Days Inn Airport, 2 International Plaza, off Briley Pkwy. 367-9758
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Fri.; 5-10 p.m. Sat.
Lunch: $6.95 plus tax; dinner: $10-$15.
In honor of the new year, something newand different, and a little bit peculiar. About a month ago, I was handed a flyer announcing the opening of Bombay Club. “A taste of both worlds,” it read. “Traditional Southern lunch buffets and fine cuisine of India.”
Who wouldn’t be curious? Samosas stuffed with black-eyed peas? Alu biscuits? Okra paneer? Tandoori fried chicken? Catfish vindaloo? The mind reels at the possibilities.
As it turns out, Bombay Club is not introducing a trendy new fusion of Indian and Southern foods; it’s keeping the two cuisines separate but equal. That the curious concept is located in one of Nashville’s most traditional Southern restaurants, on what is believed to be the city’s longest-running buffet, is certainly noteworthy.
Silver Wings was the popular restaurant in the Airport Hilton owned by local personality Jack Favier, who had a weekly cooking segment on the old WSM-TV Noon show hosted by Teddy Bart. The lunchtime buffet of Southern foods began in 1967; when the hotel changed hands and became a Days Inn, Silver Wings remained.
John Johnson, a native Nashvillian who serves as general manager of both the Days Inn and the restaurant, remembers coming to Silver Wings after church with his parents when he was a little boy. “The Sunday dinner buffet was very popular,” he remembers. “It was a real treat to come here.”
Recently, the hotel was purchased by an Indian family. Risking revolt from veteran customersand they are legion, according to Johnsonthe family changed the name of the restaurant, added some art and decorative pieces from their native country to the two dining rooms, and introduced the concept of curry and chutney to diners more accustomed to fatback and gravy.
Dinner at Bombay Club is upscale, entirely devoted to Indian food and cooked to order from a menu. But in a concessionary effort not to alarm or turn off the nearby workers and retirees who have for years enjoyed the substantial, moderately priced Southern fare on the Silver Wings buffet, the hotel owners decided not to eliminate the turnip greens and beef tips, but simply to offer another option.
According to Johnson, it’s working, and his assertion was borne out during a midday surveillance mission. The two rooms were nearly full at a Friday lunch, with Indian customers taking about half the seats. A salad bar with iceberg lettuce, grated carrots, sliced green peppers, canned fruits and chicken soup did not inspire any of our party to take a plate. Instead, we scoped out the hot buffet, democratically divided between India and Tennessee, with each tray thoughtfully labeled for easy identification. Beginning at one end, fried catfish and hush puppies, barbecued short ribs, squash casserole, white beans, fried okra, corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. Then an abrupt change of direction: pakora, basmati rice, tandoori chicken, alu gobi, palak paneer, chili chicken, malai chicken, daal makhani and crisp papadam.
Servers make frequent stops at tables, refilling glasses of tea, offering hot, fresh naan bread (no biscuits or cornbread in evidence), and explaining the various Indian dishes. Desserts on this day were limited to Indian delicacies, just sweet enough to satisfy folks more accustomed to banana pudding and chess pie: chum chum, a soupy rice pudding flavored with cardamom and orange zest; gajar ka halwa, grated carrots sweetened with honey and grated pistachios; and gulab jamun, fried cheese-dough balls in a honey syrup.
The quality of the food is about the same as one would find on any buffet, which is to say that some dishes suffer from sitting too long under the heat lamps, particularly the deep-fried items and the dishes cooked with a fair amount of fat or oil. But the catfish was excellent: plump filets dredged in a peppery corn meal, then fried to a golden exterior crisp and moist interior flakiness. The Indian dishes were well seasoned, though with a definite preponderance of sliced yellow onion.
Johnson says that it has been lots of fun to watch longtime customers’ reactions. “At first, they completely avoided the Indian foods,” he says. “But the naan is pretty irresistible. Then they maybe tried a piece of tandoori chicken, or the spinach [palak paneer], or the cauliflower and potatoes [alu gobi]. Now we sometimes see them skipping the Southern side altogether.”
The $6.95-per-person buffet changes daily. Bombay Club is in the Days Inn just off Briley Parkway. From Nashville, take I-24 East to Briley Parkway, or take Thompson Lane until it turns into Briley Parkway and crosses Murfreesboro Road.
New year brings a host of new restaurants to town
East Nashville continues to be a hotbed for new restaurants, with three in various stages of planning. Meg Giuffrida has leased a Victorian home at the corner of 12th and Woodland Streets, catty-corner from the East Nashville post office. A visual artist with a passion for cooking, Giuffrida quit her job in the design department of the Scene about a year ago to start Red Wagon Catering Company, which also provides takeout food to East Nashville’s Good Earth Market. Giuffrida runs the very popular Sunday brunch at Bongo Java Roasting Company on 11th Streetbut only for another few weeks.
Once interior work is completed, furnishings purchased and kitchen equipment installed, Giuffrida hopes to have Red Wagon Cafe at 1112 Woodland St. open by the end of February. She will be serving lunch Monday through Friday, brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and takeout entrees daily. The restaurant will seat about 40, which permits her to apply for a wine license. She plans to offer monthly wine-tasting dinners as well. She will be assisted by the rotating cast she currently uses in her catering and brunch endeavors. (Red Wagon will continue off-site catering.) A large backyard will be put to good use as a kitchen garden with fresh herbs and vegetables.
The menu will be reflective of Giuffrida’s tastes in food. “I don’t consider myself a chef so much as someone who loves to cook and eat yummy food. I lean toward Asian and Middle Eastern foods, and I like noodle dishes. There will be plenty of vegetarian fare, but not restricted to that. My motto is 'Fear no food,’ but you won’t find tripe on my menu.”
As of mid-December, East Nashville’s fine-dining pioneer, Sasso, ceased to exist, ultimately a victim of internal strife between the three original partners. The building at the corner of 14th and Woodland has been leased to Mitch Carlton, a neighborhood resident who until recently was manager of South Street restaurant.
A new restaurant will open in the space, and it will be more casual than Sasso and the nearby Margot Café and Bar. The concept will be much like South Street: a bar-oriented hangout that will serve lunch and dinner and will cater to residents of the neighborhood. Food will be moderately priced. Since taking over the space, Carlton discovered the kitchen floor needed replacing, causing a slight delay in the original schedule; plans are to open in late January.
Fred Grgich, one of the original partners of Caffe Nonna in Sylvan Park, and of Margot, is looking to open another restaurant in East Nashville, reportedly with one of the principals from the popular Woodland Street hangout/venue Slow Bar. He is looking at a building on Eastland, very near the new Rosepepper Cantina & Mexican Grille.
On the west side of town, there’s also some brewing activity. The restaurant at the corner of 21st and Edgehill, home to Ciracco’s and later Danzo’s, had been vacant and dilapidating for years. A proposed new restaurant also named Danzo’s (after South Street owner Dan Goosetree) only got so far as the sign, and ended up being used primarily for storage. Recently, passerby have noticed that the small building has been gutted, and is in the process of being reconstructed. The industry grapevine reports that a Mellow Mushroom will soon take over the refurbished space. A regional chain of casual restaurants serving pizza, calzones, salads and hoagies, Mellow Mushroom has stores in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Georgia (a total of 25), North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Virginia.
Open for business
Peacock Indian restaurant, at the corner of 18th Avenue and Church Street, has changed hands and has undergone an exterior facelift. It is now owned by the Taj Mahal group and is called Taste of India. Just as Peacock did, it offers an extensive and comprehensive slate of Indian dishes with particular attention paid to vegetarians. (There are 18 veggie dishes available.) It continues to serve dosai (hubcap-sized thin crepes of rice and lentils) and dahi vada (donut-shaped lentil fritters). Taste of India is open every day but Monday, serving a $5.99 lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Located at 1805 Church St. 327-5400.
Bread & Company, the bakery, cafe, take-away and catering company owned by Anne Clay and her son John Clay (who serves as president of the company), has opened a spacious, contemporary-looking new store in the Borders-P.F. Chang’s retail center at 2525 West End Ave. The right wall of the airy, open room displays the store’s breads, pastries, “salad wall” with bins of greens where customers create their own salads, and a case with freshly made salads, soups and prepared foods. The rear wall is glass, allowing customers to watch the pastry and dessert operation, which will now be headquartered at the West End location.
On the left wall is a case that holds premade sandwiches, salads including the wildly popular Strawberry Fields and Cobb, and heat 'n’ serve entrees including the verde lasagna, chicken pot pie, and penne pasta with chicken, artichokes and hearts of palm. Cold beverages and gourmet coffee and tea drinks are for sale. Eat in the 50-seat cafe area, take your food back to the office or home, or picnic in Centennial Park across the street when the weather warms. Free delivery service in the midtown area will begin next month. Phone: 329-1400. The store is open 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Bread & Company also has another store under construction in Cool Springs, in the same area where there is now an Atlanta Bread Company and a Starbucksneither one of which is likely to send over the welcome wagon when Bread and Company opens later this spring.
Directly behind the 2525 retail/restaurant strip, the Nashville Marriott is open, with 307 rooms and an all-day, full-service restaurant. Latitude offers casual dining for breakfast and lunch, then transforms to a fresh seafood grill for dinner, offering a more intimate dining experience with fine wines and cocktails.
Finally, beat the chilland boost your immune systemwith the new Green Tea menu at Chez NuNu, the cafe within Tiba store and day spa, located in The Mall at Green Hills. Green tea is being touted as “the most potent health beverage ever,” according to the American Health Foundation. It is a powerful antioxidant, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and works as an antibacterial and antiviral agent. The Green Tea menu includes two types of bread, green tea rice, green tea tofu soup, green tea quiche, iced or hot green tea, and green tea cake.
The menu is part of Tiba’s new Institute of Traditional Oriental Medicine, offering acupuncture, Chinese herbal supplements and Tui Na pressure point massage. Phone: 269-5121. Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 1-3 p.m. Sun.
To report restaurant news, e-mail Kay West at firstname.lastname@example.org.