If you're new to Nashville's dining scene, there's no doubt you've had to familiarize yourself with a little restaurant history in order to understand what people are talking about. You've probably scratched your head or smiled and nodded when someone spoke cryptically about "that restaurant that went in after Maude's but before Atlantis" or "the Cajun joint that used to be on Murphy Road and then was out by the DMV before it moved to Charlotte."
Well, now it's your turn to join in the conversation, because a slew of restaurants recently opened in places that, until recently, were known as something else. Now you too can chime in about "the sports bar that used to be a Latin-fusion lounge" or "the brewpub that used to be a nursing home." You can amaze and bemuse your dining companions with teasers such as, "How about that seafood place that used to be a seafood place?"
Here is a first-impression rundown of a few nascent restaurants that witnesses to local dining history can't help but describe in terms of what — or where — they used to be.
When it comes to provenance, here's an unusual one: Cooper Brunk, an alumnus of Mack & Kate's and the bygone and beloved Ombi on Elliston, opened a brewpub in the erstwhile Cornelia House nursing home. The facility was shuttered in 2007 and transformed into a mixed-use development that will soon offer affordable housing for deaf residents. Cooper's anchors the retail component, which houses several boutiques, a bakery and a salon.
Dark and cozy, with comfortable booths and a manly vibe underscored by a deep bench of bottled and draft beers, Cooper's could be described as a fortunate collision of Brown's Diner and Rumours — made for a man but pretty enough for a woman. Or made for beer folks but culinary enough for food people. And with grilled cheeses and root beer floats, it's kid-friendly to boot.
With enough snacks and entrées to satisfy both drinking and dining appetites, Cooper's offers a comfortable balance of bar and restaurant. It's the kind of place where an afternoon of wings, Benton's ham sliders, deviled eggs, pickled okra and dark chocolate stout can morph into a wine-soaked evening of beer-basted game hen with root vegetable pot pie ($16.50) and bacon-wrapped stuffed trout ($17.50).
You'll know you're there when you see the twinkle lights outlining the angular deck that hangs over Eastland Avenue. Located along the burgeoning restaurant corridor that includes Silly Goose, Wild Cow, Eastland Cafe and Rosepepper Cantina, Cooper's gives East Nashville yet another thing to brag about.
Opens 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
In terms of sheer wordplay, this newest incarnation of Watermark's coastal-themed sister might be our favorite to talk about. Recently relocated from the Adelicia tower to 12South, Fish & Co. can be described as the seafood place that moved from the former Miro to the former Mirror, which, if you remember, used to be a seafood place. (Laurell's Central Market, which vacated the building in 1999, was a pioneer in the revitalization of the 12South neighborhood.)
In any case, the new Fish & Co. seems to have found a match between concept and location. On a recent Saturday night, servers were learning to navigate the tightly packed tables in the dining room, which has been painted a warm blue-green after its brief recent stint as the mustard-and-brown-bathed Blind Pig. Buzzing with neighborhood traffic, the crowded room had an air of cozy festivity that we never saw in either the Miro District dining room or the Blind Pig concept.
The best points of James Beard-honored Chef Louis Osteen's menu are still available, including bacon-wrapped trout ($24), the crab-cake appetizer ($12), shrimp and grits ($16/$24), oyster BLT with Benton's bacon ($11), and an array of oysters on the half-shell, including Apalachicola, Gulf Coast and Fanny Bay.
Bar opens at 4 p.m. daily.
No moss grows under restaurateur Chris Hyndman. The founder of Virago recently moved the decade-old eatery to the Gulch, where it will anchor his M Street dining complex, alongside Whiskey Kitchen and the long-anticipated Kayne Prime steak house. No sooner had Hyndman launched Virago 2.0 than he shut down Lime, the Latin-fusion showplace in Midtown, and relaunched it in late January as Tavern.
Think Whiskey Kitchen with a dash of sports bar. The new concept twists the layout of Lime, moving the massive central bar to one side and filling the open air space with flatscreen TVs. With more suspended monitors than a small airport terminal, Tavern is a good place to catch a game, because each deep, leather-lined booth effectively has its own tube.
Like its Gulch cousin, Whiskey Kitchen, Tavern boasts a roster of elevated pub food, but not just a reissue of WK's fare. Chef Robbie Wilson maintains separate repertoires at the two joints. Tavern's spin on the bar classics includes fried organic catfish ($14.50), a bucket of mussels with fries ($14.50), fried chicken with cold sesame soba noodles ($14.50), as well as a range of salads and sandwiches.
On our visit, a group at the bar was huddled over an open flame, roasting their own dessert of s'mores. That kind of thing never would have happened at the place that used to be there.
Opens at 11 a.m. daily.
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