Restaurant openings

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A First Look at The Hook, Chef Dale Levitski's New Place

Posted By on Tue, Feb 2, 2016 at 11:22 AM

click to enlarge Tuna Poke and Crispy Catch - MA2LA
  • MA2LA
  • Tuna Poke and Crispy Catch
If it seems odd that a two fine dining chefs (Sinema chef Dale Levitski and chef Vasisht Ramasubramanian, most recently chef de cuisine at Chauhan Ale & Masala house, but also an alum of ABC Cocina in New York) would be working on a fast-casual concept, you may not be aware that it’s one of the hottest trends for big-name chefs across the country. Rick Bayless, Lorena Garcia, Richard Blais, Mario Batali, Tom Colicchio and Nashville’s own Jeremy Barlow are just a few of the early pioneers. More recently, David Chang and José Andrés have gotten in on the action. Chef-driven “faster food” is a concept we’ll see more often in the coming year. Reasons no doubt include the fact that fast-casual presents fewer barriers to entry into the market (lower start-up costs and a wider market appeal) and the attractiveness of being able to expand or franchise the concept.

Like many of the chef-driven fast-casual restaurants already in operation, the look and menu at The Hook — Levitski and Ramasubramanian's new spot, which is also the newest addition to the Melrose dining scene — indicates that a lot of time and thought went into its creation. At its heart, The Hook is a fried fish and chicken shack, but with a Nashville flair (hot fish; both roasted and fried chicken options brined in pickle juice) along with items suited to the tastes of Nashville’s "non-native" population. (Options include vegan and vegetarian salads and sandwiches; Italian beef sandwich; Low Country Boil; Creole Shrimp; Po Mi — the Crispy Catch is essentially fish and chips). Along with its fairly robust menu, the restaurant offers a kids' menu as well as a full bar that includes cocktails, wine and craft beers, featuring a selection of local beers.

The restaurant hosted a preview last night, so I got to try a few items on the menu. I started with the "She's All That," a vegetable sandwich that features seasonal vegetables topped with goat cheese on a sub roll and served with house-made dill pickle chips. The sandwich and chips were delicious. I also tried the vegetable of the day, a Brussels sprout and turnip hash, which was really good, but served in a mug, which kept it warm but a bit soggy after a while. I also tried a friend's seasoned curly fries (also delicious, but I have yet to meet a curly fry that I don't like; these were crisper than  most places, though which was a bonus.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Finally, Nashville is Getting the Best Kind of KFC: Korean Fried Chicken

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2016 at 7:28 AM

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I've been fortunate enough to be in the company of some amazing chefs during trips to Manhattan for one event for another. When it's late at night, where do you think they all want to go for some grub? Do they want to sit at the the chef's bar at Momofuku? Do they play the "chef's card" to get slayed with course after course at Eleven Madison Park? Nope, instead they grab a cab to little rundown eateries that specialize in Korean fried chicken.

This delicacy is distinguished from our traditional Southern version thanks to its thinner, crispier crust, the result of two trips through the fryer and the application of a spicy/sweet/salty glaze with a brush after cooking. The dish is less greasy than Southern-fried and is completely addictive.

That's why I was so excited to see a Facebook post from Chris Futrell of Animal Restaurant Group that he is teaming up with Casey Carstens of the Jones Press food truck to open a Korean fried chicken restaurant in East Nashville that they intend to call The Birdhouse. Plans are to start up operations in March at 726 McFerrin Ave. serving a menu of Korean-style fried wings, legs and tenders tossed in diners' choice of sauces: Sweet Soy-Garlic, Korean BBQ, Gochugaru, Buffalo or Hot.

The operation will focus mainly on takeout orders, with only a small amount of patio seating, but don't let that deter you from partaking in this delightful specialty once they open.

In addition, they'll sell a few rice bowl, lettuce wrap and brisket specials, plus the option of ordering a half-chicken or a family meal to feed four to six. (They will ask for four hours' notice on the big meal deal, though.)

The chefs promise to source non-factory farm chicken and to have a dedicated gluten-free fryer. I don't know about y'all, but I'm gonna start circling the block around Mas Tacos starting March 1 until I see the "Now Open" sign. I'm just ticked that there's an extra day in February this year so I have to wait a little longer!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Goo Goo Dessert Bar Is Coming to Downtown Nashville

Posted By on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 at 7:45 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO: MICHAEL W. BUNCH
  • Photo: Michael W. Bunch
Last year was big for Goo Goo Clusters — not only did the company introduce premium Goo Goos (try the Coco Noir ASAP) and launch a summer menu that included collaborations with local chefs (which was delicious enough to win a Best of Nashville nod), but they also added Lil' Goos and Goo Goo Buttons to their growing catalog. Now there are so many oppor-Goo-nities! (HAHA, I'm hilarious.)

The goo-goo-good news keeps rolling into the new year — today Eater announced the Goo Goo Shop on Third Avenue will soon be home to a Goo Goo Dessert Bar, featuring a dizzying array of Goo Goo-inspired shakes, ice cream sundaes, pie, cheesecake and more. Eater has the first look at their menu — get me that Honky Tonk Blonde RIGHT NOW.

The dessert bar — which will feature counter service, a few tables and a view of the Cumberland — is scheduled to open the second weekend in February — which, not coincidentally I'm sure, also happens to be Valentine's weekend.  

Goo Goo, will you be my Valentine?



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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Butcher & Bee in East Nashville Adds Lunch — And Sets Pop-Up With Portland's Jenn Louis

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 12:50 PM

click to enlarge Shaved vegetable salad with sorghum-chile vinaigrette, pickled grapes and black olive crumble from Butcher & Bee
  • Shaved vegetable salad with sorghum-chile vinaigrette, pickled grapes and black olive crumble from Butcher & Bee
Butcher & Bee, which opened about three weeks ago in East Nashville, has added weekday lunch service starting today. The restaurant, which is a sister to the acclaimed Butcher & Bee in Charleston, S.C., has been operating since mid-December at 902 Main St. (next to Edley's Bar-B-Que).

While the Butcher & Bee in Charleston has put the focus on creative sandwiches and lunch fare, the Nashville location is larger and more ambitious. It serves dinner and stays open late, with the kitchen operating until midnight Sunday through Thursday — and until a remarkable 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

"We want to serve people who like to eat nice late," proprietor Michael Shemtov tells Bites with a laugh. And while the Charleston cafe is BYOB, Butcher & Bee Nashville offers a full bar.

The B&B Nashville menu includes not just sandwiches but also entrees and a slate of or small plates that are suitable for sharing, including house-made hummus, roasted beets and kale salad.

There are also daily specials and a menu that changes frequently, focusing on local seasonal ingredients. Check out the menu here, and follow Facebook for specials and updates.

Meanwhile, Butcher & Bee has set up its inaugural pop-up chefs dinner, which will team its chef, Bryan Weaver, with the great Tandy Wilson of City House to welcome visiting chef Jenn Louis of Lincoln Restaurant and Sunshine Tavern in Portland, Ore.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Chef Vasisht Ramasubramanian Leaves Chauhan Ale & Masala House to Head the Kitchen at The Hook

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 7:31 AM

click to enlarge Chef Vasisht Ramasubramanian - PHOTO: MA2LA
  • Photo: MA2LA
  • Chef Vasisht Ramasubramanian
Since Chauhan Ale & Masala House opened in 2014 as a modern Indian gastropub, chef Vasisht Ramasubramanian has been sort of a secret weapon in the kitchen, helping to create and execute the innovative and flavorful menu alongside chef-owner Maneet Chauhan. All good things must come to an end, and baby's bird's gotta fly, so the time has come for Chef  Ramasubramanian (known as "Chef V") to helm his own kitchen.

Chef V will the chef at The Hook, an upcoming restaurant venture between Sinema chef Dale Levistki and his partners in the development deal, Colin and Brenda Reed and their sons Ed and Sam Reed. The new fast-casual seafood and chicken restaurant will be located in the Melrose neighborhood at 2222 Franklin Pike, and having peeked inside, I can tell you it should be a convivial gathering spot for the neighborhood.

The name of the restaurant revolves around several interpretations of the word "hook." Of course you can catch a fish on a hook, and there will always be proper fish dishes (and chips!) on the approachable menu. I've also heard beguiling rumors that Chicago-raised chef Levitski is planning to serve a legit Italian beef sandwich at his new eatery. (From his lips to God's ears!) The menu will be rounded out by more classic sandwiches and some salads.

Great songs also have "hooks," that one portion of the lyrics and/or melody that sticks with you, and Chef V intends to create food that has exactly that sort of element to the flavor profiles. I believe that he certainly has the chops to pull that off, having spent four years working at ABC Kitchen and ABC Cocina with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, ultimately rising to the position of sous chef. Chef V is also a high honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

While Chef V will certainly be missed in the kitchen at Chauhan, the connection with Levitski and a seafood and chicken house is not that big of a stretch. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with Chef V at multiple charity and community events, and I look forward to working alongside in this full time capacity,” says Levitski. “He and I both have made Nashville our home after working in various parts of the country, and that experience will bring unique, fresh flavors and concepts to the city.” It's also a bit of a family affair as Chef V's wife Allie Crowe recently took a position as the pastry chef at Sinema.

The official opening date for The Hook is still up in the air, but they seem to be making significant progress to the interior of the restaurant. I don't want to give too much away, but expect music to be an integral part of the ambiance at the comfortable single-room eatery.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Perk & Cork Hopes to Perk Up Riverside Village

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM

click to enlarge Feta Saganaki with a glass of prosecco
  • Feta Saganaki with a glass of prosecco
Ever since Sip Cafe relocated to Gallatin Pike, Riverside Villagers have been without a coffee shop in walking distance. Enter Perk & Cork.

In November Perk & Cork opened in the blue house next to Mitchell Deli (the former home of Old Made Good, which also moved on to bigger digs on Gallatin). As its name suggests, the new eatery aims to be all things to all people: coffee shop in the morning; wine bar at night.

The new spot is cute (not usually my favorite word, but apt here in this cozy, house-like setting), with a traditional coffee shop counter for ordering. Co-owner Nancy Redmond and her husband looked for three years to find the right spot for their new venture, which is their first restaurant.

The menu includes coffee drinks, pastries, cheese plates, salads, panini and wine and beer. The aim of Perk & Cork is to provide a place (and servers) to help you choose the right cup of Joe or the right glass of wine, two categories of beverages where the options sometimes seem limitless. Tuesday nights are Tasting and Tapas Tuesdays, often on a theme (such as bubbly and desserts). Wines change on a monthly basis, so you can try new things.

The new hybrid spot is still working on hitting its stride. I've been all different times of day and days of week, and have yet to see a crowd, which is great if you are looking for somewhere quiet (and the shop has decent free WiFi, so that's a great perk — pun intended — if you want to get some work done here). But if you want a spot to meet other neighbors over a glass of wine at the wine bar you should BYOF (bring your own friends) until business picks up.

The small menu is tasty, with lots of options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and the ample hours allow you to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and, on the weekends, brunch, at the same spot. There are several welcoming tables on the front porch if you prefer to dine al fresco.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Sprinkles Cupcakes Now Open in 12South

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 7:48 AM

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Sprinkles Cupcakes — known for its "cupcake ATM" — is now open in the 12South neighborhood at 2606 12th Ave. S. The Nashville location is the 18th location of the Beverly Hills-based cupcakery and will serve ice cream (in a cup or waffle cone) and cookies in addition to cupcakes. The bakery offers vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free treats, as well as "pupcakes" for dogs, which should be fairly popular in the pedestrian-heavy 12South area. Cupcakes come in regular and "mini" sizes.

I stopped in for a preview last week where founder Candace Nelson was celebrating the opening with samples of the full menu.

One of the most popular menu items is the Sprinkles Sundae, which is a cupcake cut in half and served with a generous scoop of ice cream. I chose the combination of strawberry sorbet and dark chocolate cupcake and can report that this was an excellent decision.

I also had samples of the banana cupcake, chai latte, red velvet, black and white, and vanilla cupcakes as well as the chocolate chip and salted oatmeal cornflake cookies. Needless to say, I very nearly put myself into a sugar coma, but it was worth every bite. Everything was delicious. The cupcakes are just the right moistness and topped with just the right amount of frosting. 

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reopening Set for Pioneering Music Venue and Restaurant 12th & Porter

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 2:45 PM

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Bites' colleagues over at Nashville Cream report the legendary music venue (and sometime restaurant) 12th & Porter plans to return from the dead this February, with new owners. The new team is giving the space at the corner of 12th Avenue North and Porter Street in the Gulch an extensive renovation and is already booking an eclectic lineup of shows. Here's what Megan Seling reports on Cream:

Right now the club is still in the midst of some pretty hefty renovations, including sound and light updates from 4 Wall Entertainment and an extended balcony with a second bar (no more going downstairs to get a drink). Owners Nathaniel Beaver and Tabor Luckey (the latter of whom is also the chef) are working with Infinity Hospitality Group (The Bridge Building, The Bell Tower, Harding House, etc.) to give the kitchen a makeover, too. Callahan tells us the menu will include "upscale bar food" including flatbread, wings, sandwiches and salads — "not just deep-friend everything," she says — and they plan to keep the kitchen open until 3 a.m., possibly filling the frustrating late-night bite void in the Gulch.
It's worth noting that owners Nathaniel Beaver and Tabor Luckey are definitely restaurant guys. One of their current projects, Harding House, is the dining spot at the Belle Meade Mansion. They're also veterans of the late Whitfield's in Belle Meade.

Jody Faison opened the original incarnation of 12th & Porter in 1984, according to a profile of the colorful restaurateur that Kay West wrote for the Scene in 1999. The club closed for a while, then relaunched in 1991.

For years it was one of the hottest epicenters of Nashville's music scene. Faison also served lunch and dinner at various times at 12th & Porter; popular menu items included Pasta YaYa and Black and Blue Pasta.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Otaku Ramen to Open Saturday in the Gulch

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 5:28 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO: ERIC ENGLAND
  • Photo: Eric England
As much as we welcomed the arrival of Little Octopus, Sarah Gavigan's excellent globally influenced restaurant in East Nashville, it was sad that it temporarily displaced Otaku South, Gavigan's first venture, which focuses on fine ramen.

But the ramen drought is about to end. Otaku South plans to launch its new bricks-and-mortar location, called Otaku Ramen, this Saturday, Dec. 19. 

"Otaku Ramen will remain faithful to traditional methods and philosophies of ramen, while adding hints of Southern influence," the restaurant announced today. It adds that the broth is made fresh from locally sourced pork bones, and the menu will feature various ramen styles, including paitan, shoyu and the popular Tennessee Tonkotsu (a rich bone broth with noodles, pork confit, scallion, and more).

Gavigan, a music-biz veteran, turned her personal obsession with ramen into a business in 2013, as a pop-up venture. In 2014 Otaku South planted semi-permanent roots when she opened the POP restaurant space at 604 Gallatin Ave. (where Little Octopus now resides).

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Peach Cobbler Factory Opens Bricks-and-Mortar Store in Time for Holiday Shopping

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 9:01 AM

click to enlarge cobbler.jpg
After two years of a nomadic existence traveling around from market to market selling their tasty wares, the folks at The Peach Cobbler Factory has finally found a permanent home for their customers to visit to buy their line of cobblers, cinnamon rolls and other baked goods. The new store is located at 2604 Nolensville Pike in the Woodbine community and will be open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Already known for staging delicious pop-up stores, The Peach Cobbler Factory will continue selling at satellite locations at the Nashville Farmers' Market and in Marathon Village, with plans to grow into even more locations next year. "It's so exciting being a part of the Woodbine community," says owner Tami Lenore. "We plan to continue baking the amazing cobblers we were known for at the farmers market, and a few other surprises are on the way!"

I don't know about you, but I can always stand to have more places to buy cobblers, pies and banana pudding. Welcome to the neighborhood!

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