try the food, because it's outstanding," Fidelity National CEO George Foley told the Scene's sister publication, Nashville Post, in November.
Cavendish did just that, checking out the new O'Charley's. His story begins with his teenage memories of O'Charley's, then continues with a present-day account of persuading his reluctant wife to join him for a meal at the revised version. One positive thing that Cavendish notes is consistently good chicken dishes. Some other items were less satisfactory.
Read the full story here.
O'Charley's launched its first restaurant in Nashville more than 40 years ago, on 21st Avenue across from Vanderbilt. So there's a deep history here. How about you, Bites folks? Has anybody tried O'Charley's under the new ownership? Do you, like Cavendish, have some funny memories about the bastion of chicken tenders and bleu-cheese iceberg wedges?
We were stunned by the transformation of the quirky Wild Bill's Beignets & Bikes into a three-story layering of pub, intimate dining rooms and rooftop bar, where reclaimed barnwood, vestigial advertising murals, 200-year-old brick and retro filament lights conspire to create a warmth that is simultaneously modern and historic. Downstairs is the kind of clubby, pubby room where you can imagine sliding into a booth or perching on a barstool for a long winter's night of politics-and-pilsner-filled conversation.
On the second floor, intimate dining rooms accented with exposed brick, dramatic decorative murals, custom ironwork and original fireplaces make a welcome addition to the list of private venues for meetings and parties in the umbra of the new Music City Center.
But climb one more flight of the dark stairwell, lean into the door and ... surprise! Welcome to one of Nashville's most understated and impressive outdoor dining spaces. The rooftop aerie is like a box seat with a view of the arena and a soundtrack siphoned from the nearby honky-tonks, with benefit of a little distance to muffle the raucous volume of Lower Broad.
She also appreciated Chef Hernan Borda's cuisine ("accessible and familiar without being dull") and had a funny line praising the efficiency of the staff: "A dumbwaiter may facilitate the transfer of food and drink among the three floors, but there were no dummies when it came to service at Pub5."
Read the full story here. And now the floor is open. Anybody been to Pub5? Any impressions you want to share?
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