I discovered during my visit that it’s really important to note that it’s more a coffee shop than a crepe restaurant. Still, I expected it to be a little more … French, I guess? The crepes — though fairly authentic, based on my memory of crepes in Paris — are more a vessel for other food than the star of the plate. What's served is basically sandwiches on crepes instead of bread. The menu is rather large; there are breakfast, savory, sweet or build-your-own options, but none are even vaguely reminiscent of a French crepe. Italian, Thai, and even Bacon Cheeseburger are all on the menu, but no Suzette. The closest to authentic is the Florentine on the breakfast menu.
Still, that’s not really a problem. There was one vegetarian option on the menu (aside from a build your own), but the Field of Greens (lettuce, red peppers, onions, tomato, mozzarella, basil aioli) just didn’t sound very appealing. I suppose I just expected something a little more inventive for vegetarian options. Or more French. Such as brie, apples and arugula, or maybe some roasted seasonal vegetables. Even a “Mediterranean style” with artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives and feta would sem a little more interesting.
And definitely more cheese options with the build your own (gruyere, feta and goat cheese, perhaps) would help. I got just a basic cheese crepe (which had Monterey jack cheese as the base, which seems odd to me,) and it was good, but it didn’t take long to eat it and I was still hungry afterward. Tasty, but not satisfying.
Also, the crepes and their fillings are made to order, so it takes a while to get your food. That is very French. Though there was no one ahead of us, it took about 20 minutes to get our crepes. Not a problem if you’re leisurely enjoying a cup of coffee, but notsomuch if you’re already bordering on hangry by the time you arrive. That's not a criticism; it's just worth noting. I certainly don’t have a problem with a place that makes food to order.
All that said, my husband got the Thai crepe and loved it. It was huge and filling. And though the dessert crepes aren’t particularly authentic, they do look very tasty. Several people I know are regular customers and really enjoy the coffee and the food. And The Red Bicycle also offers gluten-free crepes for a small upcharge, which is pretty remarkable. As for beverages, they serve tea and smoothies in addition to coffee and offer flavor shots as well. Surprisingly, I didn’t see French or Italian sodas on the menu, though.
So, I think as long as you’ve managed your expectations, The Red Bicycle is worth checking out. It’s a cute little place and certainly seems a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Just be sure to check out the menu on their Facebook page (in the photos) before you go, which is clearly something I should have done.
The Red Bicycle
1200 Fifth Ave. N. (next to Germantown Café)
Monday-Friday: 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
And now we have one called...well, The Listening Room Cafe. You may remember the original incarnation of singer-songwriter Chris Blair's restaurant when it was located on the south end of the ground floor at Cummins Station. That location was best known for good burgers, great pickles and crappy sight lines for watching a band, though not as bad as Mercy Lounge before their notable pole removal.
So Blair packed up and moved his operation from one cursed room to another. You can just review the past decade of police blotters to remember the infamous names of the various residents of 217 Second Ave. S. (An interesting note: You can search the restaurant's entire website and not find the address anywhere. Maybe they are trying to hide from the previous fans of infamous late-night troublemaker bars like The Place, Luau Louie's Hula Hut, Have a Nice Day Cafe, Bluesboro, Lotus Ultralounge and a few others that came and left before the name on the sign was burned into the collective conscious.)
Blair aims to rehabilitate the building's location by considerably classing up the joint. First off, he offers 30 spots of free parking (yay!) behind the building, so early birds are rewarded with a precious 60 square feet of downtown real estate. He has installed a great sound system and a very attractive stage area backed with a large brick wall that reminds me of the long-missed Cafe Milano, which was my favorite downtown jazz venue before Gibson bought it and closed it. Grr ...
The Listening Room Cafe is family-friendly and smoke-free, but still has a nice little bar scene thanks to 14 craft beers on tap, plenty of canned beers and a full cocktail and wine menu. Since the venue is equally focused on music as well as food, they've developed an interesting hybrid system of reservations through Open Table. Instead of a cover charge, they require a $7 food and drink minimum, and patrons make reservations for two-hour blocks at a table, although if you decide to linger for the music and continue to eat and drink, they'll do their best to accomodate you.
Blair has already booked some fantastic bands and songwriters into The Listening Room Cafe, and they were one of the major venues at the recent Tin Pan South songwriters' festival despite the fact that the restaurant has only been open since January. If you'd visited earlier in the month, you could have seen your favorite Nashville characters, Lennon and Maisy Stella. Unlike other songwriter performance spaces in town, there is definitely not a "no talking" policy at The Listening Room, so you can enjoy a meal, a show and some quiet conversation without worrying about being shuuusssshed.
The Urban Juicer opened a couple weeks ago, and it already has a following. When we were there at 2 p.m. on a Thursday, there were easily 10 other people who stopped by within 10 minutes. It has a small parking lot in front, right off Eighth Avenue, about a block south of 8th & Roast. It looked like there might be more parking in the back, but it's pretty much a grab 'n' go place. There are three nice wood tables inside and a couple outdoors for those who want to linger.
Inside is mostly black with bright pops of color everywhere — most obviously accented with with barrels and barrels of fruits and vegetables. There were a bunch of young and energetic worker bees making the juices, and service was very speedy.
First off, you can't beat the location. A conveniently short walk to LP Field, Bridgestone Arena and the Ryman, Rock Bottom is also big enough to handle downtown crowd and turn tables at a decent pace. There are plenty of parking lots nearby in the $10-15 range, so if you're willing to pay those sort of urban parking prices you shouldn't have too much trouble. Now, personally, when I walk under the trees the birds go "cheap, cheap, cheap," so I have a few secret free on-street parking spots that I can almost always get into, especially after the Music City Center construction crews have knocked off for the day. Buy me a beer someday and I might tell you where one of them is ...
The entrance to the new rooftop bar is a little hard to find, since you have to take an elevator hidden away in a little vestibule at the corner of Second and Broadway. It's not quite a speakeasy kind of hidden entrance, but you may need to search for it. But once you find it and make your way to the top floor, you'll be handsomely rewarded by the best public rooftop view of downtown. The expansive outside deck offers views all the way up Broadway past the arena, across the river to East Nashville and up Second Avenue, where you can watch the tourists contributing to our tax base without having to actually interact with them.
My prayers have been answered since they took over the previous location of Stone House Q at the corner of Charlotte and 54th. When I first visited Stone House Q, I was definitely impressed by the equipment that they had purchased and installed in the kitchen. This was clearly a first-class operation from a team of longtime Nashville restaurant veterans. But subsequent visits indicated that perhaps a little more pit experience and some funky soul would have produced better barbecue. I had hoped that a little more time working with their impressive equipment would begin to pay off, and I certainly wasn't happy to hear about their closing.
On the flip side, I was excited to hear that Herman and Trey Sutherland and Burke Mahling were going to have a chance to expand their operation and offer a bricks-and-mortar location to enjoy their 'cue. While they still intend to keep their original location and catering business going, the vast majority of their production will now come from the 54th Avenue kitchen.
They are still in a soft opening phase since taking over the building in February. They haven't done much to change the interior of the previous establishment, but it is still bright and cheery. On my first visit I ordered my default, a pulled shoulder sandwich.
Many of you will already be familiar with their type of fast-casual format; a line forms along the right side of the space, you order, pay and get drinks/cups, and then find a seat in the main dining room or the patio (closed in and heated during cold weather). What you may not be expecting is how fast you get your food. Both times I visited, the restaurant was quite busy, but I moved through the line quickly and had my food within moments of deciding where to sit. You also may be expecting to be given a number of some sort matched to your order, but instead they just take your name and make a few notes on how to find you (sorry to spoil the magic of “how’d they know to find me?”).
The menu includes the standard Mexican restaurant items (enchiladas, refried beans, rice) as well as a few specialties (barbecue and brisket tacos, fish tacos, shrimp corn chowder) all made from the tried-and-true recipes that have made the restaurant incredibly successful in the Atlanta area. Items are ordered a la carte, which, if you’re familiar with a *cough* local *cough* taco restaurant that is similar in format, you know it can get a little pricey if you’re not paying attention.
I'll admit that while I was intrigued, I wasn't as excited as some Bites readers who've been all atwitter, including on Twitter. I expected something similar to Cori's around the corner, with a walk-up counter serving some of the best wurst if we were lucky.
I was very surprised when I first walked through the side door (after searching a while for parking) and discovered I was in a nicely decorated, tasteful room of a refurbished bungalow. There's a full bar that features a happy hour I haven't experienced yet and several rooms comfortably furnished with tables of various sizes. Currently, they are serving wine, liquor and high-gravity beers while they await a variance from the beer board due to their proximity to Centennial Park. It sure would be nice to have a pilsner with a wurst.
Firek has put together a very interesting offering of Old World wines and high-gravity beers, with most glasses in the $9-$10 range and the thoughtful option to buy half-bottles in a carafe to try something new and different. Firek certainly knows his wines, so be sure to ask for his pairing advice if you have any questions.
The menu concentrates more on small plates for sharing than the old Mambu menu did. A charcuterie plate features surprising offerings in that all the salumis are American-made, but in Italian styles. The smoked prosciutto from Iowa of all places was a particular standout. An earthy mushroom risotto was also cooked well enough to pass Gordon Ramsay's taste test, had be visited Hartel's kitchen instead of Chappy's. At least Hartel might have actually listened to his advice...
The main plate of pork tenderloin with beets and arugula will probably end up being a signature item on the Rosebud menu, and deservedly so. The beets might even be tolerable to the legions of beet haters out there. Expect lots of dessert specials, and the blueberry crumble with sour cream gelato I tried was a particularly nice finish to the meal thanks to the interplay of sweet and sour, hot and cold. Rest assured, old Mambu fans, the coconut cream pie that you knew and loved made the transition to the new menu.
"I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, 'Hey, the sign says you're open 24 hours.' He said, 'Yes, but not in a row.' "
Well, as far as Fish and Grits goes, not at all anymore. They closed their doors at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Division a few months ago and have been replaced by a new operation called Mac's Restaurant. Basically a diner, Mac's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and all night on Friday and Saturday.
Highlights of the menu include chicken and waffles with a nice cinnamon waffle and bone-in chicken. Our server said the specialties of the house included battered and fried chicken wings in several sauces and a buffalo burger. I tried the burger, and after hearing about all the wing sauces expected a spicy sauce. Instead I got a lesson in close reading of a menu when I encountered a really unique texture and slightly gamy flavor in the patty. It turns out that the burgers are actually made from buffalo, which the owners buy at the Kroger in Goodlettsville. You learn something every day ...
Needless to say, I was intrigued when I heard about Salsa Puerto Rican and Latin Cuisine, on Palmer just down the street from Cummins Station. Last week they had a soft opening, and sent out invites for folks in the media who wanted a free dinner so they could work out some of the kinks.
Our party of four was quite pleasantly surprised, both by the food and the ambience. Frankly, at first blush the name Salsa sounded a tad generic, so I was fearing a suburban chain vibe. But the restaurant is tastefully decorated: Owners Marcos Cruz and Juan Reyes (who heads the kitchen) have created a fashionably minimal space, with what looks like reclaimed barn wood on the lower walls, white paint on the upper walls, an attractive bar and a variety of intriguing light fixtures.
We started with a sampling of appetizers. Our faves were the black bean hummus and the beef empanadas. (The crab empanadas were OK, but we all agreed the beef were better.) The sorullos de maiz (corn fritters) were also popular at our table.
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