During the second or third inning of baseball games at Greer Stadium, a large cloud of smoke usually puffs up like a giant genie behind the right-field bleachers and then gradually drifts onto the field. Unfortunately, it is not there to grant three wishes for the Sounds. (Picked by Baseball News as the best team in the Pacific Coast League, they’re still mired in last place in the Eastern Division.)
Given the team’s troubles, one could forgive right-fielder Darrell Whitmore and first baseman George Canale if they were distracted by the scent of burning charcoal and sizzling brats wafting from the massive grill set up near the parking lot (where parking is free this year, by the way). Team manager Trent Jewett may be directing the action between the baselines and GM Bill Larson is the man in charge in the front office, but when it comes to the grill, Chef Paul is sending the signals.
Paul (that’s the only name he gives, so it’s the name we’re using) has been cooking at Greer Stadium for 19 years. But he took up his position at the grill last season and has been throwing smoke ever since. He fires up at about 4 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game. (Gates open at 5, and fans come in hungry.) The chef and his helpers use 15 to 20 bags of charcoal per game.
On the grill you’ll find burgers, chicken quarters, chicken wings, chicken sandwiches, brats, Polish sausages, and thick pork chops. You can also get a barbecue sandwich, a Philly cheese steak, and baked beans. Our favorites were the wings, the chicken sandwich, and the plump, sizzling brats served in a hoagie roll. (A Chicago friend who sampled the latter gave it a thumbs-up but suggested that Chef Paul add some grilled onions.) Paul says the pork chops are popular, but I can’t see eating one at a ball game.
Prices are in keeping with what you’ll find at your average concessions stand: Burgers are $2.75, wings are $3.50, and brats are $2.50.
Hot as ever
Mary’s Old Fashioned Pit Barbecue has been a fixture on Jefferson Street for decades. It may be the only place in town where you can get a slab of ribs at 5 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon, since Mary’s (which serves takeout only) is open around the clock every day. In January, Mary Carrethers sold her business to Clarke Fizer, who had previously spent some time in her employ, both behind the counter and in the kitchen. Clarke’s son Terrence Fizer is in charge now. While much remains the same, the Fizers have already made some improvements and added a couple of menu items.
The new owners have renovated the kitchen and have plans to spiff up the exterior as well. (Longtime customers say it already looks cleaner.) While the Fizers have thought about adding seating, they note that their business is based on drive-up customers, and parking is limited.
Indeed, on a recent hot Monday night, the small lot was as jammed as an L.A. freeway at rush hour. Customers were lined up at the two windows. The one on the left serves slabs of ribs, shoulder sandwiches, barbecue on cornbread, barbecue chicken halves, Polish sausages, baked beans, slaw, and potato salad. The other window is reserved for the two new menu items: buffalo wings and fish sandwiches.
And what outstanding additions they are. The wings are not battered and fried like some. Instead, they’re cooked in a hot sauce that adds a fiery kick. If you want to taste anything else, save the wings for last. The fish sandwich is the best I’ve sampled lately in my quest for the great hot fish sandwich. The moist, fresh fillets, deep-fried light and crispy, are piled between two slices of white bread. Don’t forget the mustard, pickles, onions, and hot sauce. The Fizers are also making their baked beans in-house.
Along with the change of ownership came the top-secret recipe for the barbecue sauce. Terrence says many customers ask if they can just buy the barbecue sauce and cook their own meat at home. “I don’t think we’ll be doing that,” he says. “I’d rather people buy my meat, and I’ll throw in some extra sauce for free.”
Mary’s Old Fashioned Barbecue Pit is located at 1108 Jefferson St. (256-7696). Open all day, every day.
Grazing in Green Hills
There’s quite the little flurry of restaurant activity at the Green Hills strip center best known as the home of Ruby Tuesday’s. They’re all gearing up, I assume, for the fall opening of the Regal megaplex.
In the fast/casual food category, Smooth Moves Juice Bar is already open, serving 17 different kinds of 24-ounce smoothies ($3.50 each, including one booster). The list of fresh-squeezed juices includes conventional flavors such as orange, apple, carrot, and tomato, as well as acquired tastes such as beet, celery, broccoli, parsley, and onion. Smooth Moves also serves sandwiches, soups, and salads.
Next door will be a new Alpine Bagels and Brews, with its signature coffee bar and specialty drinks and its varied repertoire of bagels, deli-type sandwiches, fresh-made salads, and soups. Alpine also has the exclusive on hand-dipped Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Cafe Lylla now occupies the space that was briefly the home of Milano Pizza. The new cafe is a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a pretty little room. Once they close the drapes, you may even be able to forget you’re in a strip center.
The menu is promising and fairly simple, an advisable decision since the cafe is attempting the three-meal-a-day challenge. Lunch offerings include soups and several salads, baguette and pita sandwiches, and a few hot entrées. At dinner appetizers include onion confit, paté, and escargot. (The sweet garlic soup sounds good.) Entrées are priced from $7.25 for tagliatelle with grilled vegetables to $19.95 for fricassee of lobster.
Smooth Moves (279-9800) is open Mon-Thurs. 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday noon-6 p.m.
Alpine Bagels and Brews expects to be open by the end of June, when operating hours will be Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cafe Lylla (297-5669) serves breakfast Mon.-Fri. from 7 a.m., Sat. from 9 a.m., and Sun. from 11 a.m. Dinner is served Mon.-Sat. 5-9 p.m.
When the tornadoes blew through East Nashville two months ago, Radio Cafe, the popular restaurant and gathering spot, lost power and had to close for some minor repairs. These days, the place is fully operational and a new, expanded menu has been introduced. The kitchen is open Monday through Friday 7 a.m.-10 p.m., serving a full breakfast until 11 a.m. On Saturdays the kitchen staff sleeps late, and the cafe doesn’t open until 9 a.m.; as compensation, breakfast is served until noon. Sunday brunch is served 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The lunch and dinner menu includes appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrées. There is also a special of the day. On Saturday, for you comfort-food seekers, it’s meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans. Beer and wine are available, along with a wide range of coffee drinks. There is live entertainment at Sunday brunch and on many evenings.
Radio Cafe is located at 1313 Woodland St. (262-1766).