At 11:15 a.m. on a recent Monday, the number of SUVs coiled around the Chick-fil-A in the Brentwood Place shopping center is enough to make you wonder if the cashier is doling out stimulus checks with the grilled breast sandwiches. Nothing against Chick-fil-A, but I can't help thinking that if just one of those Yukon drivers would break ranks and head a few yards to the right—yeah, that way, in the direction of the T. J. Maxx HomeGoods store—she would start a revolution in dining that could shake the very core of Williamson County's appetite.
That's because just around the corner from the mothership of quick-service poultry—no farther away than the length of four Lexus RX 350s parked end to end—lies an unassuming strip of real estate that overflows with homemade delicacies inspired by cuisine from around the world.
No, not the Five Guys on the corner, though the arrival of the gut-busting burger factory marks an improvement in almost any neighborhood's beef-and-bun offerings. A little farther, just past the brand-new Bricks Café and its sprawling, diverse menu of brick-oven specialties. There, flanking the cheery Tex-Mex offerings of Chile Burrito, sit three merchants whose diverse international backgrounds make the Kroger Shopping Center an unexpectedly global gastronomic address.
The godfather of the row is Peter Jarupat, owner of Peter's Sushi & Thai. The 4-year-old Asian eatery has fast become a dining destination, drawing folks from north and south of Old Hickory Boulevard for what many local foodies call the best sushi in Nashville. This summer, Jarupat, who left his native Thailand 30 years ago, embraced his restaurant's resounding popularity and expanded the narrow dining room by taking over the retail space next door. Now double the size of the former room and reappointed with a sleek, serene and contemporary palette of colors and framed photographs on the walls, Peter's still bulges with business. On our visit, the well-heeled crowd was equal parts business lunchers noshing at the sushi bar and leisurely couples stealing an hour to moon over platters of gem-colored sashimi, heaping plates of glistening noodles and steaming bowls of tom yum soup.
With the recent renovation, Peter's launched a handful of new items, including several rolls wrapped in soy paper in lieu of seaweed and a pair of salad rolls—pinwheels of cucumber ribbon spiraled with buttery salmon or tuna and served with citrus-tinged ponzu. We ordered the extravagant tuna salad roll, which arrived on a large plate with eight sizable cross-sections that were worth every penny of the $13.
As much as his guests enjoy Jarupat's cuisine, his new neighbors appreciate the warm welcome he has extended to them. Ever since brothers Juwan and Zindan Berwary took over Elena's Café two doors down in October, Jarupat has helped them focus as they fine-tune their business plan, Zindan says. Under its former ownership, Elena's offered an eclectic menu of wraps, salads and a handful of Russian specialties. The Berwarys, who emigrated from Northern Iraq and moved here from Virginia three years ago, discovered Elena's when Zindan was developing a resource list for Kurds on the website NashvilleKurds.com. One of the businessmen he profiled was Karen Yeglazarova, a Russian baker who designed wedding cakes and other confections in the kitchen at Elena's Café. Zindan learned that the owners were selling Elena's, so he and his brother decided to try their hands at restaurant ownership.
Since buying the tiny store, the Berwarys have tweaked Elena's Russian-influenced recipes to reflect their own native cuisine and their mom's cooking tradition. The menu boards hanging over the counter have not yet changed, but the intriguing golubky—cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, rice and vegetables and drizzled with cucumber-yogurt sauce—have evolved under new ownership. The recipe now includes diced eggplant, bell peppers, jalapenos, parsley and other herbs, and it recalls something the brothers would have eaten at home, Zindan says.
We particularly enjoyed the borscht, dark purplish-red soup thick with shredded beets, carrots and cabbage and topped with a cool dollop of sour cream. Since taking over, the Berwarys have altered the rich, salty broth to include organic beef from the Amish farms in Kentucky.
In addition to borscht, the Berwarys added a roster of homemade soups, including chicken noodle and beef stew.
While Elena's still offers breakfast of omelets and pancakes and a lunch repertoire of wraps, pasta and salads, the brothers are studying the neighborhood to see what's missing. Their first impressions are that the evolving dining strip needs a dessert-and-coffee option. To that end, they're considering introducing ice cream, gelato or Italian ices, and they've been testing out different sweets, including homemade baklava.
That means that the stretch of strip mall at 330 Franklin Pike surely has one of the most highly concentrated populations of baklava in the midstate—or, at the very least, that the Berwarys are fearless. It takes guts to try to sell the Middle Eastern pastry right next door to Kalamata's, where baklava-and-falafel baron Maher Fawaz, along with his business partner Beth Collins and his sister Ghada Fawaz, recently opened a Brentwood outpost of the popular Mediterranean eatery.
Like the flagship in Green Hills, Kalamata's II is an elegantly simple store, with creamy walls like aged stucco, counter service and ample seating. The menu, which reflects the Fawazes' native Lebanese cuisine and other flavors of the Mediterranean, remains the same as at the original store, and, like the Hillsboro Road location, the Brentwood store hosts live Mediterranean and Latin music on weekends. (Don't forget to bring your own wine.)
But the family-centric nature of the Brentwood market inspired the team to introduce children's dishes at both stores. Now, in addition to the fresh roster of falafel, hummus, gyro platters, grilled fish and home-baked goods—including flaky, honey-soaked piles of pistachio baklava—Kalamata's offers cheese pizza and pasta marinara for kids.
So much locally owned entrepreneurial activity up and down the sidewalk—including Bricks, Peter's, Chile Burrito, Elena's and Kalamata's—is surely reason to skip the chicken sandwich franchise every now and then. Then again, maybe that's where the Berwarys will identify the missing culinary link in their new neighborhood. Maybe the best thing they could bring to Brentwood's international crossroads of dining is a distinctly American offering—a drive-through.
Kalamata's serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Elena's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Peter's Sushi & Thai serves lunch and dinner Monday through Friday and dinner Saturday.
This place has closed
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