Monday, October 29, 2012

Eating BIG in Nashville

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

-Meat & 3's, Spicy Fried Chicken, Biscuits, BBQ and Cocktails in the Music City

I took a drive down to Nashville for my cousins bachelor party and had a blast. I've been saving this post for Bears fans headed down there this weekend. I'd never been but know for sure I will be back. I could even see myself living down there if the option was on the table and that's usually not the case for places down South. I knew about the CMA's and the fact it was known for it's music scene and a favorite place for Blackhawks fans to travel to watch away games and also the home to an NFL franchise which in case you've never been to Green Bay, doesn't mean much as far as fun things to do while eating and drinking well goes. But Nashville had the feel of a young up and coming city with neighborhoods like the historic Germantown becoming hip again and from what I was told a very vibrant farmers market along with other little things you see when a city starts booming.

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Nashville Tennessee

As evidence from this classic LTH post shows, Tennessee is a legit BBQ state especially for whole hog. But that tends to be found more towards the middle of the state. Nashville has BBQ and of course the most accessible places in the most touristy areas suck. On the regional food map Nashville is known not for its BBQ but for its spicy chicken and also their "Meat and Three's" (read on) and biscuits. It's southern country down to the core when it comes to their food likes. Before we even got settled in at the house we were renting I had to take a ride to Prince's Hot Chicken. One of the most well known and popular places to eat at in Nashville.

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Local and tourist favorite

Located in a strip mall in an urban part of town. When we came in the late afternoon, the liquor store next door had Young Jeezy blasting on speakers outside and I got a chuckle out of it knowing my cousin and his sisters boyfriend were out of place and most likely wondering "where the (bleep) did he find this place and what are we getting into" My younger brother was with us too but he already knew what I do. Be not afraid my friends, everyone is there with the same goal and that's to get some of that spicy fried goodness. I felt like we arrived in the south when I went inside the original no frills location where they sling their famous spicy fried chicken mostly to those on the go and until the early morning on weekends.

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Prince's mild, yet still spicy, chicken

They season the bird up with spices that make your lips heat up a little bit more with each bite. They offer their chicken in mild, medium, hot and extra hot but they're all spicy. I imagine mild would still be too spicy for those who don't like spice at all. It's not mild. I got two whole birds both mild and medium to take back to the place. Extra pickles please. It was pretty damn fantastic and I love eating fried chicken with pickles, what a pair. Just to see how hot it was I got a quarter dark, extra hot for myself which we tried in the patking lot. It was "f^cking hot" that's exactly what I said. I decided it'd be funny to get a few more quarter extra hots and leave them in the fridge for my cousin and his friends to eat when they got in later that night. Of course without mentioning the heat factor. The four of us who knew gotta good laugh outta that when they bit the bait. Imagine that southside guy with the bald head sweating balls on a hot summer day at the Cell, that was them.

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Prince's HOT, EXTRA HOT, chicken

Bolton's is another spicy fried chicken place that gets some love on here and elsewhere. I've long had them on my list. I went here hans solo on Saturday when the rest of the group went golfing. It's a real gem of a southern fried chicken shack located in East Nashville. All first time visitors should seek Bolton's out. Anyone looking for something to do next July who also loves fried chicken should check out the Music City Hot Fried Chicken Festival. It sounded pretty fun and of course theres some damn good spicy fried chicken to be had.

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Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish

Bolton's is a fun experience and the people working there were so welcoming. There's three tables to dine in at and a little space to wait but like Prince's they do alot of takeout. As you enter you need to go knock on the door to the kitchen when ready. Actually you need to use the door knocker as I knocked with my knuckes a few times looking like a true tourist as I stood there pretending not to be. It was a few knocks before someone waiting on their order told me I had to "slam the sh!t outta the knocker so they can hear you dude" Followed by a "welcome to Nashville man, where you from?" Lots of southern hospitality was showed to me on this visit.

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A Nashville Summertime favorite

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Menu -- A view inside from where you order

I knew about the chicken from Bolton's and of course was going to try that but I was more excited about trying the hot fish sandwich. While it's certainly not original to Nashville, the fish sandwich is another one of their lesser known eats. Called a "hot fish" they're offered at quite a few places which I had hoped to get to. As I rode to Bolton's there was a local East Nashville youth football team that was selling fish sandwiches with a car wash out of a vacant parking lot. I'm still sad I never made it back there to chat it up with the folks offering them. In Nashville the typical hot fish sandwich includes fried whiting but in most every case catfish is offered as well. You get two large pieces stuffed inside cheap white bread along with mustard, onions, pickles and hot sauce.

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Whiting Hot Fish Sandwich

I was tempted to try the most regularly used option of whiting and that's what I did. You cant really eat the thing as sandwich but it was pretty dang good. Certainly kicks the shit out of the filet o' fish not that that means much. It was ok but the catfish looks and I'm sure tastes better. They got the frying game down here and do an excellent job with their chicken. I got it hot but it didn't throw flames like Prince's did. I went with the 1/4 white and it was up there with the greats as far as fried bird goes but the breast was a little dry, that's my fault for ordering white, I almost never do.

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1/4 Chicken Sandwich (breast and wing)

On Friday morning I had only one goal and that wasn't figuring out what we were going to do for the day. I had to get to Arnold's Country Kitchen and wasn't doing anything else until I did so. It's closed on weekends but this is the type of place you take work off on Friday and start your trip early for. A must visit in my book.

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Arnold's Country Kitchen: Home of the Meat & Three

Just like he was there to greet me at Prince's, Tex Wasabi was also at Arnold's. No that's not his red camero parked in front popping into the bottom right hand corner of the picture but his picture was on the walls as you enter. Well you know what broph? The dude gets to some righteous places yo! F'real though! I don't watch the show but should of known he'd already been to Nashville's most popular "meat and three" option. Friday was a great day to be there with roast beef and chicken and dumplings on the menu, which is determined by what day of the week it is.

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Roast Beef carvery station

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Waiting to pay as the place fills up for the lunch rush

So a 'meat & three' in case you were wondering is a popular southern way of eating out. Served by places that usually offer their food cafeteria style where you walk in and grab a tray and then get into line. Once it's your turn you choose what you want by telling the guy behind the counter and he's plop's it onto your plate which you then proceed to take the cash register where you pay before you find a seat and eat. Those not a fan of places like Edzo's wont be fond of Arnold's. Coincidentally you'll be missing out on some fantastic food. If your not a fan of places where the food is already made you wont like Arnold's but the constant line makes for the cooks in back being busy the whole time they're open. This was the best cafeteria style food I've ever ate. It's what I've been craving since we got back.

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Meat & two: Catfish with collard greens and fried green tomatoes

I could side with anyone who ever took a 3+ hour ride to eat here and then turned around and drove back. Not much I can say except everything I ate was GREAT. The roast beef as seen in the pic collage was getting finished up when I got mine carved and then a few people later they brought out a new one. I can pretend to taste how great the middle pieces to it are.

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Meat & three: Roast Beef with mashed potatoes, mac & cheese and green beans

If I could of got a little rarer slices that's the only thing that could of made this entire meal slightly better for me. Even so, some of the best roast beef I've had, I don't know what they season theirs with but its tantalizing to the tastebuds. The chicken and dumplings were a revelation. I know I cant find anything like them near here but will seek them out when I'm in areas south of the city. I'll try perfecting my own recipe when winter comes. I never had them that good. Desert was great but I forgot what we ate, I was too busy going back into line to get an order of it all to take back to the house.

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Chicken & Dumplings -- Pie

After a late or rather crack of dawn morning I had to get a little sleep on Saturday and woke up ready for another southern breakfast bonanza. Unless its late in the wee hours of the night there's not much reason to do Waffle House while in Nashville. Save it for the road and those times you don't want to venture far off the highway while en route somewhere else. Go to Arnold's and the Nashville Biscuit House for breakfast while in Nashville.

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An East Nashville locals favorite

I read about the Nashville Biscuit House in a book about southern biscuits I was browsing at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville on a stop we made while riding down. I had seen some other things on it and had it in my address list of places to seek out so it was perfect for breakfast around noon. This place is pretty diverse and had everything from church going African American families to gay hipsters waiting to eat. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Its def. a fan favorite, they had a full house but they also have a drive thru window which is what we used. I was getting food to feed 13 and this place was perfect with their biscuit sandwiches offered with your choice of meat along with eggs and cheese. Each one was $2.25 and we got something like 7 country ham, 7 sausage and 7 bacon along with 7 full orders of biscuits and sausage gravy. If you think that's too much, I was wishing we got more.

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Full order of Biscuits & Gravy, highway robbery at $3.50 an order

This like Arnold's I consider a must. The Loveless Cafe is considered my many to have the best biscuits in the world but these would be damn hard to beat. Without a doubt the best I ever had as well as everyone else who was with us down there and ate one or in my case four of them. But then again we some damn Yankees. I'd eat these weekly if there was anything like 'em in Chicago.

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An arsenal of breakfast biscuit sandwiches that would make Paula Deen weak in the knees

Nashville is booming and one way to tell is the hipsters that have come thru. With them come some cool new spots and of course the cocktail trend has taken off too. This is one trend in the food/drink industry that I'm a fan of. I cant take cheap vodka and cranberries or Jack & Cokes anymore. I hate Red Bull and when it comes to cheap beer I'll drink a High Life bottle if that's what you got but that's about it. No wine (yet) for me. Ever since a couple friends opened Barrellhouse Flat within walking distance from where I live and showed me the light, I've become a cocktail snob. On Friday me and three others decided to stray away from Broadway street and ditch the Miller Lites for some Bacon Old Fashioneds and such. Its located in a popular part of town with a few other bars up and down the block where more of the locals tend to hang out around.

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The Patterson House

Perfect timing as we got a little afternoon rain that day in Nashville. The Patterson House is a speakeasy like cocktail bar opened up by two brothers with prior endeavors in the Nashville bar scene. The idea came about for them on a trip here to Chicago when they went to the Violet Hour. They fell in love with the drinks, service and atmosphere of VH so they decided to bring something similar to Nashville. As someone who's been to both, they did a damn fine job. The Patterson House is named after Malcom R. Patterson who was the 27th governor of the state of Tennessee. He vetoed a bill during his 2nd term that would of lead to the return of statewide prohibition. He argued the issue should be decided at the local level rather than statewide. In a rare instance for this time period his veto was overturned.

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As you enter, the waiting area outside the curtained off drinking room

His memory lives on thru the Patterson House. Inside its very dark so pictures without a flash are pointless. All four of us loved our cocktails which I forget the exact ingredients and names of each one but they were all great including their famous bacon old fashioned. Foodwise its a southern influenced menu with no item being more than $13 and most of them made to share. I tried the fresh fried pork rinds which were as good as any batch I've ever had. Also on the menu was their "Elvis Panini". While not in Memphis we were still in Tennessee and as they say "when in Rome" Peanut butter, banana and bacon are pressed into a tasty sandwich. It's cliche to say but, what isn't made better with the addition of bacon? True story.

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Fresh fried pork rinds -- The Elvis Panini Sandwich

On Saturday my cousins and everyone else planned to play some golf and I have no patience for the game. Which was fine because this would give me the chance to seek out a few other places I really wanted to get too including another speakeasy type place located in East Nashville called the Holland House Bar & Refuge.

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Holland House Bar & Refuge

The more places that pop up like Holland House the better off the bar scene in that area is as far as I'm concerned. This was a little more my style with there being some light inside. Still no TV's or anything like that but I just hate going into those pitch dark places and then walking out tipsy and its light out still. It throws my balance off. Holland House is a great place to start while Patterson is better to end your night.

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My view from the bar

Holland House began when a local mixoligist who had helped make the menus at some other Nashville bars decided he wanted to do something new. Elsewhere in Nashville there was a Dutch businessman who owned a piece of old property that used to be an antique store. He wanted to give it a new identity and somewhere along the lines they were introduced and Holland House was born. The idea was to unify fine new American culinary tradition with a classic epicurean cocktail culture set in an affordable neighborhood friendly atmosphere. They knocked it out of the park for me, I'd love to have this place as one of my local holes.

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(Top) Pharmacy Cobbler Drink -- Spring Drink Menu
(Bot.) Black Lemon Old-Fashioned

I got cozy with Mick who was the bartender on my side of the bar and let him take me away as far as drinks go. We started it off light as he suggested a 'Pharmacy Cobbler' which I got with gin and comes with fresh muddled fruit in season (berries this trip), phosphated lime soda and St. Germain. Excellent summertime drink on a 85+ degree day. Mick continued to take care of me as we talked cocktails and what not and when I told him my love for drinking whiskey Old Fashioneds while in Wisconsin and the fact I wanted to try something with bourbon, it had to be the Black Lemon Old Fashioned for round 2. Two ounces of bourbon go into a glass muddled with lemon and fresh blackberries. Add in a giant piece of ice that takes forever to melt and I was drinking my favorite cocktail I've had in a while. It was perfect for the setting. I ordered their shrimp and grits which were so very, very good and then finished with a "Pyre and Mighty" which was a Rhittenhouse rye whiskey and pear liquor paired drink served shaken. I'd of tried three more if I didn't have to go home to get ready for the evening.

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Shrimp and Grits with asparagus

Even though I wasn't golfing I had to drive a carload of people to the course which it turned out was about 40 minutes from Nashville. At first I wasn't too happy and I ended up not getting to go to the Farmer's Market that Saturday afternoon which I really wanted to do. There were a couple food trucks, one a biscuit driven one and the other a Delta Style Tamale truck I wanted to try but I never made it due to the time it took to get there and back and also go to Bolton's and Holland House. But I was blessed with some BBQ in one of those out of the blue unplanned moments when eating in an area you dont know much about. It was a nice ride with some scenic views outside the city as we went into the rocky top lands.

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Cruising the country lands north of Nashville

It was on the ride there that I spied the Old Fashion BBQ "since 1975" sign and I suddenly didn't care quite as much that I was going to miss the Farmers Market as I saw this little BBQ shack located alongside somebody's house with a line outside post lunchtime. I actually stopped here on the way back after dropping them off and finding another similar place. But lets take a look at this place first. Its owned by a guy who lives next door and with his wife they sell BBQ out of the little shack located in their backyard on the weekends.

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Preparing my order after its made

Here in Robertson County the local bbq of choice seems to be chopped pork served sandwich style. At Old Fashion BBQ which was featured in a best BBQ in America article back in the early 80's, they offer only sandwiches. I had no idea about this place but found this cool blog about the BBQ here after I came home and searched them. Aside from that guys post and now this one here, this place is virtually non existent in an online world where its hard to be. Its on Tom Austin Highway and they serve some great perfectly smokey pork.

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Old Fashion BBQ chopped pork

This was some great sandwich meat. I had to get a couple pounds which I brought back to the house for the others to indulge in when they got back. It had the perfect amount of smoke and all it needed were those cheap buns and his hot sauce and we had some real deal BBQ. Well before I went here as I tried to search on my iPhone for the place I was led to another located the opposite way. It all worked out.

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The Tennessee Boondocks

Located in the middle of nowhere off the side of the road is this little smoke shack which is a wkd operation. I had to go in and try their BBQ and was glad I did. They also sell their chopped pork by the pound ($5) and offer it in meals or as sandwiches. They do smoked chicken and ribs. I got a couple pounds to go for them and a dinner for me.

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The view from the ordering counter

Another treasure and a great place to just stumble upon. There's no Famous Daves or KFC's out around this way but who cares when you got Mike's Old Fashioned BBQ. Their sides were wonderful, basically how you expect traditional all American potato salad and cole slaw to taste. The real highlight of Mike's was their sauce which goes on the sandwiches and into the meat. Its a very light vinegar based brew that takes the sandwich from good to really good. I got 10 bottles of the pre-bottled stuff seen in the picture to take back and use this summer. Not bad at $2.50 each.

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BBQ pork dinner from Mike's old Fashion BBQ

Of course theres also Broadway Street which is Nashville's Bourbon Street, Beale Street, 7th avenue (Ybor City), Church Street (Orlando) and so on. Every southern city with tourism dollars coming in has a street where tourists and locals like to go get loose. They can be fun times if your under 35 and stop by during the day and get to hear some people playing music you might like it no matter your age or music tastes. As far as food goes around Broadway and 2nd street (off Broadway, another popular nite life area) your best bet is to stick with what you already know is good. My cousins friends ate at a couple BBQ spots and one was really bad and they said Jack's BBQ was ok, some said pretty good. I enjoyed both my Vienna Beef Chiacgo style hot dogs with with everything around 2a when the bars were closing down.

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a little taste of Sweet Home Chicago in the Music City

I'm not a big fan of country music but the performers brought the energy in at these bars around there. The best entertainment though was the free stuff, the locals. If your lucky enough to get the chance to see The Nashville Clogger perform at the bars while hes out and about drinking, you'll love him, it was a trip. When he would get going with one the bachelorettes there dancing he would get going. That old man can dance! Then there was the Nashville Freestyle Drummer who was hilarious. Well known for his freestyles calling out the passerby's he gets the corner of Broadway he's set up at rocking on the weekend nights. It was as entertaining as anything the both nights we saw him. They both give a great peak into both of the types of music featured in Nashville's musical scene. Plenty of scenic views in these parts too if you like those like I do.

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Broadway Street from a bars balcony on a Saturday night

I already have plans for trip to Green Bay and hopefully Dallas for 2012-13 Bears away games and now I think I'm going to try and do Nashville too. You know Cutty's going to want to put on a show and most likely will. It's a place that will be on my radar from here on in. If your ever driving down to Nashville from Chicago and taking 65 you can check this thread for recs.

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Hope to see you in early November Nashville...DA BEARS!
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Prince's Hot Chicken (Open til 4a Wkds)
123 Ewing Dr # 3
 Nashville, TN
(615) 226-9442

Boltons Spicy Chicken & Fish (Closed Sun)
624 Main St # B
Nashville, TN
(615) 254-8015

Arnold's Country Kitchen (M-F)
605 8th Avenue South
Nashville, TN
(615) 256-4455

Nashville Biscuit House (open 7days til 2p)
805 Gallatin Ave
Nashville, TN
(615) 228-4504

Patterson House
1711 Division Street
Nashville, TN
(615) 636-7724

Holland House Bar & Refuge
935 West Eastland Avenue
Nashville, TN
(615) 262-4190 ‎

Old Fashion BBQ (wkds)
1784 Tom Austin Highway
Greenbrier, TN 37073

Mike's Old Fashioned BBQ (wkds)
3655 Dunn Road
Cedar Hill, TN 37032
(615) 696-1111

1 comment:

lauren christin said...

Arnold is a good restaurant which offers a very good food as well as in very good cheap deal also. I think this is going to be enjoyable food for me while I am eating.





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