Late this past summer, I spent a couple of frustrating weeks trying to get a barbecued goat sandwich from Pop’s Barbecue on North Nashville’s Clifton Street. My first drive over resulted in being told they’d run out the day before. ”Want some shoulder instead?“ Well, OK, and as long as I’m here, I’ll take some ribs too. Will you have goat tomorrow? Can’t say for sure, was the reply. You might want to call first.
So, every few days, I called Pop’s. ”Got any goat yet?“ ”Nope, sorry lady, no goat today.“ It went on like that until I finally gave up. I never did get my barbecued goat sandwich.
Pop’s may want to give Hayat Abdi and Shukria Mohammed a call. The women, partners in a new Somalian restaurant on Murfreesboro Road, seem to have an endless supply of goat; they assure me that they have it seven days a week. If goat doesn’t do it for you, they also have beef and occasionally fish. For breakfast, you can have liver on a round of injera, the East African bread most commonly associated with Ethiopian cuisine. (At Juba, the injera is smaller than a platter and slightly larger than a pancake.) They’ve also got oatmeal, presumably without liver.
Juba is our second Somalian restaurantyet another indication of how dramatically Nashville’s cultural complexion is changing. (The other, Salama Market, at 2521 Nolensville Rd., has been open since March 1997.) Abdi, who was manning the stove on the afternoon I visited, moved to Connecticut from Somalia in 1988. When she and her husband divorced, she moved with her child to Nashville, partly to escape the cold Northern winters and partly because there was a growing Somalian community here.
Juba, named for a river in Somalia, is a teensy slice of space squeezed into the Walgreen’s shopping center on Murfreesboro Road at the Thompson Lane intersection. Located between a Chinese restaurant and a Domino’s, Juba is so small that there’s room only for two tables and six seats. You can place a takeout order, but by the time it’s ready, a chair will probably open up.
The only sign identifying the restaurant is left over from a short-lived Cuban eatery that was located in the same space. Indeed, that establishment opened and closed before most Cuban food fans, including myself, ever got so much as a plantain. You’ll know you’ve found the right place, though, if you see a fleet of taxi cabs in the parking lot: Apparently, many of Nashville’s Somali immigrants have found work here as cab drivers.
Your goat or beef tipsboth pan-cooked and highly seasonedwill come with rice or with spaghetti and tomato sauce; each plate comes garnished with lettuce, tomato, and raw onion, as well as sauteed strips of onion and green and red peppers. Both the beef and the goat are intensely favorful, with a touch of heat that lingers pleasantly on the tongue. The bite-sized bits of beef are more tender than the goat, some of which was a tad chewy, though not impenetrable.
Somalians eat with their fingers, but you can ask for a fork and a spoon. There are no knives, so I picked up the goat chunks, still on the bone, with my fingers and bit off the meat. Portions are generouseach platter comes with a fresh bananaand Juba offers perhaps the best meal for the money in town these days. Plates are $5.54 each, and cold drinks (water, sodas, and iced tea) are $.70. Credit cards aren’t accepted.
On Christmas Eve in Guatemala, the traditional family meal is tamales, and La Hispana Bakery on Nolensville Road is already taking orders for the holiday. You can sample one now, however, because owner (and Guatemalan native) William Jimenez is selling them individually from his store.
These are unlike the tamales you’ll find in most area Mexican restaurantsthe texture is more like polenta, and they’re chockful of other good things. As Senora Jimenez explains, the tamales are made with masa, ground pumpkin and sesame seed, rice, green olives, pork meat, and two kinds of peppers. The filling is wrapped in supple plaintain leavesinstead of corn husksthen boiled. Heat them up at home in the microwave, or place in a zip-lock baggie in boiling water. Senor Jimenez recommends a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. The tamales are $2.75 each.
Another addition to the sweet treats at La Hispana are the Cuban sandwiches ($4.25 each). Consisting of a sliced roll slathered in garlic mayonnaise, then layered with ham, pork, cheese, pickles, and peppers, the sandwich is swiped with melted butter on the outside, then smashed almost flat in a hot press. It was fabulous, and my children and I passed it back and forth on the ride home. By the time we got to 12South, there was nary a crumb left.
La Hispana Bakery is located at 3619 Nolensville Rd.; the phone number is 781-9578.
Will walk for food
Pity the poor tourists who find themselves downtown on a Monday night looking for a quick, moderately priced bite to eat. At a recent Predators game, I checked out Play between the first and second periods. Play, which advertises itself as Nashville’s Official Sports Bar, is located in the Arena tower, but outside of the actual concourse. (Be sure to take your ticket with you.) Because a preliminary phone call several weeks before and an ad in the October 23 Predators Press indicated Play was open seven days a week, I invited some friends and their small children to meet me and my small children there early on a Monday evening. Unfortunately, it was closed. So was Wolfy’s next door to the Arena. (Hello, Bob?) So was Joe B’s, the new pub/club/bar/restaurant that opened on Third Avenue South in October.
The adults among us refused to subject ourselves to NASCAR Cafe and also thought Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood would be too stimulating for little minds so close to bedtime. As we wandered around downtown like a band of itinerant nomads, my daughter spotted the neon sign for San Antonio Taco Company. Perfect, we decided. And it nearly is, especially if you are looking for something fast and cheap to eat before the hockey game.
SATCO has been on Commerce Street forever, at least according to the District’s timeline, and the fare hasn’t changed a bit: Chips, dips, beef or chicken fajitas, hard or soft tacos. They’ve got a pretty decent and relatively low-fat chicken taco salad, if you ignore the bed of chips it sits upon. Avoid the burgers and buffalo wings. Beers are ice-cold, and you can order them by the bucket.
Ordering, by the way, is a do-it-yourself affair with notepads. Prices, which seem rock bottom, are deceiving, since every single thing you addfrom shredded lettuce to onion and peppersto your taco or fajita is a quarter extra. Still, seven of us ate, and ate quite a bit, for just $44, and we had it on the table in under 10 minutes. SATCO, by the way, is open 7 days a week.
San Antonio Taco Company is located at 208 Commerce St.; the phone number is 259-4413. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun.