Monday, May 5, 2014

Nashville's Food Scene is a Game Changer

It's impossible to properly sum up such a great trip, but here's my little breakdown of where we stuffed ourselves in Music City. You'll notice that Nashville seems to be one of the only evolving cities where everyone isn't trying to do the same thing; the whole place is about variety and literally bringing something new to the table at every chance. These restaurants are listed by the order in which we visited them, but I saved the best for last, so only scroll down if you want to spoil the surprise! Here we go...

Mas Tacos Por Favor
When your lunch experience begins with seeing Guy Fieri's face spray-painted on the wall, you know you're in for a treat. Mas Tacos Por Favor started out as a food truck back in 2008 before food trucks had their current cool-factor, and became such a Nashville hit that they set up a permanent location less than two years later. Recently, they've been named as One of the 12 Dishes that Define the New Nashville, as well as some of the Best Tacos in America by CNN. Our resident tour guides for the weekend, Ron and Leah, told us they get to enjoy this place about once a week and I would have started googling "Nashville real estate" right then and there if my hands weren't full of tacos.

What We Loved
- Cast Iron Chicken Tacos {charred jalapenos + onions, roasted tomatillo, salsa, and a drizzle of sour cream}
- Pulled Pork Tacos {slow braised pork, roasted tomatillo, salsa, shaved cabbage, spicy onions, and dill yogurt}
- Spicy Carne Molida {ground beef, fresh corn + tomato, sour cream, shaved cabbage, and spicy onions}
- Elote {grilled corn rolled in queso and spices with a squirt of lime}
- Chicken Tortilla Soup {Mexico City style and totally killer, get the recipe here}
- Horchata Ice Coffee. IT'S A REAL THING AND YOU NEED IT.

Left: Guy Fieri's face and signature. Right : (via foursquare) tacos and horchata iced coffee via Foursquare.

Pinewood Social
They could have gotten me in the door just for their specialty cocktails, but Pinewood Social didn't stop there. The brilliant Goldberg brothers (known for The Catbird Seat, one of Nashville's top fine dining restaurants), wanted to create a singular space to serve as an all-hours social hangout. You can find your morning coffee and pastries there, escape the workday for lunch and bowling, or grab dinner and embarrass yourself singing karaoke. Pinewood Social plans to add a swimming pool, a bocce ball court, and a cabana to their "backyard" for even more summer fun. The architecture and decor are seriously impressive (a quick search on Pinterest will give you a sneak peek) but the food and drinks are what will bring me back on my next visit.

What We Loved
- The Honesty of Constant Human Error {Martin Millers Gin, Lunazul Blanco Tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Strawberry, Lemon}
- "Things on Toast" {variety including BLT, chicken liver, and country ham with pepper mascarpone}
- Fried Cheese Curds with Pepper Aoli
- Smoked Trout Dip with Lavish Crackers
- Fried Chicken with Cauliflower Salad
- Pork Belly Salad {grilled pork belly, frisee, poached egg, mustard vinaigrette}

Pinewood Social | 33 Peabody Street | Nashville, TN

Red Bicycle Coffee & Crepes
If (or when) I move to Nashville, I could stop here every morning for an iced coffee and a crepe without hesitation. This is coming from me, Kelly Moran, a self-described Starbucks addict. I would drop the black americano habit and become dedicated to the flawless iced coffee that Red Bicycle pumps out. Whatever they're doing, that stuff could even stand out among San Francisco's competitive coffee options. The crepes are a whole new ball game, though! Their menu ranges from sweet options such as "cinnamon roll" or "caramel apple," to savory styles like the maple bacon one we chose. It's located in Germantown, a Nashville neighborhood that's currently going through a major boom in popularity and new businesses, so stopping at Red Bicycle in the morning puts you right in the middle of a hot spot. As if all of that isn't enough to make it a staple, the cafe itself is the comfiest place you could imagine for a hungover meetup with friends or pulling out your laptop to get a little work done. I wish I were sitting right there to write this now!

What We Loved
- Bacon Maple Crepe
- Banana Peanut Crepe {we didn't try it on our visit, but our resident tour guide Ron says it's his favorite!}
- Iced Coffee

Red Bicycle Coffee & Crepes | 1200 5th Ave. N. | Nashville, TN

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
About a year ago, I wandered into a tiny convenience store in San Francisco's West Portal neighborhood where I saw unfamiliar ice cream in bright orange packaging. It was Jeni's Whiskey & Pecan flavor, and I haven't found a better ice cream ever since then. As fate would have it, Jeni has an actual brick and mortar scoop shop in Nashville! We stopped by and tried all the flavors we could get our hands on before deciding to pack our top four into pints and take them home with some freshly made waffle cones. You guys, I don't know how to explain how delicious this stuff is. Every single flavor is mind-blowing, and they aren't your average creations. We're talking alcohols, pies, french toast, and more....all in the form of FREAKING ICE CREAM. Whatever you think your favorite brand of frozen heaven is, don't speak another word about it until you've tried Jeni's. Trust me on this.

What We Loved
- Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts {Yazoo = Nashville's most popular beer}
- Salty Caramel
- Dark Chocolate
- Brambleberry Crisp

Image on the right originally from

312 Pizza Company
Our 312 Pizza experience was completely unplanned and uninfluenced by any reviews. It was their grand opening! We had been peeking inside for the first couple days of our visit while the crew finished setting up, and on Sunday when we got the evening beer-itch well before our reservations at City House we just had to go check it out. As the neighborhood's brand new casual restaurant, it seemed like a lot of locals were anxious to try it and find out if 312 Pizza will become a staple. Judging by our visit, I think it will be! They had a great looking menu full of Chicago-style pizza, service was friendly, and they put a cute guy behind the bar - one of the most important moves to make. We didn't want to spoil our appetites too badly, so we sat there for beers and an order of arancini to share. Beers turned into cocktails and cocktails turned into learning about the many possibilities of botanical gin, which was enough to make me add 312 Pizza to our list of places to return to next time.

What We Loved
- Arancini {housemade vegetarian risotto mixed with mozarella, coated with breadcrumbs, and fried}
- Alcohol, all of it {Cutaway IPA, Cucumber Botanical Gin, all the whiskey ever}
- We'd place a good bet on the pizza being delicious

Images via Nashville Guru and Nashville Scene

City House
Talk about living up to the hype! We had heard nothing but rave reviews for City House, and our meal did not disappoint. Their Sunday Supper menu didn't include the famous Pork Belly Pizza that put them on the map, but it's safe to say they aren't relying on just one solid menu item. The restaurant itself is pretty bare-bones as far as appearance goes, with clean white brick walls and minimalist settings, which makes you really focus on the food and not the fluff. That seems to be working for them since Southern Living recently added City House to their list of 100 Places to Eat NOW. We would have been just fine waiting a while with our cocktails and appetizers, but it was a pleasant surprise when our entrees came out quickly! Killer food, great service, and a prime location. What more could you ask for?

What We Loved
- Plate of Crackers with Sausage, Beer Brodo, Mustard, and Cheddar
- Wings {hot hot hot, but in a hurts-so-good kind of way}
- Salami, Fennel + Onion, and Grana Pizza

City House | 1222 14th Ave. N. | Nashville, TN

Hattie B's Hot Chicken
Not familiar with Nashville's most famous dish? Never had fried chicken anywhere east of the Mississippi River? Fix these issues immediately. Go to Hattie B's, order some hot chicken at whichever heat-level you think you can handle, and don't stop chowing down until you're worried TSA will be able to see your food baby on the x-ray scanners. The beauty of Hattie B's Hot Chicken is that every bird is fresh, all natural, and always made-to-order. Go get some, wash it down with authentic southern sweet tea, and you will NOT be disappointed.

What We Loved
- Wings & Breasts with our preferred spice levels
- Side of fries, pimento mac n cheese, and black eyed pea salad
- Damn good pickles
- Real southern sweet tea

Hattie B's Hot Chicken | 112 19th Ave. S. | Nashville, TN

ETCH - 1st Place Winner
Nothing in the course of my life has ever led me to believe that cauliflower would be a player in the best meal I'd ever have. Similarly, up until a week ago I couldn't imagine any possible way to improve traditional pesto (if it ain't broke, don't fix it). After just one visit to Etch, I'm worried about how many other things I might be completely wrong about.
The visionary behind Etch is Chef Deb Paquette, and she's my first nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize. She's combining flavors and textures like a culinary rebel, and every dish on her menu feels like it deserves your undivided attention. We did, in fact, try nearly everything on the menu, so you can take that to the bank when I tell you that a meal at Etch is worth the time and cost of a trip to Nashville all by itself. Go now and don't you dare hesitate.
The roasted cauliflower & truffled pea pesto will come highly recommended by anyone who has tried it, but don't expect that to be the only thing you fall in love with. Go with a group so you can each order different options and have an insane experience tasting them all (view details below). Be sure to take a moment and just stare at the presentation, because the whole table will be solid proof that plating can be sexy. Last but not least, scream "YES PLEASE" when the waitress offers to show you the dessert menu, and then promptly order the chocolate pretzel bar. You will experience extreme cognitive dissonance by trying to decide if you would rather be covered in the cauliflower's truffled pea pesto or the chocolate pretzel bar's salty caramel sauce. You have been warned.

What We Loved
     - Butter Tasting {truffle butter, smoked plugra butter, ginger peanut brittle butter, duck butter}
     - Octopus and Shrimp Bruschetta {manchego, arugula, fennel, roasted tomato, capers, garlic oil, bacon}
     -  Pork Belly {fried belly, kenji kimchi, tahini tofu sauce, ginger caramel}
     - Roasted Cauliflower {truffled pea pesto, salted almonds, feta crema}
Main Courses
     - Pork Tenderloin {porcini dusted with manchego, caramelized onion, potato, chorizo, spanish mountain mushroom sauce, and truffle oil}
     - Scallops {trio of grilled, confit, and tempura mushrooms, smoked shallot vinaigrette, bacon, greens, butternut garlic essence, beet sriracha}
     - Venison {moroccan spiced, sweet potato guava, ginger grits, pear butter, cranberry sumac relish}
     - Lamb Chop {merguez sausage brik, cauliflower feta cream, tomato chermoula, grilled eggplant, celery, sunchokes}  

Etch | 303 Demonbreun St. | Nashville, TN


  1. I think I need chicken...

  2. Chicken Tortilla Soup is one my favorite dish..... with shredded boneless chicken breast, navy and black beans and a blend of vegetables. :)

  3. Love your blog so cute! Those food pics are scrumptious.

    xo Syd