Got a craving for pig’s feet? Need to suck a crawfish? Heat got you craving gelato? On my beat as a professional eater, I travel the highways and byways seeking the newest, the oldest, the oddest, the best of the traditional and the groundbreaking. Here is a tally of treasures unearthed, right in our own backyard.
Boiled PeanutsThe Peanut Shop, The Arcade, 256-3394. Though peanuts have global appeal in many forms, the boiled peanut is peculiar to the South, and appealing to very few. “You don’t get too many new recruits to boiled peanuts,” says owner Kathy Bloodworth. They have little aesthetic appeal: The seed coats are gray in color, with prominent veins, and the kernels have a firm, slightly gelatinous, moist texture. They stink, and they’re messy. But some people just have to have ’em.” For those people, the Peanut Shop is The Spot. The 15-hour cooking process begins every Monday morning, and the finished productone batch a weekis ready for sale by about 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Sweet Potato FriesBobbie’s Dairy Dip, 5301 Charlotte Pike, 292-2112. In Nashville, the question, “Sweet or un-sweet” is usually about iced tea. But at Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, the 50-something-year-old burger and ice cream drive-up in West Nashville, the query applies to the fries as well. Bobbie’s regular fries are terrific: hand-cut, blanched, then fried, salted and sold in white paper sacks. But the sweet potato fries, introduced last summer, are something special. Though they use the same blanching-frying method for both types of taters, the sweet potato fries are segregated from the regular fries, not salted and served with a sour cream dip.
Liver & OnionsSilver Sands, 937 10th Ave. N., 742-1652. Liver-and-onion aficionados love it at Silver Sands because they get all the pleasure of the odiferous dish, and none of the smell that lingers in the kitchen for days on end. That’s okay with owner Nellie McAdoo, who bought the 20-year-old business 10 years ago from her aunt. Like most meat-and-threes, Silver Sands has a loyal base of fans devoted to their favorite spot for chicken and dressing, beef tips, greens, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, meat loaf, fried chicken and all the other staples of Nashville’s most enduring form of dining.
Vegan FareGrins Vegetarian Café, 2421 Vanderbilt Place, 322-8571. Vegetarians are strict (no meat), but vegans are the radicals of the culinary world, with rules of cooking and product nearly as stringent as kosher. Grins, the café in the Ben Shulman Center for Jewish Life on the Vanderbilt campus, meets all of the vegan criteria: Not only is it rabbi-certified kosher, but every day, chef Michelle Watkins creates scrumptious vegan soups, salads, hot entrees, wraps, sandwiches and desserts. The food is so delicious, it’s enough to make carnivores kick the cow habit.
Hot ChickenWilma Kaye’s, 205 Third Ave. N., 248-7800. Louisianan Randy Ramsey added his Cajun version of hot chicken to the Wilma Kaye menu as a special, but his customers grew so enamored of the kickin’ chicken that he now cooks it daily. The breast or leg quarters are a knockout punch of spice: first injected, then marinated, then rolled in seasoned flour and deep fried, then sprinkled with another coat of dry Cajun spice. Do not eat without a cold beverage at your fingertips.
Hot Fish SandwichesMary’s Bar-B-Que, 1106 Jefferson St., 256-7696/Bolton’s Hot Chicken & Fish, 624 Main St., 254-8015. Mary’s Barbecue on Jefferson Street is known for its BBQ, ribs and all-night hours, but they also fry up a mean fish sandwich: cornmeal-rolled whitefish fillets on two-pieces of white bread with pickle, mustard, hot sauce and raw onion. At Bolton’s, if you ask for your hot fish hot, they put on the heat by dipping the fillets in hot sauce before they roll them in cornmeal.
Italian Ice & GelatoSavarino’s Italian Pastry, 5572 Nolensville Road, 832-4444. Just ask and Corrado Savarino will tell you: American ice cream is a rip-off! They pump it full of air, it’s criminal! One bite of his dense, creamy, flavor-packed gelato and you’ll be converted. Savarino regularly displays eight flavors of gelato and eight of the lighter Italian Ice in his case, each available by the cup, cone or packed to go by the pint or quart.
Hot Roast Beef SandwichesThe Villager, 1719 21st Ave.298-3020. Opened in 1973, the walls of the Villager Tavern are coated with every cigarette smoked there, papered with candid photos of party-hearty patrons and pocked with the evidence of errant darts. From the closet-sized kitchen behind the bar wafts the tantalizing scent of crock-pot beef, from which the Villager’s irresistible roast beef po’ boys, an invention of owner and Louisianan Henry Piarrot, are composed. Thinly sliced beef, shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, raw onion, pickle chips, a bit of gravy and mayo on the toasted roll makes a hell of a mess, making their mottoBest Sandwich You’ll Eat With Your Pants Onwise advice as well.
Miso SoupSam’s Sushi, right corner at Church and Printer’s Alley, 726-1700. Sam Katakura, the owner, chef and sole employee at Sam’s Sushi, is known by patrons as the Sushi Nazi for good reason. When I wrote my own order, as directed on the handwritten sign, for a bowl of his infamous soupwhich is to conventional miso soup what a Fat Mo burger is to a Krystaland laid it on his counter, he regarded me with something between disdain and scorn, told me he was too busy to make soup and suggested I go to one of his sushi rivals on Second Avenue if I wanted some. When he realized I was a writer, he fairly blew his top and told me he didn’t need any more business. So if you want the ultimate in miso soup, do not go to Sam’s Sushi.
Corn Light BreadOne Stop Café, 901 Columbia Ave., Franklin, 794-3881. The One-Stop was Franklin’s first convenience store in the early 1960s, but its true drawing card was its hickory-wood cooked BBQ, sold at a small counter in the back, and biscuits made from scratch every morning. Quinn Breckenridge and Carrie Drury bought the business and the recipe for corn light bread from the original owners, then turned the market into a café for breakfast and plate lunches. People still come for the biscuits and BBQ, but most also leave with a loaf of the famous corn light bread, just $2.50.
Bean RollGold Rush, 2205 Elliston Place, 321-1160. The Gold Rush bean rollrefried beans, cheese, tomato and onion rolled in a ten-inch tortilla, then topped with red sauce, cheese, sour cream and a jalapeño pepperis the epitome of bar comfort food, a dish that’s been soaking up copious amounts of alcohol since the hardy hangout opened nearly 30 years ago. When the Gold Rush temporarily closed for heavy cleaning and refurbishment last year, regular customers were in serious withdrawal. “They were beginning to twitch,” swears bartender Tracy Smith.
BaklavaIstanbul Restaurant, 2631 Nolensville Rd., 248-6888. Since buying the former International Corner Market in December, partners Mehmet Sadioglu and Memet Arslan have added some dishes from their native Turkey to the Middle Eastern menu, like lahmacun, Turkish pizza. For dessert, there’s their homemade baklava, with flaky, buttery phyllo pastry layers, ground-nut filling, all drenched in a honey syrup and cut into small triangles. Each is just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, minus a sugar overdose.
Tres Leches CakeAurora Bakery, 3725 Nolensville Road, 837-1933. In Spanish, tres leches means three milks. Culinarily, it translates to the richest and moistest pieces of cake you’ll ever put in your mouth. The process begins with a white sheet cake, first frosted on the sides to hold it together when the mix of three milksevaporated, condensed and wholeis poured over the cake. After the milk soaks in, the top is also covered with the whipped cream frosting, and decorated for the appropriate celebration. But every bite of Aurora’s tres leches cake is a special occasion. Buy it by the slice, or the cake.
Crawfish BoilRivalries Sports Bar, 1038 Murfreesboro Road, 361-5266. I suck, you suck, everybody sucks on Sunday evenings during crawfish season (March through June) at Rivalries Sports Bar, when owner Larry Bachuss of Baton Rouge puts out his crawfish boil. For $14.50, you’ll get about four pounds of crawfish, new potatoes, corn and sausage, all lip-tingling spicy.
The Choo Choo RollSamurai Sushi, 2209 Elliston Place, 320-5438. Next door to the home of the bean roll is the home of the Choo Choo Roll, making a spectacular debut in Nashville. It’s the creation of owner Choo, a South Korean chef who recently purchased this tiny Elliston Place sushi bar. The Choo Choo is broiled fresh water eel, crab, salmon, avocado, strawberry and pine nuts. Yes, strawberry and pine nuts. You will never eat crunchy shrimp roll again.
Lobster RavioliMama Mia’s, 4671 Trousdale Dr. 331-7207. Mama Mia’san old-fashioned, no-frills, family Italian restauranthas staying power. First opened nearly 20 years ago by a Cuban couple, it changed hands in 1994, when Rebecca and Alex Martinezalso Cubanbought it, brightened the cozy dining room and energized the menu. Rebecca is the hot mama in the kitchen, and one of her specialties is Lobster Ravioli: lobster-filled saffron-kissed raviolis, with baby spinach in a creamy Rosatella brandy sauce, studded with chunks of lobster meata deal at $18.95.
MofongoCoco Loco, 4600 Nolensville Road, 781-9050. Qué es Mofongo? Mashed fried plantains, garlic and pork skin, just one of the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Caribbean specialties on the menu of Coco Loco, Santos Gonzalez’s nightclub and restaurant that is bringing a taste of the tropics to Nashville. Coco Lococrazy coconutsis a restaurant during the day, a restaurant/nightclub in the evening, with food served from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
BrunchOne of the most frequently asked questions I get is “Where can I get brunch?” Here’s an incomplete, but recommended, list: Tin Angel, Red Wagon, Copper Kettle Café, Jack Russell’s, Easy’s, Martha’s at the Plantation and Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. Now, cut this out, tape it to your dashboard and quit calling me Sunday mornings while you’re driving aimlessly about, desperately seeking Eggs Benedict.
but gast aint brave i challenged him to go to nolesville road and start his…
>>affordable events like Rollergirls<<
I wonder what their average attendance is?
>>Please go away<<
Yeah, if I couldn't disprove anything & people called on me…
Municipal Auditorium is used for more affordable events like Rollergirls. It is also used for…