3764 Hillsboro Rd. 383-8700.
Hours: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.
Williams-Sonoma Grand Cuisine
The Mall at Green Hills. 383-7271.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; noon-6 p.m. Sun.
“As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again!” Scarlett O’Hara’s raised-fist vow when she returned to what remained of her plantation home comes to mind as one surveys the breadth of dining opportunities in Green Hills. Fast food is well-represented, as are pizza delivery chains. There are restaurants that specialize in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Italian, and contemporary American fare; there are casual eateries, meat-and-threes, cafes, coffee shops, ice cream stores, doughnut shops, bakeries and bagel stores, and several gourmet takeouts.
A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association found that Americans are dining out in record numbers, spending an astonishing $1 billion a day in restaurants and on prepared food from supermarkets. Is anybody cooking anymore?
Yes, say the owners of two different cookware stores, both of which are celebrating their ninth year in Nashville with new locations. Hilda Pope has just moved her Classic Gourmet, a cookware, catering, prepared food and instructional store into a smaller and more efficient space in the Glendale shopping center on Hillsboro Road. And Williams-Sonoma, the fast-growing nationwide chain, has expanded locally, moving from its 1,500-square-foot store on the lower level of The Mall at Green Hills to a 7,000-square-foot space on the upper level.
Pope, who is a certified chef and a cooking instructor, purchased Conte-Philips cookware store from Andrea Conte in 1991, when it was on White Bridge Road. She stayed there for three years before moving to Hillsboro and Abbott Martin, where she expanded the prepared food and catering departments of the business. In March, after failing to come to terms on a new lease for that location, she moved about a quarter-mile north on Hillsboro to the Glendale shopping center. The design of the new space is much better suited, she says, to the popular cooking classes, which do double-duty as dinner out.
“It’s all happening here in Green Hills,” Pope says. “Though there are plenty of places to eat in or take out, people in this area are still interested in cooking. I draw from two groups: people who like to cook and entertain and want to learn more about a certain type of cuisine; and people who don’t cook but come for the entertainment and the great meal. It’s the best dinner in town for the money.”
A waist-high bar now encircles the preparation and cooking area, and Pope has reduced her class sizes from 32 to 16, offering a more intimate learning and dining experience. She teaches several classes herself and culls local instructors from restaurants and caterers; guest chefs are drawn from the International Association of Cooking Professionals.
On the schedule for July and August are classes on Thai, Chinese, Italian, and Pacific Rim dining, as well as garden suppers, cooking with seafood and fresh produce, and grilling. Next year, Pope will be leading two overseas culinary tours: In May she’ll spend a week in the heart of the Chianti Hills in Tuscany, and in June, she’ll go to Provence.
Chuck Williams is the “Williams” in Williams-Sonoma; “Sonoma” refers to the Sonoma Valley in California, where he first opened a hardware store in 1956. Not long after that, he made a trip to Europe and was impressed with the range of sophisticated cookware he saw there, so he made arrangements to have some shipped to his store in California. The new line of products was an immediate success, and Williams opened about 15 more stores before hitting on the catalog idea. Today, Williams-Sonoma mails about 15 million catalogs a year. Cooks who want a more tactile experience can visit one of 161 stores across the country; the company is now embarking on an even more aggressive five-year expansion plan.
The Green Hills W-S opened in 1991. The new store is among the biggest of the company’s Grande Cuisine concepts, carrying a more extensive line of cutlery, electronics, and specialty food items than before. It has been bustling since its unveiling on June 3.
When asked to explain the success of a cooking store in an area so jam-packed with dining options, manager Karilyn Hartman explains: “Nashville is very much an entertaining type of city. Even if people aren’t cooking dinner every weeknight for their families like they used to, they are doing a lot of entertaining on weekends.”
As cooking has moved from the drudgery of daily chores to a weekend hobby and a form of entertainment in itself, the equipment has gone upscalewith prices to match. Williams-Sonoma carries top-of-the-line cookware, bakeware, cutlery, and electronics; Dualit toasters, imported from England, carry an average price of around $400. How can a toaster cost $400?
“I asked myself the same thing when I first saw it,” Hartman says with a laugh. “But it really is the best toaster money can buy, assembled from start to finish by just one craftsman. You’ll never need to buy another toaster.” In that case, amortize the cost of the Dualit over 25 years of toasting bread, muffins, and bagels, and it works out to just $16 a year. A bargain if there ever was one.
Williams-Sonoma also carries an extensive line of simple and functional linens and gadgets. “We have plenty of people who come in and want to get a $10 hostess gift, and we have loads of those. The cook’s tools department is one of our most popular.” Hartman adds that the stores get as many non-cooking customers as professional cooks. “We have chefs who come in to buy things for their personal use, as well as people who have never cooked a thing in their lives, asking for help in starting a kitchen. We like to think of Williams-Sonoma as a toy store for adults.”
Since it opened in early 1996, there has been no shortage of press releases from Magnolias, the pricey, upper-crust restaurant next door to The Factory at Franklin. Barbara Mandrell was among the original investors, and chef Richard Hamilton was one of the first local chefs to hire his own publicist.
The Magnolias information pipeline seems to have dried up, however, in the midst of recent rumors that Hamilton has left the restaurant, and that the restaurant’s French-influenced fine dining will soon be revamped toshuddera steakhouse concept.
Calls placed to the restaurant seeking information were passed from one employee to another like a hot potato. Those who would talk said only that Hamilton is on vacation, but no one could say where he was or when he would return. Finally, the restaurant’s publicist released a statement saying that the chef is still associated with the restaurant. “However, Hamilton has professed a strong interest to buy the restaurant from the other stockholders and is currently in negotiations...discussing several different options.” The release goes on to say Hamilton is taking time away from the restaurant to engage in those negotiations. Stay tuned.
Putting down stakes
Industry surveys indicate that red meat consumption is at its highest level in more than 20 years, which bodes well for Rudy Caduff and Nick Nikolaiczyk, two restaurant-industry veterans who have partnered for a new restaurant in an old location. Nick & Rudy’s Steakhouse will open in late July in the former Ireland’s at Broadway and 21st Avenue South.
Ireland’s, one of Nashville’s most popular restaurants in the ’70s, closed in the ’80s and attempted a comeback a couple of years ago. Apparently, there was no longer an audience for “stake & biskits,” as they were called on the menu, and about six months ago, Caduff and Nikolaiczyk began negotiations for the space.
The surging popularity of big, juicy steaks isn’t the only indication that Nick & Rudy’s will be successful. Between them, the two men probably know every bold-faced name in Nashville. Nikolaiczyk at one time ran the Old Hickory restaurant at the Opryland Hotel and spent 14 years as general manager of the members-only University Club; Caduff spent “21 years, one month, and two days” as director of catering at Opryland Hotel.
Currently, the new owners are cleaning up the restaurant, installing new kitchen equipment, and looking for a chef.
Though the much-anticipated Mirror restaurant in the 12South neighborhood will not officially open for lunch and dinner until July 5, the staff will conduct four nights of invitation-only trial runs this week, which investor Rick Bolsom refers to as the three T’s: testing, training, and tasting. The process will help chef/owners Michael DeGregory (most recently of Bound’ry) and Colleen DeGregory (most recently pastry chef at Havana Lounge) get an advance customer reflection on the Mirror menu.