Friday, September 19, 2014

Acme Feed and Seed

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Acme Feed and Seed
101 Broadway
Nashville
615-915-0888
www.theacmenashville.com
Can you get a decent meal in a place that describes itself as “22,000 square feet of cocktail, culinary and entertainment space”? The answer is yes. Acme Feed and Seed, which sits at First and Broadway, is a massive enterprise of fooder-tainment with all sorts of nods to Nashville’s roots and plenty of Americana merchandising. It’s upscale in identity and pricing. All of that should have turned us off, but it didn’t. The food is casual, creative and good.
The main floor is a huge space, carved out of a historic building. The Acme is best known as a farming supply retailer since the 1940’s and hence the theme of the restaurant complex. The Victorian style structure dates back much further than that, operating as a flour warehouse and buggy company. Two bars and dozens of tables stretch out over the room and towering ceilings retain that historic warehouse feel to the place. They’ve spent some time refining how they will handle such a large space and the accompanying large crowds. On the first floor, you order up front and take a number to the table. We have taken to sitting at the bar. They have an interesting array of craft brews, including a decent selection of locals. A beer goes well with the food here, both for flavor and for ambiance. There’s a beer hall feel to the first floor.
The first floor menu is limited. This is usually a good idea when a business first takes flight, but it seems a bit restrictive now. A first glance shows the Southern favorites with a few twists here and there. Chicken-fried steak is a bit chewy, but with a fine, peppery breading and thick white gravy. The vinegar slaw is simple and fresh. You could certainly stick with the traditional side of the menu, but if you look a big closer, you’ll see some ways to shake up your palate. The Lobro sandwich is rare ahi tuna on a good old fashion hamburger bun. It doesn’t look like much on serving. The fish is cooked to expectations, but it’s the toppings that show the Acme difference in downtown dining. Pickled ginger and Asian sesame slaw put the sandwich over the top. I end up using most of the avocado aioli for the thin and crispy sweet potato fries. That seems to be the Acme style: a Southern mash-up with international flavors. Mexican street corn and house made falafel share the first floor menu with Brunswick stew and barbecue of various types. There are several options for vegetarians.
Veggie Eater: I was fully prepared to hate this joint, but must admit, I rather liked it. The menu has enough veggie items to keep the veggie eaters happy and not simply the generic black bean burger or Portobello options.  During my visit, I was most intrigued with The Hatchery.  It’s a mish-mash of curried chickpeas, which still have some denseness to them, and lovely coconut rice, sprinkled with cashews and cilantro.  This is then topped with over easy eggs and grilled flatbread, which has the consistency of naan.  It’s a large, filling affair, and every bite was a lesson in contrast of textures and flavors (a sight chewiness and earthiness from the chick peas, velvety and slightly sweet rice from coconut, salty crunchiness from cashews, gooeyness from the eggs).  Meat Eater tried to convince me that we needed to go back just to expand our menu selections for the blog write up (“really, Kate, how can we do the review without having sampled the Mexican Street Corn or Falafel…”)-but alas, we are backed up for a few weeks with other obligations.  However, I assure you, we will be back to sample more of the menu in the near future. 
Meat Eater: Yes, the offer of house made falafel downtown is a big deal miss vegetarian. The second floor promises sushi soon and bars extend up to the roof, where they book private parties for the beautiful river views. This type of mash-up is a good thing for downtown dining. The tourists have deserved better food for years and the Acme first floor also gives us locals another place to dine before the symphony or a show at the Ryman. We paid $45 on one visit for the two of us and I paid $25 on another. It may turn folks off to pay that much for a typical hamburger bun and basket style serving ware. It’s a reminder that the real estate isn’t cheap on Broadway.


Acme Feed & Seed on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Look at Acme Feed and Seed

Nashville Restaurants and Food
First Look at Acme Feed and Seed
The Acme Feed and Seed project is three stories and 22,000 square feet worth of restaurants and bars, repurposing the entire historic Acme building from entrance to rooftop at the busy corner of First Avenue and Broadway. You would expect that such a huge enterprise would have lofty ambitions. Our first look at the first floor of Acme Feed and Seed surprised us with its informality and fun. The bones of the building preserve the history and charm of a turn of the century business. The Acme is best known as a farming supply retailer since the 1940’s and hence the theme of the restaurant complex. The Victorian style structure dates back much further than that, operating as a flour warehouse and buggy company.
Two bars and dozens of tables stretch out over the room and towering ceilings give it a beer hall ambiance that would probably be raucous on a Friday night. They’ve spent some time refining how they will handle such a large space and the accompanying large crowds. On the first floor, you order up front and take a number to the table. That’s fine, but we preferred to sit at one of the bars and chat with the pleasant bartenders.
We were prepared not to like this place, but it has won us over; especially the food. Chicken fried steak may have been a bit chewy on this day, but the peppery breading and sticky white gravy is quite good. Cole slaw is fresh and simple vinegar with what appears to be mustard seed. If that menu item sounds predictable for a Southern themed restaurant, the Hatchery, with curried chickpeas, coconut rice and puffy Indian style bread is certainly not. Our next stop will probably bring an order of the falafel and we’ll have to try the Mexican street corn. You can also get a hot chicken sandwich, barbecue variations, and beer belly tacos. It’s a concise, reasonably priced,  and laid back menu.  They are still working on the second floor sushi restaurant, but the roof top bar is open. We’ll have a full review of the first floor in a few weeks.
Acme Feed and Seed
101 Broadway
Nashville
615-915-0888

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thai Esane

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Thai Esane
907 12th Avenue South
Nashville
615-454-5373
People use the phrase “Thai hot” for good reason. Thai food ranges in spiciness, but many people enjoy it really, really hot. Native hot. You can actually get that level of heat at Thai Esane and that’s a bit of a rarity in the Nashville area. Spiciness doesn’t work on it’s own. The dishes at Thai Esane start with what seem to be fresh ingredients and there is clearly skilled execution in the kitchen.
The regulars already know co-owner Nina Sayasack by name and that’s not just due to their dedication to this new restaurant on 12 South; she worked at her parent’s place, the legendary King Market in Antioch, for more than six years, and she has pulled those patrons into her new space.  Sayasack and her husband, Tim Singto, have taken note of what makes King Market great: spice, deep flavor and authenticity. Bringing that to the area between 12 South and the Gulch just makes sense. Many of those loyal King Market customers, she explains, come from points closer to downtown Nashville.
Panang curry, ordered spicy, is blazing hot. Lovingly tender pork and crunchy veggies come with a modest serving of flavorful thick coconut curry sauce. That too may be a bit of a surprise; dishes don’t get overwhelmed by sauce at Thai Esane. There is a delicate balance. Pad Kra Pao is the popular basil stir-fry dish, ordered with minced beef on this occasion. The bell peppers and broccoli have snap. Ordered medium, the stir-fry still has a strong kick. Those who do not enjoy heat should consider ordering food at Thia Esane as mild as they will make it.
There is a careful attention to everything on the menu. Sticky rice is super-sticky. Tom Kha Gai soup is light and delicate with fresh scallions and peppers. Wide Malaysian noodles also sport an adventurous, spicy flavor and perfectly cooked tofu or chicken. 
Veggie Eater: Start with the spring rolls-these plump affairs are chock full of textures and tastes, including shrimp.  I’m sure you can request a no shrimp option, but I found it very easy to pick around.  The rice paper wrappers are perfect-elastic, without being too chewy or soggy.   Most menu items offer tofu or veggie options and I was like a kid in a candy store trying to figure out what on Earth I most wanted.  I finally decided on the Malaysian noodles and asked for native hot.  We did encounter a misstep as I was originally presented with a version that was definitely chicken.  No worries here, Nina owned up to the mistake immediately (“I don’t usually wait tables”), asked Meat Eater if he wanted to keep the chicken version (“Hell yeah”) and had my veggie (tofu) version back at the table in under five minutes.  The dish definitely had some heat, but it was not overwhelming.  Thai Esane’s iteration uses wide rice noodles, lots and lots of scallions (whole and sliced), mung bean sprouts, and is respectably hot, though not overwhelming or unbearable (though my nose was running).   Pair all of this with the chai tea, which is spicy, but not at all sweet, which almost also describes me. I am a little pissed that Meat Eater made the second trip without me.
Meat Eater: Don’t worry my spicy vegetarian friend, we’ll be back. I think it’s safe to say that Thai Esane is instantly one of the best Thai restaurants in town. The space feels much more comfortable in this current restaurant incarnation. It works for lunch and for dinner. You can get fun, Thai-inspired cocktails, such as a Bangkok mule with lemongrass.
I paid $23 for a solo lunch visit and we paid $47 for two.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Riddim n' Spice at Tomato Arts Fest

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Riddim n' Spice at Tomato Arts Fest

The folks at Riddim n Spice food truck were serving up their Caribbean tacos on Saturday at Tomato Arts Festival. They're still working on securing a brick and mortar location in Five Points, where the Edgefield restaurant used to be. If they can get it going, it will be a great fit for East Nashville. The smoked jerk chicken taco is a fun combination of lively flavors and fresh ingredients. Caribbean salsas go especially well in a taco. They also have a vegan version with seitan. The Veggie Eater loved the sweet heat with a strong after burn. Grilled corn and kidney beans go well on tacos.

You may know the Riddim n Spice family. Mom, Ouida Bradshaw, owns Jamaicaway at the Farmer's Market. Her son, Kamal Kalokoh, runs Riddim n Spice. We hope the foray into a permanent spot works out. Having another veggie friendly restaurant in East Nashville would be great. In the meantime, follow the food truck on their web page and connect to Twitter and Facebook feeds.

And a note of congratulations to the Tomato Arts Fest organizers. It was much bigger and even better this year. We especially enjoyed the beer zone street. Tomato Arts Fest is one of Nashville's best festivals.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Nashville Street Tacos

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Nashville Street Tacos
129 Second Avenue North
Nashville
615-942-5271
Who would have thought that there would be two places to get elotes in downtown Nashville? The Mexican street corn, grilled and slathered in mayo, crumbly queso and chili powder. Despite the mayo substitution, it’s done well at Nashville Street Tacos (the other street corn location is the new Acme Seed and Feed). While it’s not a Mexican revolution by any means, the new second avenue establishment is a considerable step-up from tourist food, and offers one of the better restaurant bargains downtown.
The line-up consists of the usual taqueria suspects: tacos, burritos and quesadillas. They originally proclaimed house made tortillas on their website, but we have not seen them served, probably due in part to the labor intensive nature of fresh tortillas. The guacamole is surprisingly complex. The green chili queso dip hits the spot. Scoop it all up with thick-cut and fresh-fried chips. The quesadillas are a big meal. The machaca is shredded beef in a red chili sauce. It’s flavorful and satisfying. Another visit brings a carne asada burrito. You can specify at the line what you want on your burrito or taco and the ingredients seem high quality: black beans, spicy pinto beans, cilantro, spicy salsa and some fresh pico. For those trying to avoid carbs you can get the burro (their name for a burrito) in a bowl. Meats include chicken, battered fish and the aforementioned beef versions. Their version of the Sonoran style hot dog sounds good:  bacon wrapped frank with beans and a spicy jalapeno sauce. They have a decent beer list on tap.
Mexican is always tough for vegetarians. Nashville Street Tacos offers a sin carne, veggie version, of each item, substituting guacamole for the meat. If you’re careful about your additional items you can eat well here.
Veggie Eater:  This is not a terribly original restaurant concept-pick your meat of choice and add your fixings of choice.  However, it is a nice option to have downtown. I’ve found the sin carne burrito does a wonderful job of sopping up pre Ryman concert beer (though beware, beer can be found and consumed here, which defeats the purpose).   There are some nice additions to the fixing choices, including queso fresco and fresh pico de gallo.  The obligatory bean and rice options are also available.  Once you are done customizing your item (be it taco, burrito, or quesadilla), you can further adorn it with a variety of different salsas.  Don’t ask for elotes, as the staff are apt to look at you like you have spoken Swahili, but if you request the grilled corn, they are happy to oblige and the product is worth the momentary confusion.  As with many Tex-Mex joints, the portions are large and the prices are fair.  Of note, the veggie option is $2 less than most of the other meat options, so it’s one of the few places I don’t feel like I’m being gouged. 
Meat Eater: The space is modern and large enough to accommodate crowds. The open front window makes for some fun people watching while you eat. Nashville Street Tacos may not be breaking any new ground, but they certainly offer a quality meal at a low price, perfect for before a concert at the Ryman, or to hold down all of that honky tonk beer. We paid $25 with tip on one visit and $34, including beers, on another visit.

Nashville Street Tacos on Urbanspoon