Nashville Restaurants and Food
12 South Bistro
907 12th Avenue South
Neighborhoods provide an interesting dilemma for restaurateurs. You want to be close to the action and yet you may not be able to pay the rent the action requires. So, you may opt to locate near the action. 12 South Bistro has action on two sides: The finally lively Gulch and the always busy 12 South neighborhood. That should be great, but there is a fairly large gulf between the two and that is where the 12 South Bistro is located. And the challenges facing the restaurant are more than just location- 12 South has identity issues. And that’s a shame, because the kitchen is turning out some decent casual dining food.
12 South Bistro is decorated in a fairly generic, black and white, fine dining style. This seems at odds with a menu featuring pizza, Panini and reasonably priced entrees. A shredded beef Panini is served with au jus on the side and while it may not rank as the “famous” designation on the menu, it’s a decent sandwich. I ask and the server says it does not come with a side, so I order up a side salad. It’s a generous assortment of mixed greens, peppers and shaved parmesan. The sandwich arrives and, of course, has chips on the side. They seem like generic Ruffles from a bag.
Our next visit for a Saturday lunch shows the place to be completely empty. The Cajun flavored Maison Pasta is well-cooked and features a nice spice and big chunks of sausage for a thoroughly satisfying entrée. The Billy Goat Pizza promises goat cheese as the name implies and yet there is only a hint of goat cheese tang. Otherwise it’s a straightforward doughy pizza.
They originally promoted the place as Italian and French bistro food. There are still a couple of nods to French cuisine, with Coq au Vin and Beef Bourguignon. There is plenty of American-Italian on the menu and these days such a mish-mash of styles is something people enjoy.
Veggie Eater: As ME described, this space and vibe is fairly devoid of personality. A little music would have perhaps helped lively the place up a bit. We also found it odd that we arrived first and made it clear to the server we had a third joining us and not once were we offered a beverage while waiting, nor were we asked if we wanted additional beverages after our glasses were empty (wine at that). All that said, I was then actually surprised when my manicotti was excellent. Fresh spinach cooked down and mixed with multiple cheeses. It’s then baked with a thin, tangy tomato sauce that pairs perfectly with the stuffed pasta and prevents the dish from becoming gloppy. It’s probably as good as I make it, which I think is pretty darn good.
Meat Eater: Honestly, I think if they had gone completely funky, casual in décor to make the place more welcoming, it would have better matched the menu. 12 South Bistro has a severe identity crisis and that’s a real problem when you’re already battling a less than popular location. Brothers and co-owners, Adam and John Payz have a good thing going in the kitchen. The front of the house needs work.
I paid $15 with tax and tip for a solo visit and we paid $45 for lunch and a couple of glasses of wine on another visit.