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Nashville Food Scene


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Writing as an occasional visitor as opposed to a Nashvillian, I am not all that excited about the ethnic places. Where are the Loveless Cafe, the Pancake Pantry, Fat Mo's, Rotiers? These are the restaurants unique to Nashville; the restaurants that make Nashville's food scene special.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Speaking as one who lived in Nashville for about 23 years, I don't think the people who read the Scene want to hear about Loveless, et. al. They want to hear about something new.

Frankly, I think the old standbys are over-rated, and that more people go there because of tradition rather than quality of the food. I ate breakfast once and lunch/dinner once at each Loveless and Pancake Pantry. Loveless put bottles of Kraft salad dressings on the table, the kiss of death for me. I can make as good or better eggs, biscuits, and even make my own blackberry jam--and the atmosphere in my home is eons better so I never saw the point of going back.

Pancake Pantry put the pancakes on the same plate as the eggs, syrup running into everything and ruining it for me. At lunch I had something mundane, at least I don't remember it. And standing in long lines outdoors doesn't do a thing for me.

Rotier's cheeseburger on sourdough with grilled onions is great, a real "grease feast." But I probably wouldn't have bothered to go there had I not lived across the street on the Vanderbilt campus for 3 years.

Part of my prejudice, I admit, has to do with the atmosphere of all these places. I can't enjoy food if the surroundings are dubious, as in dark, dirty, smelly, worn or noisy. If the food is good, I might do take out. I think these places are mostly for tourists who have to eat out, and people who don't cook or have access to good home cooking.

BBQ makes my list for return visits, although if that's what Fat Mo's serves, I never went there. I liked Herbert's in Franklin, but just as much for the potato salad, deviled eggs and fried peach pies as for the Q. Oh, those peach pies! But call ahead, as they never have enough to last a week and their "little lady" only delivers when and how many she feels like. If anyone thinks Southerners never put sugar in cornbread, be sure to try their "corn light bread".

My taste runs more to tea rooms and less to meat-and-threes. I never fail to have a chicken salad sandwich when I return, either at the Puffy Muffin in Brentwood or the Stoveworks at The Factory in Franklin. The first features grapes, the second one pecans, and both are on marvelous bread.

OK, back to Christmas Eve cooking. The lamb and the roast pork are marinating, the desserts are done, and now on to the side dish prep. Have a happy!

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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Basic disagreement here as I rate the Loveless Cafe as one of the two greatest breakfast places in the South, the second being Skinheads in Paduccah KY. As I have not yet met my goal of eating every breakfast in the South, there may be better ones. But that's a different thread.

What I was trying to demonstrate in my initial post is that all too often food writers when doing their summaries about a city, leave out the stalwarts, the traditional places that are an important part of a city's dining tradition - not only by surviving for decades, but for maintaining their quality and style - for not giving up or selling out.

That is why I stressed I am writing as an occasional visitor. Sure, the glitter of the new, the diversity of the ethnic are also important to the dining scene. I understand that a part of the story is the growth of Nashville cuisine and such growth is important to those who live there, as it is in any city.

But, quite frankly, I can probably do better here in Philadelphia with the kind of restaurants that have excited Ms. West this year. What I can not get in Philadelphia, or most anywhere else, is a breakast such as is served by the Loveless Cafe or a burger as good as Fat Mo's. I can't take an hour's drive out of Philadelphia and find a Sunday fried chicken dinner ever closely comparable to that served at the Beacon Tea Room, which I should have mentioned in my earlier post on this thread.

These are places that make Nashville unique. These are places (Loveless, Beacon and Fat Mo's) that are among the best in the country at what they do. And these are the places along with Rotier's (sorry, I just really liked Rotier's) that have to be included when someone writes about the Nashville dining scene.

Any city's "dining scene" wants to be perceived by the dining-out locals the same way as the cliche newly rich lottery winner wants to be seen by new friends at the country club. Embarrassed by their roots, and hoping people won't see past the mansion and their other newly acquired trappings to their former double wide trailer and the worn overalls on the hook in the closet.

But it is those roots that make one city's dining scene different from another's. Without them, cities would be just like interchanges along the Interstate. Same ol', same ol'.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Pancake Pantry put the pancakes on the same plate as the eggs, syrup running into everything and ruining it for me. At lunch I had something mundane, at least I don't remember it.  And standing in long lines outdoors doesn't do a thing for me. 

This doesn't sound typical of Pancake Pantry at all - but then I can't remember the last time I ordered something there that came with eggs. Buckwheat or potato or strawberry pancakes, side of bacon. Now that's breakfast. :biggrin:

"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard
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While I agree with Holly's sentiment, I also support Kay's writing and reviewing. Kay does do a great job at sniffing out and highlighting new, especially ethnic restaurants in Nashville. Some of the places that I have tried in the past year or two (and enjoyed) as a direct result of Kay's reviews include El Inca, Las Americas, La Terraza, and Parco Cafe. Yes, Kay does tend to get more excited about new ethnic restaurants than about existing standards, but it would be unfair to say that she ignores the more long-established restaurants or even newer establishments in the same genre. I recall glowing reviews of places like the Beacon Light, Mr. Boo's and Fat Mo's. While she is no fan of the Loveless, to say that Kay ignores or slights that type of establishment is inaccurate, IMHO.

Those who do not remember the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

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I was reacting to that specific article by Kay and more generally about the standard food scene wrap-ups that typically focus on the new bright and shiny bangles. It's good Kay also writes of the old time traditional places.

But who needs Kay, when I've got a great resource like pogophiles :smile:

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Thanks Holly! By the way, you made it to the Loveless just in time. Mrs. McCabe has just sold to a local caterer (Tom Morales). The Loveless is closing in Mid-January for a three month, $1.5 million renovation. I have high hopes, but you never know...

Those who do not remember the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

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I found the comments about The Mystery Building interesting. I eat at Boundry fairly often and my wife and I have been scratching our heads over that place for a while.

I am interested in trying Ru San's (can it be better than Samurai Sushi?!) and have been meaning to get over to Bar Twenty3. Would be interested in hearing anybody who's been.

I'd like to see Margot more prominently mentioned, as it's one of my favorites -- extra credit given to chef Margot McCormack, too, for opening a terrific restaurant on the "wrong side of the river".

I'm also pleased to hear the rumors that Scott Alderson may be making it back into town. I felt awful when 6o ("six degrees") folded after only a few months, even more so that they closed before I got their BBQ beans recipe. Those beans were righteous. He's heading the kitchen at Saffire right now, AFAIK, but Franklin is waaay too far out for me to drive there very often.

I don't mind not seeing reviews of places like Loveless Cafe and Pancake Pantry - those are strictly tourist destinations, IMO. (I don't know any locals that eat at either of those establishments, ever). Like most Southerners, I can make better Southern comfort food at home (and my grandmother can flat-out blow them away). Nashville's a city with over half a million people, not a country hoe-down, and its serious chefs deserve recognition.

As for barbecue? I was born and raised in Texas, so no comment. :hmmm:

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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The Wild Boar, The Wild Boar, and The Wild Boar !

I find the service at the Wild Boar a bit offputting due to their constant desire to upcharge. From the moment you sit down, they're bringing a bottle of chilled Veuve Cliquot to your table and offerring to sell it to you. Then later in the meal, they'll hold a black truffle and shaver over your plate and ask if you'd like some truffles for $5 a shave. It's a little obnoxious.

I have also been disappointed several times in their game preparation, particularly a downright bad elk dish I had via a tasting menu about a year ago. Chef Uhl over at Sunset Grill does better game.

That said, many of their dishes are spectacular. The duck and foie gras preparations are always outstanding, and recently I had a five course tasting there based around parts of a whole butter poached lobster that was very good indeed.

I'm not sure if they're still doing it, but as of about a month ago they had a special deal where if you dined between 6 and 7 pm, they offered a three course tasting menu for $45, which isn't bad at all. When I tried it, they threw in a few extra small courses (amuse, intermezzo, mignardies) for free.

The most wonderful reason to go there is the wine list, which is astounding, and the sommelier does a terrific job with the pairings, as they have a very good variety by the glass.

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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Thanks Holly! By the way, you made it to the Loveless just in time. Mrs. McCabe has just sold to a local caterer (Tom Morales). The Loveless is closing in Mid-January for a three month, $1.5 million renovation. I have high hopes, but you never know...

Scary, very scary. What's the word on Tom Morales? Will he get it, or will he turn it into a tourist trap?

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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