With limited time to explore Nashville on my recent trip there, I had to cut a few corners. One place I wouldn’t cut on was experiencing my share of southern food staples. I had no shortage of recommendations for great places to eat and foods to try, and I managed to squeeze a lot into my abbreviated time in the city.
On my first afternoon in Nashville, after visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and taking in some live music downtown going on as part of the Country Music Association Festival, I worked up an appetite for some barbeque and dropped into Jack’s BBQ right on Broadway. It took me about twenty minutes in line to get to the counter, as this is a popular place:
Their menu listed a sampler plate with choice of two vegetables. I was soon to fall a little bit in love with Nashville when I learned that mac & cheese is a “vegetable” at this place. I chose the plate with brisket, pulled pork and the smoked sausage (that last one on a recommendation from someone in the know). Served with mac and cheese, some coleslaw and some respectable corn bread, it made a tasty early dinner. The smoked sausage was the star of the plate. I must admit – I would normally order a local beer with my meal, but with the selection of Bud, Miller and a few others of that ilk, I ended up with a Yuengling which always brings back happy memories of my time spent in Philadelphia:
Onto day two… after catching up with an old friend over some sweet potato pancakes for breakfast at the Nashville-famous Pancake Factory (I highly recommend those pancakes!), I saved just enough room for an early lunch featuring a southern specialty of which I was unaware until planning for this trip – hot chicken.
Luckily, Hattie B’s, one of Nashville’s best hot chicken places, was only a five minute walk from my hotel. Even arriving as they opened at 11:00am, I was about twentieth deep in line (a good sign in a place that isn’t aimed directly at tourists!). The food was more than worth the wait. I got an order of dark meat spiced “hot”. I’ve eaten a lot of hot food in my life, but this “hot” was something else. Exceptionally flavourful and more than just a wee bit painful, it was the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. I got it with some great southern greens and pimento mac & cheese:
Rounding out my second day of southern food was a stop at the Peg Leg Porker in the Gulch neighbourhood. Ordering here was tough as I wanted to try one of everything. It was so tough that as I was standing in line, I mentally committed to make a return visit. On this night, I had the dry rub ribs with two outstanding side dishes: smoked green beans (drenched in pig fat!) and the best mac & cheese I had on this trip (sense a theme so far?). The beer was my first Nashville craft beer of the trip – a Jackalope Bearwalker, a maple/brown ale and a perfect match for this meal:
Since we’re on the topic of the Peg Leg Porker, I’ll skip ahead to my last lunch in Nashville and my return visit. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and was off into my own happy dream land of food bliss. Please, please, please – take my advice and have a meal or two here… you won’t regret it:
On my last night in Nashville, I had a really outstanding meal at Puckett’s Grocery, a restaurant located downtown. Rarely do I end up arriving at a place knowing what I am going to order, but here, I had scoped out the menu and chosen a couple of southern specialties. I started with an order of fried green tomatoes (with bacon chipotle ranch dipping sauce) and a Turtle Anarchy Rye IPA. I’m not sure where fried green tomatoes have been all my life – these were outstanding!
For my main course, I ordered the fried catfish, something else I had never tried before. Very different from any fried fish I have ever had, it had an earthy, almost dirty (in a good way, honest!) taste. On the advice of my waiter, I got an Alabama beer, a Good People IPA – a great IPA and an outstanding recommendation.
As I finished up my meal, I started to grow sad that my limited eating time in Nashville had drawn to an end. My early morning flight the next day wouldn’t allow for sneaking in some more southern food. Although my time here was short, I think I got a good taste of the cuisine. Even if the people of Nashville weren’t some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered on my travels, the food would be reason enough to get me back in this neck of the woods for some more culinary exploration.