You could, I suppose, call it intelligent restaurant design. Me, I'll stick with straight-up Darwinism, because as the local culinary landscape evolves and restaurateurs discover what works, the stronger species are surviving in numbers. Recently, the number is two. Two Edley's, two Burger Ups, two PortaVias. There are two Rumours, but they're not related anymore.
With the proliferation of these dining doppelgangers, it's becoming necessary to refer to a restaurant by location. (Did you mean Porter Road Butcher East or PRB on Charlotte?) To help minimize the confusion, we offer this primer on the second acts of two beloved ice cream shops. If you're lucky, someone will invite you to meet at one of these nameplates soon. We'd hate for you to end up in the wrong place.
Technically speaking, the Ohio-born Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is ... gasp ... a chain, that dirtiest word in the land of locavore dining. But from the moment Jeni Britton Bauer brought her all-natural James Beard Award-winning recipes for ice cream, "gravel" crumbled toppings, and ice cream-cookie sandwiches to Nashville — first at Hot & Cold in Hillsboro Village and then at her own scoop shop in East Nashville beside Silly Goose — sweet-eaters have embraced Bauer as our own local girl made good.
If you didn't know better, you'd think Bauer dreamed up her decadent dairyland in a Music City milking barn. Among innovative flavors such as Wildberry Lavender, Goat Cheese with Red Cherries, Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk, Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry, Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt and Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet are whimsical recipes inspired by local ingredients — for instance, Loveless Biscuits & Peach Jam and Yazoo Sue With Rosemary Bar Nuts. The first is textured with golden crumbs and summer fruits from The Peach Truck, reminiscent of breakfast along the Natchez Trace Parkway. The second is riddled with a medley of mildly spicy nuts and infused with an American Porter-style beer brewed just up the street at Yazoo Brewery.
Jeni's magic formula — based on milk and cream from Snowville Creamery in Ohio — commands a premium price. A pint costs $10 in stores, $12 online. It has also earned the enterprise footholds in Illinois and Georgia. A Chicago store opened last month, and an Atlanta outpost is coming soon. But the cherry on top is Bauer's cheerful presence in the brand. She stops by Nashville every so often, most recently to launch a scoop shop in the 12South Flats mixed-use complex, next to Miranda Whitcomb Pontes' much-anticipated restaurant, Josephine.
As if to underscore the transparency of Jeni's ingredients, the 12South shop's decor recalls a milking parlor, with sparkling white tiles and gleaming stainless-steel fixtures that could be sprayed down easily when the cows go off duty. Fresh flowers dot the tables, and a bar faces out gleaming windows onto sidewalk seating and the burgeoning streetscape of the pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. When Josephine opens, we expect Jeni's will provide the sweet post-dining encore that Las Paletas affords Burger Up just down the road: an excuse to linger a little longer among local color and locally inspired flavors.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams serves daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
If you think an October column is untimely placement for a story about an enterprise that goes dormant in winter, you might not know that a second location of Bobbie's Dairy Dip now operates all year long downtown. Last year, Bobbie's owner Sam Huh took over Cheeseburger Charley's near the Arcade and transformed the chain store into the sister act of the 62-year-old Charlotte Avenue landmark.
An economist and banking veteran, Huh knows a little something about office workers: They get bored, and they don't get much exercise. So, Huh, who also owns J.J.'s Market and Cafe on Broadway, wants to provide the downtown lunch crowd something fun and a little healthier.
The fun stuff is obvious. This is Bobbie's after all, and who doesn't have a soft spot for soft-serve? The walls hold relics of the original location, which Huh purchased from Claire Mullally in 2006, and the chalkboard promises all the creamy decadence that draws families to the colorful Charlotte shake shack from spring to Thanksgiving. (Mullally bought it from the eponymous Bobbie McWright in 2000.)
In addition to sundaes, malts, frozen bananas and iconic dipped cones, swirling with butterfat and cocooned in crisp chocolate, there's a roster of celebrishakes, including the James Brown (vanilla, chocolate, coffee and chai), the Loretta Lynn (butter pecan) and the Chubby Checker (hot fudge, peanut butter and whipped cream).
But downtown employees can't live by butterfat alone, so Huh plans to add frozen yogurt to the roster. He is also upping the ante in the savory category, with attention to the growing appetite for healthier food.
In addition to chicken fingers, hot dogs, barbecue chicken sandwich, chicken tenders, sweet potato fries with sweet sour cream, hand-cut fries, and burgers and chili made with certified Angus beef, Huh is beefing up a repertoire of specialty burgers, adding one new burger a month. He recently featured a kimchi burger, topped with Korean-style pickled cabbage that he and his wife make. A poster on the counter listed health benefits of the bacterial cultures in fermented foods such as kimchi. "Some studies show that fermented cabbage has compounds that may prevent obesity and the growth of cancer," the poster explained.
Of course, the placard further recommended adding Sacre Bleu cheese and a fried egg. I'm not sure how that pile-on squares with a healthy diet. I even found a few shards of bacon under the egg. Regardless, the counterpoint of hot and tangy cabbage with the silky yolk and molten blue cheese catapults Bobbie's kimchi burger ($5.60) into the ranks of superior sandwiches, not to mention burger bargains.
Huh hopes eventually to extend Bobbie's downtown hours into the evening. He's already got a beer license, which makes it possible to serve ... wait for it ... beer floats.
No one is suggesting you add that frosty fizzy vice to your daily dietary rotation, but it's nice to know you can get a beer float, along with the rest of Bobbie's beloved menu, all year 'round in its downtown digs.
Bobbie's Dairy Dip serves 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
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