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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

First looks: Thai Esane and Chelsea Bistro brunch

Nashville Restaurants and Food
First looks: Thai Esane and Chelsea Bistro brunch
You can tell that you are well loved when your restaurant, open a little over a month, already has regulars that know you by name. Part of the attraction of the new Nashville restaurant, Thai Esane, is that it is run by Nina Sayasack, who worked at her parent’s place, the legendary King Market in Antioch, for more than six years.  She 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 and now they are enjoying spicy Thai closer to home.
Panang curry, ordered spicy, is really hot. Like King Market, they don’t dumb down the heat. Lovingly tender pork, crunchy veggies and a flavorful thick coconut curry, put this dish over the top. Sticky rice is super-sticky. Wide Malaysian noodles also sport an adventurous, spicy flavor and perfectly cooked tofu or chicken.  You can get fun, Thai-inspired cocktails, such as a Bangkok mule with lemongrass. The room finally makes sense, after multiple restaurants. We think this one will last.
Another weekend winner is the Sunday brunch at Chelsea Bistro in Whites Creek/Joelton. This place has built a solid following for their excellent French bistro dinner and we think that the brunch is one of the finest north of the city. We had lovely quiches, generous in size and light in texture. The veggie and Lorraine versions are full of flavor and come wrapped-up in a perfectly cooked crust. The chicory (?) greens on the side are stealth: they don’t look dressed, but take a bite and find a bit of salt, mustard and something else to give them a fine flavor. Asparagus hollandaise will not only satisfy, but also inspire a mopping up of every last bit of the excellent, custardy hollandaise. Well-balanced and spicy bloody Mary’s hit the spot. We’ll be back for brunch again soon. It’s a pretty 25-minute drive from downtown Nashville. Just take Briley Parkway to Clarksville Highway and head north, to the top of the hill. They serve from 10am to 2pm on Sundays.
Thai Esane
907 12th Avenue South
Nashville
615-454-5373

Chelsea Bistro
5432 Clarksville Pike
Whites Creek
615-873-1741

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Burger Republic

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Burger Republic
420 11th Avenue South
Nashville
615-915-1943
Lenox Village is at the far southern end of Davidson County and that’s a real trek for us. So, we were pleased to see the opening of the Burger Republic Gulch location on 11th Avenue South. The burger options are creative and often messy. Chili Chili Bang Bang features their laid back Sam Adams chili, crispy onions, Monterey jack cheese and jalapenos, for a mild bite. The crunch from the onions is welcome and the chipotle aioli a nice touch, although perhaps overwhelmed by the chili. It’s an excellent burger and cooked just a bit north of the requested medium rare. The Four Cheese Garlic Bacon has a nice snap from the apple wood smoked bacon and you can really taste that garlic. The burgers are not huge in patty size, but the extravagant toppings will fill you up.
Sides are also creative. Mac and cheese is sticky and with a white cheese sauce. It goes over the top with Benton’s bacon. House made chips are thick and crunchy. I need to sample the PB and J slider with bacon jam at some point.
The shakes are perhaps the most unique offering at Burger Republic. They take them seriously. A Frozen Black Irish spiked shake features Bailey’s and espresso vodka. It must be a million calories…but damn, they are tough to resist. It’s thick and needless to say, rich, arriving in a beautiful tall glass. You’ll look like a dork drinking it, but who cares? After all, it’s spiked. They have several un-spiked versions as well: Salted Caramel, White Chocolate Strawberry and Espresso Chip, to name a few.
If you would rather enjoy a beer with that burger they have 30 beers on tap, a big selection of bottles and several locals. The vibe is fun for lunch or dinner and the patio is one of the best outdoor spots in the gulch.
Each of several burger options can be done with a veggie burger substitute, which is nice to see. There are very limited options for vegetarians for sides, although they do have a salad, tater tots, and a daily veggie side.
All this fun isn’t cheap. I spent $25 with tax and tip on each of my lunch visits.

Burger Republic on Urbanspoon 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
3110 Belmont Blvd.
Nashville
615-200-1181
Did you hear the sobbing last year? That was the sound of Nashville barbecue fans reacting to news that Martin’s was opening up a city location. We have nothing against Nolensville or Mt. Juliet. In fact, the original Nolensville location was a pilgrimage of sorts for barbecue fans. The tears of joy are well warranted because now the smoked goodness is closer to home. Pat Martin trains his staff well and the barbecue pit in Nashville is smoking juicy pork love for the masses. And there are masses. I arrive at 11 a.m. as the first customer on a weekday and by 11:30am the line is 30 people long. The crowd moves quickly and I didn’t see anyone irritated by the popularity. Just be prepared.
The spare ribs are perfectly tender, kinda like pork candy. There’s enough fat and juice to put the flavor over the top. The smoke is well balanced and the spicy paprika rub accentuates the meat, without overwhelming. I get the sauce on the side, but many folks recommend it on the ribs. You get your choice of styles. The vinegar based tomato sauce has a nice bite. In a teacup: these are the best ribs I have had in Nashville (perhaps with the exception of Jimmy Carl’s Lunchbox-RIP) and they compare favorably with the Nolensville version.
Pulled pork has excellent flavor and consistency. It goes great with the big, slightly sweet, hoe-cakes. That makes the famous redneck Taco a favorite with customers…they pile up the cake and pork with slaw and sauce. Other meat favorites include the brisket, smoked bologna, smoked sausage and smoked turkey. You can even get fried chicken and catfish.
Baked beans have a slightly Hungarian flavor to them. Other sides include the usual suspects. There are only two options for vegetarians on the menu and both of those are Kid’s Meals. I can’t imagine a vegetarian could stomach all of this pork and beef loveliness anyway. Did I mention that the light smoke from the indoor smoker is intoxicating?
The Belmont (nearly Lipscomb) location is fairly large and includes outdoor seating. It’s done up in the usual bbq roadhouse fashion, which works when the Jerry Reed is pumping on the stereo. I suspect I will be parting ways with the Veggie Eater on a regular basis to visit Martin’s, now that it is closer. And I promise: no tears, just sticky fingers and a smile.
I paid $20 with tax and tip on each of two lunch visits.

Martin's BBQ Joint on Urbanspoon