Wednesday, 27 October 2010
I took an extra long weekend in Nashville, Tennessee for 5 nights and 6 days (more like 4 days though because of all the flying). I'm not sure if it's the age, but I just can't gorge as I used to. Or maybe it's just because I'm a city slicker and the fine art of having a "meat and three" all days of the week is not something that can simply be honed over the course of a long weekend. I seemed to do quite well on only 1.5 meals a day. If I had a breakfast in the morning, nothing could go down past early evening. If I planned to have lunch somewhere, then I definitely was not going to do breakfast and a midnight run for Princes' Hot Fried Chicken was definitely on the horizon. Case in point, I only got a small sampling of eats in Nashville given the amount of time I had there though it was not for lack of trying. Anyway, on to the good (and not so good) stuff.
I flew into BNA late on a Thursday evening. George picked me up from the airport, we headed back to the hotel for some advice and were given a few options for late night dining at the concierge. Off to South Street we were. South Street has a large selection of seafood (which I find strange on menus in a completely land locked state) and BBQ. It was late and I just wanted something in my stomach--something you can't really go wrong with. South Street looks like a typical bar and grill so I'm always weary to try anything that might seem a bit too adventurous or that I could probabl find better elsewhere at a place that specialized in it. I went safe and got a smoked turkey sandwich (which they smoke themselves on site) with hush puppies on the side. Definitely not a disappointment. The somewhat spicy mayo (or whatever it was) that came with the sandwich was a great dipper for those hush puppies. The hush puppies were pretty much mashed potatoes with bits of corn and other goodies, shaped into a ball and deep fried to a golden brown. Given it was my first meal in Nashville--I was super excited about how perfectly fried the hush puppies were. The smoked turkey had a good smokiness though it didn't blow my socks off--it still fared well with that spicy dipping sauce. All in all, I was content after a beer. "This is going to be a good couple of days.." I thought to myself.South Street Restaurant 907 20th Avenue SouthNashville, TN 37212(615) 320-5555
I spent the next day navigating my way through Nashville via their very convenient MTA. I checked out of the hotel and into our vacation rental near Vanderbilt University which would be our home for the remainder of our stay. George was working on Friday so I decided to pull in some touristy museum and parks visits. I perused the rather sad Tennessee State Museum (free admission) and I ended up at another rather sad Nashville's Farmer's Market near Bi Centennial park. While there were several stands selling bright and beautiful fruits and vegetables, there were barely any shoppers. I felt a little uncomfortable just walking through with vendors eagerly looking to me to purchase whatever it was I happened to pick up and look at. At the far end of the Farmer's Market was a food court--B & C (Bacon & Caviar) was there and it was on my "to eat" list. Don't ask me why they've named themselves Bacon & Caviar--it has nothing to do with their cafeteria style down home BBQ. Even though I was already eagerly anticipating the Jack Daniel's BBQ World Championships we'd be going to tomorrow, I still opted for the pulled pork sandwich and a couple sides. I had my first sweet tea (of many) here--you really don't need soda when you have sweet tea! I had initially set my sights on this place via a chowhounder that mentioned the "unusual, but delicious sides." More than the entrees, I love Southern sides (corn bread, sweet biscuits, mac n cheese, greens, and all that good stuff). However, there was nothing usual or exciting about the sides they had on offer there. Maybe I was there on an uncreative food day--I'm not sure. I opted for deep fried okra poppers, and mac n cheese (with shells) as sides to my pulled pork sandwich. The big standout was the spicy BBQ sauce. I'm not sure what it is, but they know how to do a mean sauce here in the South. It went perfectly with the wonderfully tender and flavorful pulled pork. That's two for two so far! I decided I needed to work up my appetite for later so I walked along Broadway which was still crowded even in the middle of the day and peeked into a few bars which were already open with bands tuning their gear inside. Watching them made me tingle with excitement about going back later in the evening.
B & C 900 Rosa L Parks Blvd Nashville, TN 37208 (615) 770-0032
Later that evening after George was done working, we headed for a quick bite at South Street again. However, I only had a beer--remember the 1.5 meals a day thing? I was still full from B & C. The rest of the night was a blur. We had a few gracious hosts that took us to Broadway to the honky tonks! Live music, bright lights, cheap beer, one or two or five too many shots of tequila and best of all, no cover or LA attitude! The have a completely different way of doing nightlife in Nashville and it was good. Very good. The only way I was able to force myself up that morning was the thought of BBQ at the festival we'd be heading to. I did a lot of squirming and whining that we had passed out in someones hotel suite (instead of our vacation rental) and that I needed my BBQ fix. A shower and a 2 hour drive through the country later.. We were in Lynchburg, Tennessee. And then the "bad food" portion of our tour began..
Before planning this trip, I had already made up my mind that we absolutely had to go to the "BBQ World Championships." I had dreams of fall off the bone beef ribs and tender, flavorful pulled pork sandwiches.. Sauces of divine intervention and sides that I would declare as the "best I've ever had."
Oh god how I had fucked us.
The festival itself was huge. It's probably one of the biggest (in size) food festivals that I've been to. It pretty much covered the entire downtown area of Lynchburg (population 5,000) and the festival itself I'm sure more than tripled the population for the two days the event was going on. We made our way to the main food tents--the ones that touted their several BBQ championship wins and got into the longest line (though they were all more or less equally long). Hey, that one should be the best, right? 45 minutes later we got our food. A beef plate and a pulled pork/beef ribs plate with coleslaw and potato salad. I had two bites of each and ended up throwing the entire plate in the trash. No exaggeration here. I had not eaten all day, waited in line for 45 minutes and I threw almost all the food away. I've never been so offended. How dare they?! I don't understand how a group from Texas which touted to win 5 or 6 championships could brazenly heap that nasty, grisly, fatty, yet somehow still dry ribs and pork onto my plate and try to charge me $20 for everything. We were duped. Everyone in line was duped. Not to the mention the sides came out of plastic store bought containers. OK, so they didn't have time to make the sides from scratch, but at least buy from a place that is half way edible. The coleslaw was easily comparable to the slaw at KFC and I don't even want to go into the potato salad. It pains me just to write this, but this mockery of BBQ from the Texas Rib Rangers needs to be shown in its true light. OK, let's step away from that mess. I would've left feeling jipped had it not been for the fun ribbons fries, beautiful country road on the way back and looking forward to my first country music concert at the Grand Ole Opry House back in Nashville..
After some Trace Adkins at the Grand Ole Opry House (along with a bunch of older country singers which could've been stand ins for my grandparents), we headed for some late night eats--Princes' Hot Chicken it was! I venture to say that this is the best fried chicken I've ever had. In our short little Nashville trip alone, George ordered fried chicken from 3 different places. Two out of two little piggies agree--Princes' Hot Chicken is the best! Not only is it the best, it's also uh.. In a really shady area of town which of course, adds to the delicious flavor. Course, it might just be that the building is rundown and that the women behind the counter looked like she hadn't showered in a week--who knows.
Slept in on Sunday and went for a popular "Meat and Three" (one entree with three sides for us city slickers) at Monell's. I'm pretty sure Georges exact words after finishing every last bit of food on his plate were "Oh god. I want to vomit." Thankfully, he didn't. I ordered a lackluster pot roast, but it came with three amazing sides (roasted potatoes, mac n cheese and corn pudding). My favorite was definitely the corn pudding. George ordered the fried chicken with the mac n cheese, coleslaw and green beans. We had another "best I've ever had" moment with the coleslaw. Maybe it was the god awful slaw we had to compare it to the day before, but damn that was a crispy, delicate slaw. Coleslaw can be "delicate," apparently. I'm not sure if it's an Asian thing, but my mother has always been a big proponent of taking a walk after big meals and we needed a walk after this meal, badly. We went off to nearby Radnor Lake and took a short hike. I managed to do it in my cowboy boots, so it really was just a "short hike." Home for a quick shower and we were off to yet another country music concert; this time at The Fontanel Mansion for an outdoor evening concert. The Farm, Gretchen Wilson, some other guy I don't remember the name of and Montgomery Gentry were the main players for anyone out there who is a country music fan. These are apparently big time country guys; course all I know is that I was rockin' through the whole thing while a storm was brewing overhead. We left soaking, but with big cheesy smiles on our faces. Food that night was an afterthought. Cheap beer, hot dogs and nachos. Not important, except that I know if I had bought that at an LA Dodgers game or a movie theater in LA that would've cost me $20, but I was in Nashville so it cost $14 instead. Yay! Few extra dollars in my pocket!Monell's2826 Bransford Ave Nashville, TN 37204(615) 298-2254
I had Monday to myself again while the MotoMan crew headed off to Alabama. I had heard about the Pancake Pantry in Nashville as "the" breakfast to go so I went in around noon on Monday not expecting a wait. Apparently the wait on weekends can go up to an hour. I still had to stand in line, but it took < 10 minutes. Yay! Breakfast! Fast! I stuffed myself with a stack of three pancakes, bacon, eggs and washed it down with a cup of coffee. And yes, I will immediately compare every pancake place I eat at to The Original Pancake House. I say The Original Pancake House wins by a teeny tiny smidgen, because their pancakes are a bit fluffier and I like their coffee better. Course my meal at the Pancake Pantry was also a few dollars less than what I pay for the same thing at The Original Pancake House. This post makes me sound like a cheap ass. Huh.
The Pancake Pantry 1796 21st Ave South Nashville, TN 37212-3704 (615) 383-9333
I did a few more touristy things during the day like heading to the Belle Meade Plantation (apparently the largest slave owning plantation in Nashville during its time). I lounged about the property and pulled out the ol sketch book. I did a little wine tasting as well and went home with a bottle of dry white wine. It wasn't bad; I mostly just wanted to support the preservation of the Belle Meade Plantation.
Back near downtown again, I toured Music Row and by toured I mean I spent an hour walking around that area after I got off the bus being lost thinking I'd manage to find the street that our rental was on. I found some guys jamming on their front porch (Isn't that fucking awesome? I've never seen people in my neighborhood just randomly jamming on their front porch.) and finally made my way back with a strained ankle from tripping over the sidewalk.
So our last night in Nashville, what do we do? Crew was back late therefore options were limited to trendier late night spots (most down home cooking type places close up early). We had heard about Cabana having decent food and being open late. This place was somewhat trendy--kind of like a not so glamorous version of The Cabana Club on Melrose. I wanted to insist on more Princes' Hot Chicken but at the same time wanted to try something new. I should have stuck to my gut on Princes'! Because of the great shrimp and grits I had in DC, I wanted to do shrimp and grits again. It's the South, they know how to do grits, right? Sure.. If it's covered in salt apparently. While the shrimp was surprisingly springy and sweet, everything else about my dish was a salty mess. I had a beer to wash down the lumps of salt stuck in my throat. We ordered a few so-so appetizers--a deep fried quail over sweet potato fries (which was something new for me and kind of reminded me of fried frog legs) and crab hush puppies that was more "hush puppy" than crab. I haven't had a hush puppy I didn't like in Nashville so far and thankfully these hush puppies did not end the streak. George of course had the fried chicken again which made me kick myself even harder not pushing it earlier. It was delicious, but still, Princes' was better. Back to Broadway we went. Wow. This place is quiet on Mondays. But I suppose we should have been happy there were even bars open. We took a few touristy pictures along the main street and called it a night.
Cabana 1910 Belcourt Ave Nashville, TN 37212-3718
We woke up the next (and last) morning.. Sigh.. One more meal left. I left poor George back at the rental to do work and me and the rest of "the crew" went to Loveless Cafe 20 minutes away. Loveless Cafe is the epitome of what I would think a Southern diner should be. Great food and amazing to die for biscuits. "Best biscuits I've ever had." "Best country fried steak I've ever had." Unfortunately, no biscuit mix to take back with me--according to their little history blurb on the place mat, it's a closely guarded secret. Not to be a fried ball of cheese (which I surprisingly did not have while I was there), but it was a "great end to a great weekend." The storm began to start back up on our way back to the rental.. We hopped in the plane back back to LA and I was finally full..
Nashville, TN 37221-4012