Back in early February I traveled to Nashville to do research and shoot photos for a magazine restaurant feature. I visited seven restaurants in 26 hours. The article was published earlier this month in Latitudes Magazine, but since they could only publish a limited number of my photos, I thought I'd do a recap here.
I Dream of Weenie
I Dream of Weenie is a permanent food trailer that’s known for serving up delicious hot dogs like the Flamin’ Frank (smothered in spicy chili, salsa, onions and jalapenos.) There are no tables around the renovated VW Bus, but ask the “chef” for a picnic blanket and you can recline on the grass to enjoy a chargrilled frankfurter or two.
Another wildly popular place to get casual cuisine in East Nashville is The Pharmacy, which offers an array of mouth-watering burgers and house made sausages. They have a festive patio beer garden (with an extensive beer list) and an old-school soda shop that features an assortment of floats, malts, shakes and sodas. Owner Terry Raley has fashioned an ideal place to gather with friends—as evidenced by the fact that there’s nearly always a line outside. But don’t be deterred; it moves fairly quickly and by all accounts The Pharmacy is well worth the wait.
The Wild Cow
If meaty meals aren’t your idea of a great dining experience, head to The Wild Cow, Nashville’s premiere vegetarian/vegan restaurant (the only animal ingredient they use is cheese—and only by request.) Owners John and Melanie Cochran prove that fresh, plant-based ingredients prepared in creative and distinctive ways can easily rival carnivorous cuisine—even for those who love meat. The Lentil Bowl, with a large, savory portabella mushroom and an avocado on top is bursting with flavor, as is the cashew dip. The Wild Cow also offers a host of gluten free options, including a variety of delicious cakes and pastries. For the price, you’d be hard pressed to find a more savory, healthy meal anywhere else.
The Silly Goose
The Silly Goose belongs somewhere near the middle of the casual and fine dining spectrum, as they offer foodie-quality fare in a comfortable, informal environment. Owner/chef Roderick Bailey says that the lack of pretension is purposeful, because their clientele comes from all walks of life. (If you’re lucky enough to be seated at the “community” table, you might end up dining with some fascinating folks.) Gourmet sandwiches like the brisket and gorgonzola-infused Pink Panther cause repeat visits galore. Dinner menu entrees change often, and reflect flavors from all over the world.
Holland House Bar and Refuge
There are a number of reasons that Holland House Bar and Refuge is one of the hottest dining spots in East Nashville. For starters, Executive Chef Kristin Beringson has created an exquisite fine dining menu that’s moderately priced. Diners munch on starters like smoked pork with sweet mustard seed aioli, or an heirloom spinach salad drizzled with blood orange honey vinaigrette. Beringson’s seasonal menu changes about every two months, but she says preparing the daily specials is her culinary “playground.” Another major draw of the restaurant is the ambient atmosphere. At night, candles and ornate chandeliers carry the glow while patrons watch bartenders prepare proprietary cocktails with panache.
Margot Café and Bar
Standing next to Margot McCormack at her namesake restaurant on a Sunday morning is a little like observing a weekly family reunion. She’s on a first-name basis with many who have standing brunch reservations at Margot Café and Bar; some even have specific tables reserved. Margot is both chef and owner of the eatery, and it’s clear that she loves both the social and culinary sides of her job. “It’s like hosting a big party everyday,” says Margot. Still, she’s constantly active in the kitchen, whipping up legendary fare like Bruleed Grapefruit or Poached Eggs with Polenta and Sausage Gravy.
Marché Artisan Foods
Due to Nashville’s overwhelming response to Margot Café and Bar, Margot and business partner Jay Frein opened Marché Artisan Foods about a block from their flagship restaurant. The dinner menu features delectable main courses like Moroccan chicken thighs with almonds, chickpeas, apricots and couscous. The pan-seared salmon is also a favorite. Both Margot Café and Marché Artisan Foods are perpetually showered with stellar reviews, both in the press and across multiple social media platforms.
I met some friends at Rumours to end the day. While we didn't order any food, it was a nice place to enjoy good wine and chat. Even though it was February, there were people outside enjoying food and wine on their festive patio.