Back when I was a kid, summer didn't begin until the last day of school, which in the Northeast occurred a day or so after the official first day of summer. But now that I have children in the Metro Nashville school system, summer begins the third week of May, thanks to the odd and impractical school year calendar, which starts classes sometime in mid-August, just when temperatures are at their most searing, and ends them in mid-spring, almost two weeks before swim clubs and summer camps open.
This summer, with a freshly turned 15-year-old and a soon-to-be 14-year-old, I find myself stuck in a limbo that evokes panic for working parents, and in particular wreaks havoc on single working parents. What are we supposed to do with children who are too old for day camp and too young for a license or real job? Once my children are spit out of their schools in a few weeks, I expect my working hours to be fully consumed by my other occupation: feeding, driving and handing out money.
Understandably, I have been in deep denial of summer's approach, but once the warm weather comes, there is something I look forward to: the promise of fresh, locally grown produce, the hope of finding time to enjoy a balmy evening breeze on a restaurant's outdoor deck. With that in mind, here are a few updates about summer hours and menus, along with some other noteworthy news.
Out of the dog house
Most of our readers were thrilled to learn about the darling new hot dog cafe that opened several months ago behind Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Lafayette Street, and it wasn't long after that Hot Diggity Dogs' eight seats were on a wait list. But one group of diners was notably absent: vegetarians. "Why won't they put a veggie dog on the menu?" the herbivores whined. Well, Diggity's very accommodating ownersLayla Vartanian and Gayle Davisheard your pain, and I am happy to announce that the menu now includes a veggie dog and a veggie burger. But that's not all, folks. Carb-avoiders can have their meat minus the bread with the California Dog, which replaces the bun with lettuce wraps. (When will the madness end?)
The good news for all is that the girls are now open on Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (which should please everyone who complained about not being able to get down there on weekdays), and the bi-level deck is not only completed, but furnished with picnic tables and umbrellas. That means you can sink your teeth into your Nashville dog while enjoying a terrific view of the Nashville skyline. Is everybody happy now?
Hot Diggity Dogs is at 614 Ewing St. 255-3717.
Reader Neil Bergman responded to my review of Hot Diggity Dogs with a letter in our Love/Hate Mail column in which he questioned HDD's claim to Chicago Dog authenticity by pointing out that the buns were not poppy seed. His plaint was answered by a fellow reader, who pointed him to Hendersonville and a place named Little Chicago Hot Dogs & More. Bergman went to investigate and discovered that not only is the owner from the same area where he grew up (presumably somewhere in the great state of Illinois), but serves up a Vienna beef hot dog on the proverbial poppy seed bun, complete with "tomato wedges, little hot peppers and more." Bergman admits to searching the last 10 years for a Nashville hot dog joint that offers the "quintessential Chicago Redhot experience"; presumably, he has now achieved hot dog happiness.
Little Chicago Hot Dogs & More, 620-B W. Main St., Hendersonville. 826-8181.
The only unhappy faces at Las Paletas, the Mexican Popsicle store on the outer edge of 12 South, are the ones who arrive after the Paz sisters have called it a day, which during the winter is 6 p.m. But summer hours are now in effect, and the tiny store with the huge following is now open Tuesday through Saturday, noon-7 p.m. The additional hour will give fans of the tasty, all-natural treats more time to check out new flavors, which include tangerine, grapefruit, chocolate with pineapple, plum and vanilla with quince.
Las Paletas, 2907 12th Ave. S. 386-2101.
At the other end of 12 South, Hair of the Dog has also expanded its hours, now serving lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri. The menu, which utilizes local produce, has been tweaked for the change of seasons. May is Martini Monday month, with martini specials and cool jazz by The Gypsy Hombres every Monday night in the dining room. Live music continues in the large performance room. Visit www.hairofthedoglive.com to view the menus for food and entertainment.
Hair of the Dog, 1831 12th Ave. S. 386-3311.
Take that, Wild Oats!
For the last six summers, on an annual trip to Colorado that takes me through Boulder, I have looked forward to the pit stop I make at Whole Foods Market nearly as much as hiking the trails in the Rocky Mountain National Park. Though it is the world's leading natural and organic food supermarket, Whole Foods' individual stores seem as personal and customer-staff connected as the neighborhood corner market. Foods and products are held to impeccably high standards, displayed so thoughtfully and beautifully that shopping there is as pleasurable as enjoying the bounty inside my cart.
Every year after I return to Nashville, I have called Whole Foods' corporate office pleading with them to open a store in Nashville, or at least in the state. I won't have to make that call this year, because Whole Foods announced this week that it is indeed coming to Nashville, with plans to construct a 48,000-square-foot store in the new Hill Center at Green Hills, expected to open in late fall 2006. While the nearby Wild Oats might not think so, the impending presence of America's first "certified organic" grocer is great news for folks who seek food that takes the shortest, most additive-free route from the earth to the table.