Sunday, February 8, 2009

On the Road: Nashville, Tennessee

For what may be a new feature for this blog, I introduce On the Road, a post on the unique finds and culinary adventures to my latest trip. This one comes from Nashville, Tennessee.

Having never been to Nashville, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was hoping for some good southern cooking, and of course plenty of cowboy boots and country music. The city did not disappoint. I share with you a few of the highlights. The first breakfast on our list was
Monell's - good, old fashioned country cooking.

1235 6th Avenue N
Nashville, TN

The concept of
Monell's, all-you-can-eat country cooking served family style, would lead anyone to believe that it is just another tourist trap. A hokey experience with tacky decor, mediocre food, and a gift shop. Your assumption couldn't be more incorrect.

Upon entering Monell's, you feel like you've entered someone's home. The restaurant has only a few rooms, each housing roughly one table for 12. As your party arrives, you may have to wait a few minutes to be seated because they like to fill up the entire table for each seating. Things move slower in the south and you should not get impatient during your wait, because the true sense of family style dining, often with complete strangers in this case, is an experience to enjoy. Fortunately, this place is so popular that it doesn't take long for enough people to arrive. Monell's has a garden, with benches and swings (and fun garden gnomes), to pass the time on a nice day.

Once seated, a waiter comes over with instructions. Everything is served family style. Food will be brought out as it is ready. Please pass the platters to you left. And, if you run out of anything, or want more, just ask! Your food will be out in 5-8 minutes. Simple enough.

The three of us were seated with another couple and seven southern women in a book club. They were discussing To Kill A Mockingbird. It seemed fitting.

Shortly thereafter, the food arrived in what can only be described as a parade. One dish after another, it kept coming. Biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, ham, pancakes, eggs, corn pudding, potatoes, cheese grits, and, as is served at every Monell's meal - fried chicken.

Monell's slogan sums up the experience beautifully: "I've eaten and I can't get up."

1314 5th Avenue N
Nashville, TN

Next on our stop was not so much to eat, but to browse. Lazzaroli Pasta was a must-stop pasta store for our resident Nashvillian, so that she could stock up on fresh made pastas and sauces for the week. What a cute little place, and very nice owners (straight from Philadelphia, I might add). We were so curious about the sign in their window ("PATSA") that we just had to ask. Fortunately, they were well aware of the spelling mistake, but had such a great sense of humor that they decided to hang it anyway. Lazzaroli also has a very nice selection of Italian meats and cheeses, oils, vinegars and flavored salts (truffle salt!).

Ivey Cake (right)     and      Curious Gourmet Cupcake (left)
100 4th Ave N 318 Main Street
Franklin, TN Franklin, TN

Next stop - Franklin, TN. An adorable little town just about a half hour from downtown Nashville. Here the streets are lined with independently owned shops, restaurants, and cupcake bakeries (two!). So, we had to do a taste test! With such flavors as devil's food cake, Boston creme pie, lemon, coconut, red velvet, vanilla with vanilla, chocolate with chocolate etc. it was really hard to decide. As you can see, we picked six flavors overall, to share among four people. They were all delicious! Curious Gourmet piled their icing higher, Ivey Cake has more options, so depending on your mood, I think it is safe to say that you can't go wrong with cupcakes in Franklin, Tennessee.

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