I’ve already written one post about dining in Nashville that focused on downtown restaurants – the ones closest to the Music City Center. But there’s more!
Just a short cab (or Uber) ride away is the Germantown neighborhood. During the digitalNow conference a bunch of friends and I went there to have dinner at Rolf & Daughters. Let me just say: if the bucatini fra diavolo with octopus, lardo, calabrian chili and breadcrumbs is on the menu… Oh. My. God. I’m a pasta devotee, but I don’t often order pasta in restaurants because, frankly, I’m also a pretty darn good pasta cook. Too often I’m disappointed by restaurant pasta dishes, but this one blew me away. I would have had two bowls if I was home alone.
The chef, Philip Krajekc, is a multiple Beard Award nominee – always a good sign. I started with grilled spring onions – it was the season – with egg yolk and bottarga (salted, cured fish roe – not everyone’s thing but definitely mine). Everyone around the table seemed pleased with their meals. And, I almost forgot, their cocktails too. They’re another one of those restaurants with a crazy good-looking craft cocktail menu.
I went to City House for Sunday Supper with the ladies from the Nashville CVC. The chef, Tandy Wilson, was nominated for the Best Chef Southeast in the James Beard awards this year. Another great cocktail menu! I had the Samson: Averell Damson Gin, vermouth, lemon soda, bitters and grapefruit. We shared a bunch of dishes including a few pizzas featuring their house-cured meats and cornmeal-crusted North Carolina catfish with a tasty slaw of Savoy cabbage, rhubarb, Vidalia onion and an orange dressing.
If you’re in Germantown, the Farmers Market is also in the neighborhood. I’ve read recommendations for Professor Bailey’s pimento cheese biscuits, Betty Jo’s hot slaw, the cobbler table and Moosehead Kettle Corn.
My friend Ben Martin of Online Community Results who lives in Nashville says the Midtown neighborhood is full of college kids and rowdy crowds, but he and his girlfriend, Teri Carden of ReviewMyAMS.com, took me to Midtown Café the night I arrived. Definitely no rowdy crowds there! I splurged on the chef’s menu – salad, foie gras with roasted mango, duck breast and the most amazing coconut cream cake I’ve ever had. Teri raved about the lemon artichoke soup.
If you want to get the best (and most difficult) reservation in town, that would be The Catbird Seat. But it’s only open Wednesday through Saturday. If you do get a reservation for Saturday, I’d love to join you. Their executive chef, Trevor Moran, is a Noma alum – a restaurant in Denmark often cited as the best in the world. It has only 32 seats with 20 of them at the bar wrapped around a U-shaped kitchen. Prepare yourself for a multi-course meal – the best kind in my opinion. Watch their Twitter stream to see if any seats open up while you’re in town.
In the mood for antelope? Or rabbit? You might find it at Bound’ry in the Music Row neighborhood. Ben says it’s an “upscale place with a few outdoor tables that have gas fireplaces in the center. Probably will be too warm in August for them, but maybe not!”
In Midtown, you’ll find a Nashville classic, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. Now, we need to talk about hot chicken because you don’t know Nashville unless you know hot chicken. Hot chicken is spicy fried chicken usually served on white bread with pickles. Recipes are secret, but from what I’ve pieced together I think you first marinate chicken pieces in buttermilk infused with cayenne, paprika, garlic powder and other spices. Then dredge the chicken in a spicy breading, fry it once or twice, and then maybe rub it with a cayenne paste or oil. I’m thinking about coming up with a baked version of hot chicken and if I do, and it’s successful, I’ll post the recipe on my Grabbing the Gusto blog.
At a hot chicken restaurant, you specify the level of heat – mild, medium, hot or extra-hot. Stick with the lower levels unless you have an asbestos-lined mouth and digestive system. And, remember, the heat will stay on your fingers, so don’t touch your eyes and other parts. The chicken is cooked to order so expect a 15-20 minute wait. Update: looks like the wait is longer according to one of my kind commenters.
Here are some of the places to find hot chicken in Nashville.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Hattie B’s is the only one that serves draft craft beer. Heat levels range from ‘mild’ to ‘shut the cluck up.’
112 19th Ave. S., 1.5 miles/7 minute drive from the MCC
400 Degrees Spicy Chicken
The only hot chicken place downtown at 4th and Peabody inside the Quizno’s building at 319 Peabody St., 0.2 miles/5 minute walk from the MCC
Closed Sunday and Monday.
Helen’s Hot Chicken
A couple who owned a soul food restaurant in the ‘80s just opened a hot chicken food truck in Germantown.
1222 Rosa L. Parks Blvd. – 1.8 miles/8 minute drive from the MCC
Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish
624 Main St. in East Nashville – 2.3 miles/8 minute drive from the MCC
Pepperfire Hot Chicken
2821 Gallatin Pike, 5.9 miles/14 minute drive from the MCC
Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack
I saved the best for last. Hot chicken began at Prince’s in the 1950s. The story behind the recipe is a good one. Restaurant owner Thornton Prince came home too late one night – something the ladies’ man did a little too often. His girlfriend tried to get back at him by serving him a breakfast of fried chicken dosed with lots of cayenne pepper. Little did she know her punishment dish would end up on his menu.
Closed Sunday and Monday. Cash only.
123 Ewing Dr., 6.7 miles/16 minute drive from the MCC
I’ve got one more food post coming in case you decide to skip sessions and just eat your way around Nashville. Sounds tempting to me!
This is the fifth in a series of posts about Nashville for ASAE Annual Meeting attendees. Thanks to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, I received complimentary registration and accommodations during the 2014 digitalNow conference – giving me an excuse to spend more of my money on Southern food and craft cocktails.