What the Pho? had a MySceneDeal coupon so I was happy to be guest. It wasn't long at all before I returned as a paying client.
The sliders were a pleasant surprise for the most part. I opted for a Shotgun (cheddar on beef, with chili on the side), Muchacho and "Fanci Grilled Cheese" (smoked gouda, Swiss, cheddar, jack, and goat cheeses). I was expecting typical not-much-flavor burgers but these little guys actually did have the beef. It showed especially well on the Shotgun, but got overshadowed and overpowered on the Muchacho, which just had too much going on with habañero Jack cheese, pepper action, and avocado. Also, in most cases, the burgers weren't so well done there was no pink to be found in the middle.
The grilled cheese consisted of a cleverly inverted bun and the four cheeses. It was mostly what I'd call "interesting" until getting to the center, where the goat cheese was prevalent enough in the mix to add strength to the bite. The fries were a mixed bag. Fine the first visit, but on the second, I felt like I'd been given the bottom of the batch.
Approx $15 per person w/o alcoholic beverages
1907 Division St
Saturday, November 1, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
|All photos © 2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved.|
Twenty years later, I'm sitting in Burger Republic's first satellite franchise restaurant in Nashville's Gulch, and it makes perfect sense that developers who took some of the greatest chances on area real estate for the 'work hard/play harder' crowd would seek eateries putting well-researched, high end comfort food on the local map.
Juiciness: 6. As you can see from the photo, not much there there.
Attractiveness: 10. OMG well it's beautiful. The brioche bun gives it a distinct look among Nashville burgers.
Flavor: 6. I made two visits to Burger Republic, because on the first occasion I ordered a burger that had various gourmet elements that I thought might be overshadowing an otherwise boring burger. For the second visit, I stuck to American cheese & lettuce to let the taste of the beef come through. It didn't. Really, it's the condiments — gooey cheddar, thick bacon and special sauce — that brought the action on my previous visit and this score is based on basic burger flavor, of which there isn't very much of, on its own.
Atmosphere: 7. It's a very neutral look inside. Dark booths, white walls, large screen TVs and a wall of taps. Good sized patio.
Digestivity: 10 One hour later, feeling good.
So ... about the beef. Burger Republic makes a big deal of its source, in Certified Angus Beef. There's a big sign on the wall outside the door. There's Certified Angus Beef swag, in the oversized steak knives. True hamburger lovers know, though, Angus doesn't matter in the burger world. Most connoisseurs would put it well behind local organic grass-fed anything, local grass-fed anything, and organic anything. In that order. In making that one switch, from a beef chosen for flavor and local freshness, rather than its ability to taste the same in Tennessee as it should in Vancouver, Burger Republic could transition from being a great place for a burger to being a great place for a great burger.
Burger Republic - The Gulch -
420 11th Ave S Nashville, TN 37203
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
|All photos ©2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved|
Opening in the fall of 2013, The Treehouse restaurant has now had several months to work out its kinks and establish itself as the East Nashville equivalent to Firefly Grille in Green Hills: a place where many creative people will feel right at home in its funky surroundings. The interior is mostly reclaimed wood, floors and tables both. Lighting is low and warm; seating is a mix of small and large, communal dining, with a few chairs left at the bar which separates the kitchen from the diners. There's also a back patio that I didn't get a good look at because of a passing storm.
From there, though, things went downhill. At the left is fried chicken served with summer veggies and pepper jam. The best thing about it was that the chicken had a perfectly golden, crispy skin. The flavor was just okay, and the overall impression I had, as an eater, was that this was a rushed dish. In fact, for both myself and my dining companion, who was unimpressed by the Ratatouille, it was worth noting that the entrees came out within about 10 minutes of ordering. I don't expect freshly-made Ratatouille to come out for every order, no, but the veggies in the chicken dish were still hard, and not very flavorful.
For dessert I ordered a tray of marinated cheese that offered parmesan chunks in a light coating of citrus and spice, with Marcona almonds. The cheese was intriguing at first, but after 3 or 4 pieces it seemed less like dessert and more like someone's kitchen experiment.
Overall impression is this: people who go to The Treehouse for the cool vibe and stick to the tapas-type fare are going to come away thrilled. People whose idea of fine dining includes a full meal, at prices that match the quality, will be dissatisfied.
$$-$$$ 1011 Clearview Avenue Nashville, TN 37206
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
|All photos ©2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved|
Chago's Cantina has to be one of the more quietly intriguing of the Gringo Taco series restaurants. First, its location alongside the heart of the Belmont College campus is enough to keep many Nashvillians away. On top of that it's a little hard to define; owner Chad Head unashamedly chucks authenticity out the garage door windows in favor of the multitude of flavors he picked up in Southern California, New Orleans, and various parts of Latin America. In so doing, he goes beyond the typical tacos/enchilladas/etc., and offers wider treats; the top two spots on the menu are given to Ceviche (raw fish, cured by citrus juices — think of it as Latin America's answer to Sushi) and Salvadoran Papusas. For this trip, though, I stuck with the traditional ... after all, the main point of the Gringo Taco series is leaving the comfort zone one baby step at a time.
I started with Chago's Cantina Dip sampler. Although the initial chips and salsa that were delivered to me, upon being seated, would have been just fine as an appetizer (the smoky, red, house salsa is excellent and unique), I wanted to taste what else was up for grabs and am glad I did. The pico de gallo was okay; queso better than the average; guacamole was on the bland side for me, even after I tarted it up with some additional lime juice; the green sauce was stellar and had a kick, the waiter told me, that comes from the addition of ancho chiles.
As I was dining solo, there was no way I was able to finish all the sauces but what was left of the green sauce did come home with me, in a little cup.
For my main treats, I ordered a simple chicken taco and quesadilla. Both came with Chago's grilled and seasoned meat, the taco adding truck-style onions and cilantro, the quesadilla utilizing more of the yummy cheese dip.
Overall, I like the place, it's solid — although I didn't have anything that knocked my socks off, the food tastes very fresh. If it were closer to my neighborhood I'd be here more often, and would definitely play more with the international menu items. At Happy Hour prices, the margarita is fine.
Service was initially shaky. At one point, my waiter went missing for too long and I had to get up and leave the patio to find him inside. After that he shaped up and was much more adequately attentive for the rest of the meal.
Chago's Cantina - $$ - 2015 Belmont Blvd Nashville, TN 37212
Thursday, June 19, 2014
|All photos © 2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved.|
The first thing to like about Etch is the free valet. No messing around with $10 parking. There will be better things to spend your money on, and you will, trust me.
While I waited for my dining companion to arrive, I hopped into a seat at the front-of-house bar and ordered a Happy Hour cocktail ($6). The Bitter Lemon was exactly that. Tasty, though I was hoping for something more refreshing after a hot day at work; next time I'd try the Model T or hold out for one of the cocktails from the extended menu in the dining room. In there, I had one of Etch's "Smashes," a muddled-herb drink with cilantro, lime & tequila and was much happier with it. Ecstatic, really.
Not everything is muted. The photo above is of what must be the world's most talked about cauliflower dish. If not the world's, then Nashville's. Me and bitter veggies never got along well, but when you interact with a dozen or more people visiting Nashville as tourists or on business and the first thing they mention about a restaurant is its amazing cauliflower, you have to at least try it. I mean ... who the hell ever talks about cauliflower, who isn't a nutritionist?
And it's everything they say. Bitter? Can't taste any of that. If cauliflower is something that's always been on your hate list, even without the condiments there's nothing to purse your lips over. But with .... oh, my. Peas is another thing. If my mom had ever served peas the way Etch does, turned into pesto with truffle oil, I'd have eaten a lot more over the years. Also included is what would become the evening's other ubiquitous ingredient — red pepper pesto —and creamed goat cheese. My companion and I were both entirely wowed.
Our third appetizer was Tuna & Shrimp, which included a couple small but healthy portions of grilled tuna, a few pieces of large shrimp, greens, and a number of flavorful things to dip and smear each with, including a tamari sauce and blue cheese puree.
Unadorned, the shrimp were fine and well-seasoned on their own and I would have liked this dish even more had the portions been reversed.
In a lot of ways, it's Etch's condiments that make the meal so memorable. What starts out as already good food is made spectacular by all the things going on in your mouth as you munch away.
Katafi pastry: spaghetti squash mixed in with 4-5 kinds of goodness, especially the barley mixture over the top. This item is not on the new summer menu. Etch keeps at least one vegetarian entree on the menu any given time.
Unfortunately (?) we filled too much up on gotta-try appetizers to have any room left for dessert. But there's going to be a next time.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
|All photos ©2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved.|
One of Nashville's many blessings is its immigrant community. Mexicans, Africans, Middle & Far Easterners, Slavs ... all contribute to our diverse offerings. Due to the state of class politics, however, many of the best ethnic restaurants in Nashville are contained to strips overly-polluted with billboards, used car lots, high-interest loan shacks and XXX shops that ward off many of our more image-conscious residents. As a result, there are a handful of what I call "gringo taco" restaurants around town, in the more fashionable areas where clientele and management/ownership are pretty strictly European/Caucasian types, fusing ethnic foods with Nashville sensibilities (ie, top shelf Margaritas & BBQ).
Some of them are worth going to, simply because they happen to be near where you live or work or play and you want cheese dip and a Margarita without having to drive far at all; some are worth a 10-20 minute "destination" trip because there's something they do very well and you're jonesing. The purpose of this series is to let readers know what the various Gringo Taco joints do well — or not.
What TLT does very well is their namesake: tacos, often made with locally sourced ingredients. I've had most of the tacos on their menu with the exceptions of fish and mushrooms, and just about all of them are abundant with memorable flavor. The biggest complaints you'll hear about TLT is they aren't packed enough with fillings. For lunch servings, particularly the basket deals (two tacos and one side for $7.50), I'd have to go along with that assessment although I would also reiterate: the small portions of meat are countered by plentiful flavor. Dinner portions seem to contain slightly more meat in the filling.
Other faves include Tequila Lime Chicken tacos; tangy and tender, with salsa verde and marinade juices dripping all over.
The Local BBQ taco starts out with a tangy bite, then heat from chipotle sauce sets in over the smoked pork. You should also try the Smoked Brisket Taco.
The enchiladas don't look like much but again, flavor wins.
TLT is one of the restaurants that started an unwelcome trend: chips and salsa aren't a given, here. You order and pay for your choice: roja, verde, smoked black bean & corn, or pico de gallo. There's also a thick queso w/minced peppers you can lay into. Of the the five, the roja and the queso are most worth having but overall the salsas aren't something to write home about.
Nashville has two locations and another coming. Murphy Road in Sylvan Park, Pewitt Drive in Brentwood, and rumor has it an East Nashville shop is in the works, on Fatherland St. TLT serves "fast-casual" style: order in front of the house and get your drink, and they'll give you a numbered placard to put on your table. When the food's ready, the server will bring it out to you.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
|all photos ©2014 Mary Brace all rights reserved|
At one time, not even that long ago, when we didn't yet hate suburbs with a passion, Green Hills was an acceptable destination for Nashville restaurant dining. People seemed happy with Shalimar, Indian food right on the Pike; Chinatown in one of the little side plazas; F. Scotts towered over it all as the grand dame and foundation of much good that got spread around town. As that long-loved haven prepares to shut its doors, Green Hills should be thankful the team is staying on with Table 3.
I've eaten there a handful of times and always been pleased. On the occasions where there may have been a slight misfire, the overall experience showed a sincere effort to get things right. When you find yourself eating in a bistro that's serving up dishes with an average entrée price of about $21, the last thing in the world you want to be is that guy/girl who goes cheap for the burger.
Twin Kegs can top that.
Juiciness: 10 Well, just look at that plate! Moo.
Attractiveness: 6 Enough of the pretzel buns, already. On a good burger, they're a distraction from the main feature. I want to look at a burger and go, "wow, this looks like it's going to be really good," not, "oh, what an interesting bun."
Flavor: 8 This was the second time I've had Table 3's burger. Last time, it was much more medium and not at all rare, but both times, the flavor had a subtle brawny something going on underneath that pleases the tastebuds without overpowering. But if you like, ask your server to switch out the accompanying aoli for some mustard (Dijon, of course) and your burger almost becomes Sunday roast with horseradish.
Digestivity: 10 No backlash or sluggishness at all on this puppy.
Overall: 8.5 ... BUT. On Wednesday, when you can get it (at the bar) for $5, the value added makes it a 10. Flat out.
p.s. - the Onion Soup would make a Canadian logger melt from homesickness.