What the heck is meat-and-three?
Meat-and-three is a style of dining similar to diners in the northeast and blue plate specials in the Midwest, but due to its nutritional incorrectness, it is probably illegal on the West Coast. The “meat” refers to the centerpiece of the meal, which usually rotates among several choices, including fried chicken, baked chicken, baked ham, roast beef, meat loaf, beef tips, liver & onions, chicken ’n’ dumplins, fried fish, or turkey ’n’ dressin’, pork chops, ribs and country fried steak. Vegetables are cooked with plenty of salt and fat to a consistency that does not require chewing. The vegetables are the “three” in the title, but something of a misnomer as most places now routinely offer meat ’n’ two. Choose among such popular Southern “vegetables” as macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes, sliced tomatoes, fried apples, broccoli casserole, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, squash casserole, pinto beans, fried corn and sweet potatoes. Pick a breadyeast rolls or corn bread, add a tall glass of sweet tea, a slice of chess pie, and you’ve got your basic Nashville meat-and-three feast, a cheap and filling helping of mama’s cookin’ (if your mama cooked). Some of Nashville’s most beloved purveyors include Arnold’s, Swett’s, Belle Meade Cafeteria, Monell’s, Silver Sands, White Trash Café, Pie Wagon and Sylvan Park.
Where can I find a fine dining experience to impress a date without breaking the bank?
Do as the Europeans do and do dinner late. F. Scott’s, the smoothly elegant restaurant in the tony Green Hills neighborhood, offers a meal deal that can’t be beat. Dine after 9 p.m. and every menu item is 50% off. Jason McConnell’s food is simple, seasonal and sophisticated, and service is always impeccable. Start your romantic evening off with a pre-dinner cocktail or end it with a nightcap in the cozy bar, where live jazz is performed nightly.
How hot is Hot Chicken?
Be warned, it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity that will burn you when it comes to Hot Chicken, which refers not to the temperature but to the degree of spice in this uniquely Nashville specialty. Asking for extra hot is akin to lighting a match to check for a gas leak. Don’t do it. Novices should always begin with the mild or medium, working their way up to more incendiary levels. A breast sandwich is bone-in, served atop two slices of white bread to absorb the grease, and topped with sour pickle chips. It is best washed down with lemonade or water. Never, ever, drive and eat hot chicken at the same time. Get yer’ Hot Chicken at Prince’s, Bolton’s, Mr. Boo’s and Wilma Kaye’s.
Where can I dine vegan with non-vegans?
Grins (pronounced Greens) is not only Nashville’s first and only fully Kosher restaurant, it is also strictly vegetarian, with several vegan items thrown in for the extremists. Chef Michele Watkins Knaus infuses so much flavor into her foodwraps, salads, soups, paninis, sides and hot entréeseven fully committed carnivores won’t notice the missing beef. Grins is located on the Vanderbilt campus in the Ben Shulman Center for Jewish life, but is welcoming to all, even goyim and non-Dores. Alternatively, Kim Totzke at Yellow Porch is exceedlingly veggie friendly, but also quite fond of the moo, the oink, the cluck, the quack and even the baaah.
What’s up with the BBQ?
In these here parts, orange and UT are synonymous with Vols and Knoxville, but if they evoke Long Horns and Austin for you, then point your pickup in the direction of Judge Bean’s BBQ, on the outskirts of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. You’ll smell the brisket before you see the big black smoker outside the rough-edged wood-paneled building that looks like it was sucked up in a West Texas twister and thrown down in Music City. Everything is smoked, not just the ribs and brisket, but also the chicken drummettes, the tamales and the absolutely fabulous Shrimp Diablo. Hook ’em, Horns!
Can I get sushi here?
All aboard for the Choo Choo Roll, the specialty of the house at Samuri Sushi, one of Nashville’s longest-operating sushi bars, but with an all new bag of tricksand rollsthanks to new owner, young Yun Choo. Along with the Choo Choo Rollbroiled freshwater eel, crab, salmon, avocado, strawberries and pine nutsChoo also wraps up shrimp, cream cheese, asparagus and nuts in rice paper and mango for the Hawaiian roll, packs the heat into his mussels dynamite, and goes nuts with the Crazy Roll. The Dragon Roll undulates across the plate, head to tail eel and avocado. Go early or late: The 32 seats are typically claimed by an ever-growing band of Chooistas, especially on Choose-day nights, when they gather for a sushi orgy.
Where can I eat ethnic?
Which part of Africa do you prefer? Somalia or Ethiopia? What Latin flavor are you craving: Mexican, Peruvian, Honduran, Cuban? Do you have a hankering for Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean or Thai? Want to sample India or Turkey? Much of Nashville’s explosive ethnic population has settled in the gritty neighborhoods around Nolensville Road, Murfreesboro Road and Charlotte Pike, which is where you will also find their markets and restaurants. Three Vietnamese restaurants are within walking distance of one another on Charlotte; one small strip center on Murfreesboro Road is home to Ethiopian, Honduran and Vietnamese eateries. Check the Scene online Dining Guide (www.nashvillescene.com) under the ethnic persuasion you desire for a complete listing.
I’m Jewish and miss my mother’s cooking. Where can I get....?
A bowl of matzo ball soup? Some latkes? Noshville, a contemporary diner with a nostalgic bent is the place to find deli, chopped liver, latkes, blintzes, lox, a slice of New York cheesecake to die for and a lively, big-city schmooze at breakfast and lunch. Feeling a little under the weather? A bowl of their hearty, homemade chicken soup will fix you right up; cold sufferers swear by its curative powers. In Belle Meade, the menu at Goldie’s Deli is pure Noo Yawk: corned beef on rye, pastrami, salami, knishes, kugel and the best matzo ball soup in town.
It’s 3 a.m. Where can we get some chow?
The easy answer is Waffle House, the late-night counter of choice for generations of road-weary travelers and ravenous revelers, needing a quick fix of scattered, smothered and covered to absorb some of that wicked party punch. An off-the-beaten path alternative and a North Nashville landmark is Mary’s Old Fashioned Pit BBQ on Jefferson Street. No tables, just a pot-holed parking lot and an order window. Eat your pulled pork, slab of ribs or hot fish sandwich in the car or take it home.
Where should I suggest we eat when the 'rents come for Parent’s Weekend?
The Palm downtown is the place for full-bodied wines, thick juicy steaks, perfectly fried onions, shoulder rubbing with Nashville’s most powerful movers and shakers and unlimited credit cards. If you come from a family of foodies, take them to Zola on West End, where Chef Deb Paquetteregarded by her peers as Nashville’s Queen of Cuisineturns out a palate-popping menu of Mediterranean-influenced dishes that tease, tantalize and titillate even the most well-traveled and cosmopolitan taste-buds.
Where’s the best brunch?
Most hotels in town offer a Sunday brunch, if you’re okay with quantity over quality, and don’t mind dining from a feed trough. If you prefer more individual attention, Tin Angel, a warm, welcoming New York-ish neighborhood restaurant on West End, has one of Nashville’s most enduring and best Sunday brunches. Copper Kettle on Granny White has deservedly earned a reputation for its creative brunch fare (no alcohol due to its proximity to Church-of-Christ run David Lipscomb). For something with more of a kickin atmosphere and foodEasy’s in the Village focuses on flavors from the Southwest and Louisiana.
Where can I get my latte without compromising my anti-corporate convictions?
Depends on the neighborhood, but almost anywhere you go, Nashville is rife with Anti-Starbucks. Get roasted by the city’s most vocal promoter of java independence, Bob Bernstein, who owns Bongo Java on Belmont Boulevard, Fido in Hillsboro Village and BJRC in East Nashville’s Five Points. In 12 South, try Portland Brew. In Berry Hill, it’s Sam & Zoey’s; in Midtown go to Bean Central or J-J’s Market;, on Jefferson Street, the place to be is Kijiji; downtown do Third Bean; and Music Row gets its kick from Caffeine on Demonbreun.
Are good food and good music mutually exclusive in Music City?
That depends on your definition of good, but you can eat to the beat at several establishments, from the casualTin Roof, Sutler, Family Wash, 3rd & Lindsley, Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Barto the very serious and infamous Bluebird Café; to the upscale ambiance of Belle Meade Brasserie, Nick & Rudy’s, F. Scott’s, Café 123 (on select nights) and Wild Boar.
What about burgers?
Fat Mo’s is the home of the heart-attack-in-a-sack: the Fat Mo Super Deluxe Burger, 27 ounces of beef, mustard, mayo, ketchup, pickles, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, grilled onion, grilled mushrooms, barbecue sauce, bacon and jalapeño peppers. If you want to be where the buffalo roam, Ted’s Montana Grill offers bison burgers done 20 different ways (beef and chicken also available) and heaping plates of salt-and-peppered hand-cut onion rings. Natives and traditionalists swear by Rotier’s patty melt: a cheeseburger served on French bread. Wash it down with Nashville’s best milkshake. For a hit of nostalgia and a terrific hand-patted burger and Belgian fries, try the 75-year-old Charlotte Pike drive-in, Bobbie’s Dairy Dip.
What about pizza?
They are many and varied. Gourmands love DaVinci’s on Hayes Street. Mellow Mushroom originated in a college town, and has spreadlike wild fungithrough the SEC. Judging by its legion of fans, Pizza Perfect is not idle bragging; the original is on Granny White by the Lipscomb campus, but the better choice (and the one with beer on tap) is the Hillsboro Village outpost, owned by the founders, wise-cracking brothers Amir and Ali Arab. Just opened and still-untested is Mafiaosa’s pizzeria and pub in the 12 South ’hood, though the bar scene is hopping.