Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nashville Eats and Drinkies

I don't know if I want to admit what I was thinking I'd find in Nashville, it being my first time and all. I had already decided against the Opry, since recent reviews had declared it "tired", and the only piece of country music culture I wanted was a whip-ass Scully shirt to add to my collection. While I didn't find the shirt of my dreams, I did find the kind of grub I was looking for: straight up Southern fare that puts the meat on yer bones. Or fat, rather. Whatever. Unfortunately, upon diverging from that cuisine, I found disappointing results. Here's the highlights, and lo-lights, of the gustatory leg of my Nashville trip.
What Texans call a 'blue plate', Tennesseans call a 'meat-and-three', and while there were several places listed in the Nashville Scene, I wanted to hit the most anachronistic diner I could possibly find. I was not disappointed by Elliston's Soda Shop in the West End (2111 Elliston Place, near the Vanderbilt campus). From the framed posters urging you to indulge in a wholesome malted milk or Southern fried chicken basket to the indie juke boxes for each booth, this joint was full-on 1955. And the grub? Check it out:

That's meat-and-three like the Lord intended, people. Fall-off-the-bone spareribs with greens, white beans, and cucumber salad. I paid less than six bucks for this meal. And yes, dammit, the tea is sweet.

There's usually a line out the door of the Pancake Pantry (1796 21st Ave. S) and I just had to know why. This line moves fast, though, and my companion and I conversed with a young aspiring country singer who later picked up our bill (thanks, Jared!). Inside you'll find those whitehaired waitresses who call you 'hon' and have coffee on the table within seconds.

The pancake selection is mind-boggling: corn cakes, buckwheat, Sweedish potato, orange-walnut, every manner of compote on the planet. I chose the sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon-cream syrup. Holy mother of Elvis, that's good eatin'! Do not miss the pancakes, man.

On our dine-in evening, I popped the bottle of Nero D'Avola I brought from home: the 2003 Valle Dell'Acate 'Il Moro'. Such a lovely thing. I notice that in my part of the world, Nero D'Avola seems to be the new favorite 'cheap' Italian; this bottle definitely does not fit that category. While it's labeled as 100% Nero D'Avola, I've seen info that it might have been blended with a bit of Inzolia, maybe for aromatics. It's fermented in stainless steel and sees a year in barriques. Good stuff; silky, well balanced, lots of baked fruit, meaty, and earthy aromatics.

I was suprised to learn that my friend has a wine bar just right down the street from her apartment, so I had to check that out. Rumors is the name, (2304 12th Ave. S) and while it was a nice enough joint, please, people--do something about that name. 'Rumors' has been the sign above every third strip mall dive bar in America since 1982. It evokes bad images.
That aside, the place has a nice, cozy vibe and seems to be intimately connected with the local art and artisan scene, which is very cool. The wine I had was the 2000 Castell de Falset from Monsant, a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Cab. I didn't care for it. It was very plush and fat and not my style, and overpriced at $13 a glass.

My sole disappointment was with the Chapel Bistro (701 Chapel Ave). The service was great, we had a very sassy waiter who was prompt, entertaining and honest about the menu choices. The bistro itself is very warm and ecclectic inside; being a rennovated landmark pharmacy building, the original walls and windows were preserved and blended with local art and a nice color palate. HOWEVER, the food needed some work. The 'deconstucted Caesar' salad was one of the worse of the foibles. In a failed attempt to be clever, this salad consisted of a handful of shredded romaine in an uninspired vinagrette thrown over a piece of chewy grilled bread and topped with a blanket of melted, then cooled asiago. Nearly flavorless and texturally unappealing. Made me wonder if what hit my table was anything close to what the chef had intended. My entree, prawns in a tarragon-beer reduction, had great flavor, but the polenta in the middle seemed to have neither jalapeno nor cheddar, as promised, and was pretty bland.

Oh, yeah, and while it's perfectly acceptable for a restaurant to mark up the wine list, the Chapel's prices was a joke. You guys want $30 for a bottle of Equis vino de la Tierra de Castilla? Damn. That's over a 300% markup, dude. Forget it.

As soon as it's out of the oven, please check out the other non-food and wine highlights of my Tennessee trip on Cocktails with the Noonday Demon.



Blogger Tyler Simons said...

I kept remembering this movie I saw a decade ago with a vignette of two Japanese teens, obsessed with rockabilly culture, take a trip there and get more than they bargained for.

You're thinking, I believe, of Mystery Train. The Japanese teens are in Memphis, though.

10:16 AM  
Blogger taj said...

Right you are! I liked that movie a lot. I removed the reference, since they were in Memphis, as you say. Thanks!

6:03 AM  
Blogger Mascorrolandia said...

No trip to Trashville is complete without visiting the Pancake Pantry. I'm glad you made it there. That was disheartening to hear Ru-San failed their health inspection, though - sucky, sucky!

8:10 AM  
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