Etch (Downtown)

I get asked all the time - where is the best place to have lunch in Nashville? My answer is now "Etch".

 entrance

entrance

If I could describe a perfect date, this would be it. Etch holds on to what it means to truly have a quality dining experience. From the moment you walk in you are treated better than family. They know how to seat you, where to guide you and even how to carry on a conversation without being overbearing (we all know those kind of servers). It felt comfortable enough to be ourselves, but classy enough to understand that we are going to have a quality time.

 I am kicking myself over that knife by the way

I am kicking myself over that knife by the way

The menu is hard to describe. Honestly the best way to think of it is Deb Paquette. It's her on a piece of paper. Etch describes themselves as eclectic which is a good way to say it, but still does not do it justice. Their is method to this madness. It's not as if Chef Paquette could not make her mind. She knows exactly what she is doing. That is what makes this place so great. Their are no filler menu items. Each one is crafted to perfection.

 the gateway appetizer - cauliflower

the gateway appetizer - cauliflower

I was told to order the Cauliflower appetizer. I did as instructed and quickly noticed that almost every table around us had done so as well - and it makes sense. Not only is the cauliflower seared well, but the house made pesto and red pepper essence add a delightful melody. Cauliflower itself is quite bland and tough. The searing brings out the sugars and paired with the pesto, it is fantastic. They also include a lemon feta spread to enjoy with it as well. You cannot go wrong with this dish. Honestly, it is a must. Do not skip it.

 Agentinean Beef Tenderloin

Agentinean Beef Tenderloin

Meat = Perfection. Simple as that. It could not have been cooked any more tender and precisely. They arugula add the bitterness that enhances the Salsa Verde that is both mixed in the meat as well as poured on the side. All in all, for what it is worth, this dish stood out magnificently. Underneath, as a bed of sorts, is a fried potato salad. The crunch and fat cuts into the bitterness of the mustard that it is mixed with.

With this dish, I do have one simple disclaimer - if you are not a mustard fan (particularly dijon) this dish may be too overpowering for you. They do use quite a bit and certain bites felt more mustard heavy than others, but for my taste, it proved to work well. For others, such as my wife, certain parts were too 'mustardy' to eat.

 lamb gyro

lamb gyro

At Etch, they do have a selection of sandwiches you can choose from. It ranged from the Gyro to even a grilled cheese. Me, being a lamb aficionado, ordered the Gyro. Let me tell you - this is the best gyro I have had. 

As a traditionalist, I will say that I miss that old school flavor of the gyro. You know the one. Where essentially you can go to any Greek place in a strip mall and get the same exact flavor no matter where you are at. Well this is different - and it is so much better. 

First and foremost, the lamb is more tender and flavorful. Still has remnants of the lamb flavor which are more often than not completely lost elsewhere. The pita bread is soft and warm to the touch. The toppings are fresh and provide a great texture to the food. But the star of the show is the salsa placed on top. Creamy, packed with cilantro and lime, it enhances the dish and in certain bites tries to trick you that you are biting into a Greek taco (is gyro taco in Greek?). What brings it all together is the acidity from the pickled onions. Honestly, every gyro dish should have this. It completes it. 

All sandwiches come with house chips that are so thin and fresh that they melt in your mouth like cotton candy.

 Almond Coffee Cake

Almond Coffee Cake

When it comes to desserts, I am a lover but I am no expert. Being a pastry chef would be the hardest thing. A few key points that I do know about this dish - the cake is moist. the crumbs are elegant and flavorful. the fruit is fresh. the candied orange peel provided a dellightful surprise. But more importantly, the buttermilk sherbet on the top cleansed my palatte and left me feeling refresh. Yes the blackberry sauce gave the dish a deeper tone but this dessert was fantastic because of that buttermilk ball. 

 open kitchen

open kitchen

I want to give a special thank you to Angela and the Etch team. My stay there was fantastic. Angela (our lovely server) took the time to make sure everything went well, including lighting and even playing with my son, Enzo. She was polite and proper the entire time, never forgetting our drinks and always offering her assistance. I am truly thankful for the experience I had that afternoon.

 bar area.

bar area.

I extremely recommend going to Etch. The lunch menu is fantastic. The prices are spot on. The service is detailed. 

Location: 303 Demonbreun St, Nashville, TN 37201

Bartaco (12th South)

What do I think of Bartaco? It's life-changing.

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bartaco

best tacos in nashville?

The human body is made mostly of water. Mine is made mostly of tacos. I could have a taco only diet and die a happy a man. You could literally do anything and everything with it. I have talked about this time and time again, but making a taco that resonates takes work, discipline and whole lot of love. Bartaco seems to nail it. Now I know what the haters will say - "the portions are so small!", "I have to spend so much money to get full". To them I say - "I don't care."

First of all, quit eating to get full. You are not running out of food tomorrow, and if you leave food on your plate, it's okay. If we all as a whole just ate a little less, we would be much healthier, and get to enjoy much better things. Needless to say, I am looking to host a Bartaco party. I want like 100 people to come with me so we can order 300 tacos or so. Imagine that picture. Heavenly.

 fresh chips and guacamole

fresh chips and guacamole

Went with my sister. She has introduced me to a couple solid places. Bartacos takes the trophy so far. Started with the Guacamole. You will be surprised how badly people can mess up Guacamole. I am dead serious. You would think a predominately 7 ingredient side dish would be easy to master. I guess not if I keep running into it. But Bartaco you are killing it, guys!

A few baked whole tortillas come and you get to crack it how you like. I went with the artistic way and used the back of spoon to smack the middle of it. Very anti-climactic result. Still delicious flavor. No need for extra salt. It was light enough to know the avocado was fresh, and dense enough to appreciate the art. I mean you guys know what I'm talking about right?
If you don't leave an avocado out exposed to air and then take a bite of it a few hours later. It takes a little like creamy iron. It oxidizes so fast. That is why it's essential to have fresh guacamole. That's as good as it's going to get, peeled right there and then. 

 interior was thoughtfully put together

interior was thoughtfully put together

We ordered a few tacos and some side dishes. One of the things that I reiterate in my articles is that of distinguishing features that separate the poor mexican restaurants to the great ones. I'll list them for you;
- Tortilla Chips
- Guacamole
- Salsa
- Elote

 Elote is a gift from the god's

Elote is a gift from the god's

That's it. It is that simple. Some bagged tortilla chips come out with El Paso salsa dip and you know you're in a chance encounter. At that point, it's a gamble. It could be some real divey place that just doesn't care about the chips, or it could be just garbage (message me if you want to know an example of that). 

If you order the Guacamole and it comes out with no flavor, you know to avoid anything with avocado in the name. 

If they have an option for salsa and chips as an appetizer, order it. If you get salsa, and the salsa is watered down tomatoes (tomatoes are already watery enough!), get out. They will end up putting that salsa on everything and ruin the entire experience. If you can't somehow make a quality salsa, you obviously don't care.

Lastly, the Elote. What is elote? It's Mexicos gift to the world. Steamed corn (often times boiled), then Chargrilled (sometimes still the stalk on it), some sort of butter/mayo base, ancho chile powder (or a variation of spices), cotija cheese and a touch of cilantro if wanted. It's a street food. You can find this in Mexico for $.50. It's cheap and so good. 
Ain't so cheap here but that $3-$4 price tag is worth it. If you see those grilled marks (sometimes a burnt kernal here and there), and that fresh cotija cheese on top you are walking into a fine establishment.

 a collection of tacos

a collection of tacos

If you are reading this Bartaco, I want you to know that you won in ALL of the categories. I just knew it was going to be good - and when the server saw me using a knife to cut the kernals off the cob, he even offered and brought me a bowl of the elote off the cob (which is called esquites if you'd like to know). Shout out to the man for fulfilling my dreams.

 lamb tacos (secret menu)

lamb tacos (secret menu)

Now on to the tacos. What makes a good taco? It's what's in it and around it. Of course. At the heart of it all, lies the tortilla. You can ruin a taco with a horrific tortilla experience. Bartaco knows this and dishes out some quality things. We ordered 5 different tacos. Duck, Mushroom, Carne, Lamb (secret taco) and Kimchi. All great but at the top for me was the Duck. My sister obsessed over the mushroom. Two of them are wrapped in lettuce which is an option for you gluten-free people!

I already feel like this review is longer than most so if you take anything away from this, it is this - Bartaco is hands down the best taco experience. Word to the wise, if you are a big eater, order a few bigger sides and you'll be set. 

Highly recommend!

Location: 2526 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204

Biscuit Love (The Gulch)

Their are a few things in this world that I would wait in an hour line for. My wife, son, and tickets to Bruno Mars.

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biscuit love

but can you do the wait?

If you are looking for an example of exemplary marketing, look no further than Biscuit Love. They have somehow convinced all tourists visiting Nashville that this is the place to eat when you come here. Luckily, I went where I had to wait about 10 minutes in a line.

 a little look inside

a little look inside

Like I said before, wait times should never dictate a negative review. Unless that wait is a tourist trap. Then be furious that your friends took you there. Thankfully, Biscuit Love is actually pretty dang tasty!

 people love their signage

people love their signage

I am a sucker for a good chicken biscuit combination. I could have fried or breaded chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, I do not go to the gym enough for this eating habit. Needless to say, I really enjoyed my experience there. Being a tourist trap, I was expecting
to be let down. I ended up spending $13 for a dish that took care of business. Well cooked chicken thigh (dark meat is superior), soft biscuit with a crunch and a gravy that was out of this world. I went with a little secret item recommended by the cashier lady. I was deciding between the Princess or the Nasty. She pulled a fast one on me and recommend I get the Nasty Princess. I went for it.

 the nasty princess

the nasty princess

So good guys. I mean like really good. Not an hour wait good, but like a solid 30 minute wait good. The service was prime, the food was prompt and the flavors were just so artistically crafted. My brother-in-law has a gleam in his eyes the moment the dishes came out. I have not seen that look since his wedding day.

I am grateful he loves my sister as much that Chicken Biscuit. Passionate man. To my surprise, the cashier did me a solid and threw in another option I was battling on choosing. The Wash Park.  2 Beef Burger patties and the amazing bacon jam. I swear you can put bacon jam on anything and it immediately makes it better. Fact. 

 The Wash Park

The Wash Park

Instead of chicken, it's beef. Throw some jam on their and the flavors literally explode. You taste the heavy meat flavor first, then followed by a subtle touch of sweetness from the spread. That is one thing that I have realized that Nashville does well. They understand jams and spreads. They spare no expense in getting it down to a science.

One side note about this place - you will most likely have time to kill. Talk to some people in line. See where they are from. If you are a local, give them some suggestions on where to visit. Share with them this page so they can discover some more Nashville Gems. I met a lady that was here for just a day and had no idea where to go or what to do. Ended up at Biscuit Love because a friend recommended it to her.

 East Nasty

East Nasty

I have no downsides to my experience. It was just a smooth process from start to finish. Would I wait an hour for this place? I don't think so. I loved it, I just know their so many other options, especially in the Gulch, that could give me an amazing experience without the hour wait. Check out the other articles I have
written on other location in the Gulch. - Oh and for the love of all that is good, don't stand in that ridiculous line to take a picture with the wings. 90% of the day it has horrific lighting, and the line is not worth it. #SaveYourTime

 the brother-in-law

the brother-in-law

Location: 316 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203

El Jaliciense (East Nashville)

By now you may be wondering - "Why is this dude always in East Nashville?" - I live here. Now let's look at some tacos.

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el jalicience

 

it's pretty mexican

We all know that Mexican food is God's gift to this part of the world. We all eat it. We all like something about it. It can range from tacos to enchiladas, and from carne asada to a classic mole. It has it all. If you ever get the chance, get down to Mexico and experience the food (especially the fruits) - it is incredible. Needless to say, I am ALWAYS down for a classic Mexican place. El Jalicience has become my go to.

 a little indoor decor

a little indoor decor

As you come in you are greeted with a kind of bland entrance. Nothing neat about it. It's just really simple. The three times I came in I was left wanting to listen to what the kitchen was jamming out to. They had the right idea. On the dining room floor, it was music-less and the TV was playing some novela - could do better on the feel. But this isn't an interior design blog - it's a food blog. 

 the famous ceviche tostada (famous based on yelp)

the famous ceviche tostada (famous based on yelp)

Ignore the chips on the left. They are awful. I just don't understand how hard it is to get good chips. I mean, all you have to do it make a tortilla (easy), cut it into triangles (easier), and fry it (easiest). Boom. Quality chips. Same price. 

But the main act is the Ceviche Tostada. I mean this thing is big. Like REALLY BIG. Like "wait, I only paid $3.99 for this. Why is this the size of my head?". Grant it, it isn't the freshest Ceviche out there. It's obviously that seafood mix that you avoid at the grocery store, yet, it's really good. The avocado is fresh (shocking) and the tostada has the perfect amount of spice. I was honestly shocked at how good this tostada was for $3.99. That's the kicker. The price reflects the quality. I would rather get this than a crunchwrap supreme anyday!

 side view 

side view 

That is a meal in itself. Piled high. I made the mistake of thinking it was small. Not at all. You have been warned. Of course, no Mexican place is complete without some grilled 'carne'. 

 bistec ranchero

bistec ranchero

It's amazing. It's easy as that. I really don't have to write more about it. The cheap cut of meat was cooked perfectly that it had SO much flavor in every bite. The grilled onions, tomatoes, and jalapeños were the blend that you're little make-shift taco needed (side note: the peppers I have had both times I was there had the flavor but not the spice you would expect!). 

But unfortunately, all good thing's have to come to an end. The tortillas - nuked in the micro. The rice - in a warmer so it comes out dry. The beans - kept warm all day that they get dry and flavorless. To be honest, I just avoided that side of the dish and still felt great about the meal. Perhaps they would let you sub those for some sour cream, guacamole and some lettuce. I wonder if I asked them to grill the tortillas instead of microwave they would do it. That would be a game changer!

 tostada

tostada

Let me know if you have any luck with the switch-a-roos.

Location: 3225 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216

Tin Cup Coffee (Downtown)

I do not drink coffee. Yet for some odd reason I always appreciate a good coffee shop.

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tin cup coffee

felt like family

You know that service is going to be fantastic when the moment you walk in, you are greeted, asked how they can help, actually care about your day and then proceed to do all that with a smile on their face. Not just one employee, not just two, but all three I interacted with loved being there. That is an amazing example of creating a workplace that prides itself in service. Seldom is service not a determining factor in the outcome of the overall feel of the restaurant. The food needs to be downright fantastic and life-changing for me to be good with bad service. 

 interior

interior

I was expecting a much smaller space. The space is large and holds such a huge potential. This coffee shop has the ability to do some amazing things. I found that the pride that each of the employees instill in their work was unique. They each wanted to do their own tasks just a bit better. What holds this place back is the lack of a liquor license. It has a stage. It has the equipment. It just fails to bring in the people because it lacks the booze. I'm going to put this out there, hoping you pick it up (yeah you Tin Cup)... live music for brunch with some spot-on coffee and sparkling OJ. It could be a great way to bring a crowd looking for a little fun without the Mimosas. 

 interior decor

interior decor

The decor is simple. It screams coffee shop. No doubt that you won't be transported to someplace else with this experience. It is made to help you feel comfortable. This is a location where you can plant yourself and just get to the work that you need to do (we all procrastinate, I know). Don't be expecting to take your instagram pictures here. 

 coffee

coffee

Don't expect pretty art on top. Don't expect something that is worth sharing photo wise. I mean, it's a coffee place that seems to focus on serving you in every way. They are there when you need them, and know when to keep their distance. I really liked the vibe there. It was so much more calm. It did not have that loud hustle and bustle of people going in and out. Since the space is large, you can tuck yourself away in a corner. Now here is where this review gets slightly different.

 Bahn Mi Tacos

Bahn Mi Tacos

This Bahn Mi is good, but it ain't special. It's nothing that is going to change your life. As a matter of fact, it just sort of does the job without complementing anything else. The ingredients used are simple, yet the pork inside carried just enough of its juice to hold it's own. Recently their was a change in back of house staff and from what I hear, things are in the up and up. I want to talk about the in's and out's of the restaurant industry for a moment. 

I constantly see new endeavors open up. We in a way, glamorize the restaurant industry. To some, it is a way to express creativity, and to others it is a way to make a bit of money. You have a range of people who all have different goals. The majority are looking for a way to make money, but it is when you find those special few that are honestly invested in creating something more. That is the way I felt about the creative chef here at Tin Cup Coffee. He took the time to come out, express his ideas and even mentioned that he is just getting the hang of things. He took notes and asked inquired on what I thought could change. Within him, I saw someone that actually cared. He wanted to source better ingredients (order the bacon so you can see) so that everything can be a bit more local. What he lacked in experience, he made up with the dream of becoming better. 

Overall the food just missed the mark but I feel like it is getting better. It reminded me of what it was like at the root of all creativity. It starts with something simple where you can expand out of. For now, I would stick with the breakfast options. I had two bacon strips and it nearly brought me to tears. Freshly hickory smoked that morning by Giffords bacon and finished on the flat top to create a thin caramelization. 

You will be able to find me from time to time - sitting in a booth, drinking some water, working on my laptop and enjoying some bacon. Feel free to say hi.

 coffee menu

coffee menu

Location: 138 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37203

Slim & Husky (Buchanan Arts District)

I think the pizza is the ultimate comfort food. Simple as that.

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slim & husky

worth the wait

Will Slim & Husky be part of my Pizza special? Yes. Yes it will. It's a unique location with a familiar concept: choose a layout, or build your own pizza. It ain't an original idea but it's the idea done right. They have created an environment that truly identifies with it's roots. That's what I LOVE. Show me a restaurant that is delicious but has sacrificed its identity to make it and I will be disappointed. Show me a restaraunt that is not only good but has a story and culture behind it, that's a win. 

 interior. at night they got movies playing

interior. at night they got movies playing

Be willing to wait in a line when you come. They got one. Without a doubt. (They did tell me Wednesdays are slow days so go then if you are in a rush). The wait is worth it. Toppings aren't anything super special, but it's that sauce that does it for me. Particularly the spicy red sauce. I got that the first time. This time I opted for the pesto and it was still good. I just love building my own pizza without someone nickel and diming me for every little thing.

 interior.

interior.

So i'll get out of the way what I did not like - the bread. But look, it isn't bad! It isn't the best you've ever had either. It does not matter though because that's not the reason you come here. You come here to be with friends. You come here to feel like you are part of something bigger. It's the vision that started this place that resonates with the world we all dream to be a part of. 

 "he makes dough, but don't call him dough boy" - paraphrased signage.

"he makes dough, but don't call him dough boy" - paraphrased signage.

I want to take a moment and introduce what food is really all about. It's a language. It's a means to a bigger goal. Every notable restauranteur I have met has had some greater goal than just feed the masses. Slim & Husky has that story - and it's a good one. The story of three people, getting together to create an iconic neighborhood establishment that not only makes delicious food, but employs those from the community - with the greater goal to build up the youth. They are invested in the future. They are in the business of changing peoples lives, and making some dang good pizza while doing so.

 eat it up!

eat it up!

I got the California Love, with half chicken and half salmon, husky size. Essentially you got two sizes, Slim & Husky. I have seen ZERO people order Slim both times I went (who doesn't want pizza for breakfast??). Most people get theirs stacked and add cheese on top to melt all over it. In order to take a picture of something pretty, I decided against it.  

 PIZZA

PIZZA

Delicious. Toppings are roasted perfectly through the oven. It's just a solid pizza. It isn't anything super unique but it gets the job done. You are buying into this communal table cultural experience. Eat at a place where you can talk to those next to you. A place where meeting new people is encouraged.

 my smile in form a food

my smile in form a food

When people get together to make the world a better place, others typically join in. It only takes one to create a difference. Who knew that pizza could bring a community together? Well done Slim & Husky. Much love.

 outside wall decor

outside wall decor

Location: 1006 Buchanan St, Nashville, TN 37208

Milk & Honey (The Gulch)

Is this the "Land of Milk & Honey"? Ehh, kind of. Let's jump into this. 

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milk & honey

an american affair

Quite possibly one of the most hyped places when it comes to brunch out here in Nashville. I know because I have been here 3 weeks and I have had at least a dozen people tell me to check it out. Well on this Sunday afternoon, I decided to take my church outfit out to brunch (I was looking good so I couldn't pass up the chance). I don't want to keep you waiting so I'll say this. It's good - but it won't make ya hear church bells. 

 Hodgepodge Hash and my sunglasses

Hodgepodge Hash and my sunglasses

It's filling. You will not leave this place hungry. That's something you need to know. Some brunch places are all about the boojie aspect of a brunch and they skimp you on the filling things. Not this place. Perhaps, not this dish. So needless to say, I'm down for the bigger portion. Egg was made alright (for me at least), which is a huge tell on whether a restaurant has got the consistency down. The yolk was runny on the top but had that slight cook on the bottom part of it. Close-call on that one.

Here is what I liked:

- Hash - yeah. they stole the show. Some solid hash was consumed that morning. 

- Sausage - good ole sausage. Did not taste fatty like others so I enjoyed it. Cooked real well and gave it that smoky flavor that I actually enjoyed. 

- Homemade Hot Sauce - I mean, it's just some hot sauce but I think that is what made me like it more than I should have. 

- Chipotle Crema - Loved it, but I wish I had more of it. Next time, I'll ask (yeah I'm going back)

- All Vegetables - Yes. All of them. All the vegetables on this dish were fantastic. Even the sweet potatoes were cut well. That is a hard task to do but they accomplished it!

What I did NOT like:

- Pastrami - I typically love pastrami. I like to think of myself as a faux italian. Yet this one just did not hit the mark. I felt like the cook was just off and the flavor profile fought a little with the sausage. The texture was welcomed. 

- Berries - You could get a side of hash, but no way I was doing that. Obviously not in season, so it's just a hard side item to have off-season.

That's it. It actually was a solid piece of a dish. I can see why it is the most popular of all. But here is where my path diverges (suspense). 

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It did not blow me away. That's what it came down to. I was a party of one and it took me 30 minutes to get a seat at the bar, which is a little less time than the wait. I then had to wait another 22 minutes to get my food. That is almost a complete hour of waiting for something that doesn't give the satisfaction I wanted. Price is fine. Ambiance is okay. Food was actually good. So... in summary:

 shout out to the guys at the bar, who let me photograph his biscuit.

shout out to the guys at the bar, who let me photograph his biscuit.

I actually have nothing against the restaurant itself. If this was brunch on a Wednesday morning where I walk in, get seated, order, and my food comes out, I would be ecstatic. I guess my main takeaway from this would be to NOT go during the weekend craze. Hey! Can't blame a restaurants popularity and write a bad review (wait times should NEVER be a reason why a place is not good...unless your food takes 30+ minutes for a salad - then be mad)

Turns out everyone wants to be in that Land of "Milk & Honey". Highly Recommend.

 5 stars for signage

5 stars for signage

 

Location: 214 11th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203

Café Roze (East Nashville)

It's East Nashville Restaurant Week. Let's see how many I can make it too.

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café roze

they pay attention to detail

We got quite a few of these East Nashville Restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. I'll throw that link in at the end of this post. To give you some background, I got here at 5pm hoping to be the first there to snag a seat by the limited window space. I got a seat, but did not realize that dinner started at 6pm. So those very beautiful natural light photos are going to have to wait. 

What do I think of it? No idea. 

 small tables by the front

small tables by the front

I honestly wish I had more input. I just did not have enough to really figure out if I liked the place or not. Fun Fact: I don't drink - so I can't have an opinion on those (but if you dig mocktails then let's talk). The special going on is a simple one. $15 gets you a drink and an  appetizer. They had three options - Shrimp Aquachile, Squash, Pork Belly. I opted for the Pork Belly.

 it took a miracle to edit this photo (pink neon sign behind me)

it took a miracle to edit this photo (pink neon sign behind me)

(Let me take a moment and just say how difficult it is to photograph a plate of food while a bright pink neon sign is behind me. This edit itself took me 3x longer than the other photos. This is why natural light is my best friend. Moving on.)

It was good. The presentation was beautiful. The actual flavor profile of it all was spot on. I am a mustard fan but I know many that just don't appreciate it. This mustard is tasty and subtle. It didn't carry that vinegar aftertaste. The greens on top were nicely sauteed. The pork was crunchy on the outside and delicate on the inside. It had random bursts of flavors that triggered some nostalgia. Not the best pork belly I have had in terms of cook quality but the garnishes on top brought out the deeper flavors. Contrast + Texture = Success. 

 bar area

bar area

Now here is my personal opinion on it all. If you aren't getting an appetizer, expect to spend $20+ on dinner - and that's the low end. Unfortunately, this place did not feel like I should be spending $20-$35 at. It honestly felt more like a tapas bar that specialized in cocktails. The scene was trendy (hipster), the ambiance was minimal, and that to me kind of put me off. This is rare. I really don't have this opinion on a location not meeting up to the food standards. It's usually the other way around. I guess what I am saying is that I actually had no problem with the food - it was more of the overall feel of it. 

 random sign

random sign

Last note: service was great. Server was Alex. Met the owner. All wonderful people who were able to accommodate me last minute. Perhaps if I sat on one of the regular tables my experience would have been complete. I mean, I did choose to sit on the tiny stools with the tiny table (pretty marble though). I'll go back. Hopefully, during the day, and I'll snag a big boy chair.

East Nashville Restaurant Week

Location: 1115 Porter Rd, Nashville, TN 37206

Tansuo (The Gulch)

I went on the best possible night. Let's jump right into it.

 Stunning Entrance. 

Stunning Entrance. 

You definitely won't be seeing this on the side of the road. No way you pass it really. The road that could lead up to it is closed. So consider this a blessing in disguise. Tucked behind World Gym, you will find a collection of three restaurants all belonging to the same restaurant group (Morph Hospitality): Chauhan, Mockingbird and Tansuo.

 luv me sum dim sum

luv me sum dim sum

Now when I think of Asian I think of going on dates with my wife. For some reason, when we are trying to figure out a place to eat I always end up suggesting Asian. I guess that is what I'm constantly craving. Now get this, I have not been to another Asian place here in Nashville yet (so if you got suggestions, comment below!) so my post is strictly based on what I compare it to other places I have been around the country. First things first, this place is amazing.

 walkways looking real nice.

walkways looking real nice.

The history of Dim Sum is an old one. It originated from the Cantonese region. If you want to learn a bit about this unique cuisine (which I find fascinating) check out DCU (Dan's Culinary University) this coming Sunday. 

It has to be the family aspect of Dim Sum that makes it so appealing to me, and that's exactly why I love Tansuo. It incorporates all aspects of a culinary experience. From the decoration to the black and white movie playing in the banquet room. All are part of the experience. 

 more private dining area.

more private dining area.

Now I am going to omit all the details from the event that night. You see, I was able to go on Chinese New Years, and... they went all out. Lion Dancers, Silk Gymnasts, Live DJ and even a dancing panda adorned the evening. Service was amazing. All went well. But let's talk about the big detail. The Food.

 Golden Eggs

Golden Eggs

I want to start with these masterpieces. They call it Golden Eggs and I love them. Stuffed with Tofu and Shitake mushrooms, these things are an explosive of flavor. The sesame covered rice dough is literal perfection. 

Now the dim sum. I love the experience of it. Little bite sized bombs of flavor. My only issue: you never know if you're going to love it or hate it. I have yet to master the art of ordering dim sum. I kind of just go for it. One had a delicious flavor that I wanted to have over and over while the other one was just too heavy on the ginger (then again, I prefer things light in ginger). I guess this is more user error than anything. One thing I would recommend is to ask your server questions and perhaps ask what they think is the best. (I'll get to reading some more info on Dim Sum to get to know what I'm eating)

 General Tso's Chicken = Perfection

General Tso's Chicken = Perfection

General Tso would be proud. Well I guess not really him. You see this dish was crafted in the mid 20th century while General Tso himself (Zuo Zotang) was alive during the early 19th century. Either way, whoever came up with the dish (it's still debated today), would know that it has reached its peak. 

Tender. Juicy. Crispy. And most importantly of all, dark meat. It's the most delicious part of the chicken (sorry breast eaters). I would highly recommend that you order this dish. Make it priority #1. Thank me later.

 Beef Gai Lan

Beef Gai Lan

Now this dish I was not a huge fan of. I mean, it was there, but it lacked that Asian flair that we have grown accustomed to. The short rib was delicious but the flavors sort of took me out of the moment I was having with the General Tso's. The sauteed vegetables carried a lot of water that sort of diluted the flavor of the rest of the dish. Would advise against ordering this one.

 Poached Pear w/ Caramelized Ginger. 

Poached Pear w/ Caramelized Ginger. 

We had few options for dessert. I am a self proclaimed Ice Cream lover (if you know the best spots let me know below!), so I naturally ordered the spring rolled wrapped ice cream. The server at the time advised me to get the pear dish instead. I thought about it but stuck to my original choice. When the dessert came out, I was surprised to see the Pear come our along side of the Ice Cream. I asked if it was a mistake and the server said that it would be on the house. I took a bite of the Spring Roll Ice Cream, good - but nothing amazing. I then took a bit of the pear, topped it with some cream and walnut, and I fell in love. The soft texture of the pear went so well with the crunch of the walnut. I then took a small bit of the caramelized ginger (you know how I feel about ginger), took a bite and knew this dish was the one I should have chosen. 

When asked for Dessert. Pick. The. Pear!

 Spring Roll Ice Cream (honestly I forgot the name)

Spring Roll Ice Cream (honestly I forgot the name)

I truly enjoyed the feel and concept of this restaurant. It brings you in. It takes you away from the world where you came in from. Come in a busy night and you no longer feel like you are in Nashville. It feels as if someone led you down some stairs in a New York City Midtown Alley and introduced you to what Chinese cuisine should be like. Truly spectacular. Highly Recommend.

 Full Menu at the Bar if you want to skip the wait

Full Menu at the Bar if you want to skip the wait

Location: 121B 12th Avenue North - Nashville, TN 37203

Chauhan (The Gulch)

Do I think Indian food is some of the best in the world? Yes. Yes, I do. Let's jump into this!

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chauhan

indian fusion

It's barely Indian food... but it gets five stars in my book.

No way around it, this place is not your traditional Indian cuisine. Why? Because beef. Let me explain.

Go to any authentic Indian restaurant in the entire world and you will not find one ounce of beef. No beef stock. No meat. No bone. Not even the word will be found. That's because Hindu Indians believe the cow to be a symbol of prosperity and reverence (not to be confused with the misconception that they are worshiped). So what was my reaction to seeing beef on the menu? Pretty shocked. I asked the server what the idea was behind it. He answered saying that this is a restaurant that is influenced heavily with Indian Cuisine, yet it incorporates that culture with others. I kept looking at the menu and although I saw a Mango Lassi, I also saw 'nachos', 'poutine', 'corn dogs' and 'tacos'. What the???

 Mango Lassi.

Mango Lassi.

I am now a believer. Sure, you can be a purist and believe that tacos are better if they stay mexican (guilty), or you can step out of your ideas and embrace something new. Chauhan nails it. I mean it. They NAILED it. Even down to the decor I knew this was going to be something different. It just makes you feel like you need to be there.

 oh yeah that's pretty

oh yeah that's pretty

This shouldn't be a surprise to those foodies out there. Chauhan is owned by Morph Restaurant Group. This is the same group that was started by Chef Maneet Chauhan. The very same that competed in Chopped and Iron Chef. But that's just the TV stuff (we all know how I feel about that). She graduated from the top culinary school in India and then attended the nations prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York. She has even won a James Beard award for Excellence. I have had the pleasure of working with a woman who received a James Beard Award and let me tell you, those that receive these awards are inspirational. What I love most is that she is spot on, on what a restaurant group should look like. I LOVE IT.   

So, I did the only sane thing a person would do. I ordered the burger - I'll give you a moment to wipe that drool off -

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Blended beef. Green Chile Bacon. Amal Cheese. Chaat Masala Onion Rings. Red Wine Demi. Black Sesame Bun. It really is a masterpiece. Not one bit was dry or missing flavor. The consistency of the bacon was enough to please the crunchy or the soft bacon eaters. It was all just made so well. (The salad featured is the Spiced Farro , not jaw-dropping, but still way good - other option is Masala fries).

It did not taste immediately Indian though. You focus on the meat and onion rings and you will miss it. Instead, focus on the slight kick of the chili, and then that slight acidity you feel from the Chaat Masala vinegar. It's there. That's what makes it such a perfect marriage.

If you couldn't tell by now, this place gets a Dan Rivera Award. Not as prestigious as the James Beard, but still dang good.  

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Five Points Pizza (East Nashville)

I crave pizza about 70% of my waking days. That and Asian food. Yeah they aren't related at all but it's what the body wants! (not what it needs). So when the gracious locals said to check out Five Points Pizza, I couldn't say no.

As soon as I walked up I knew this was going to be something good. I look for organization and something different when I check out new places. The sign was well lit, and the restaurant was divided between carry-out and sit down. That took some foresight. Now if you ordered a pizza, you wouldn't have to be crammed in the dining space awkwardly looking at the guy eating right next to you (more on that later). 

 Dining Area

Dining Area

Now on to the food. I tend never to let myself get to extreme hunger mode but today was an unusual day. Sat down, asked for water (with no ice), and immediately ordered the Garlic Knots. Why? Because you can immediately tell how a restaurant will be from their Garlic Knots. This is fact.

 The Garlic Knots

The Garlic Knots

They weren't delicious. They weren't gross. They were just good. The bread lacked that soft, melt in your mouth sort of texture that the garlic knot should possess. The bread was just too oily. The plate was covered in it. All that caused the marinara to just roll off the Knot. Unless applied with a spoon or fork, you definitely weren't dipping it. I wish the bread itself contained more butter within it. Instead of pouring the fat on top, incorporating it may have been a wiser choice.

Either way, we quickly let those be and waited anxiously for our pizza. So some rules here: you can split pretty much any pizza except for the Brooklyn and the Old World. That means you can take your picky-eater friend out here. Besides that, you have free reign. We opted to go with the Vodka Sauce pizza and the T-Rex. 

 Vodka (left), T-Rex (Right)

Vodka (left), T-Rex (Right)

Just look at it. Immediately you are like "yeah. that's gonna be good", and if you said that, you would have been correct. It was delicious. Best pizza award? nah, but for feeding all 3 of us while still being delicious it deserves some praise. the Vodka Sauce pizza had a unique flavor to it. It carried prosciutto, basil and mushrooms that all married so well. The T-Rex, as you can frankly guess, was packed with meats. The sausage carried that distinct pizza sausage flavor, but wasn't the only thing you could taste. My one and only complaint, and this may be a deal breaker for many of you, is that the crust was almost there. I think that's what really held me back. 

Now this is just the first time. I am looking forward to going back (I heard the Stromboli is magnificent). Do I recommend this place? For sure. I would definitely say that my visit there was worth it. Great toppings, amazing variety (something for everyone!), perfect price point and awesome vibes make it a worthwhile dinner spot to kick back. Pizza lovers rejoice!

 Half and Half

Half and Half

Holler and Dash

Cracker Barrel, you have done it again. I very much welcome your new idea for a fast-casual, Holler and Dash.

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You really don't get the Cracker Barrel vibe. The vibe where it feels like you entered a log cabin of home style cooking. No, this is for millennials. It's a masterpiece. I mean, really. Coming from a large chain, it has exceeded all of my expectations. 

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This is just well built all around. I read reviews from others and it seems to me they just don't understand what this place is about. It's a casual and quick way to snag an amazing chicken biscuit. Right under $10, it's the perfect price point for what you get. 

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Now I got the Kickback. You can snag it with tots or with a side of fruit. Unlike many chains, the fruit actually tasted like it wasn't sitting in the fridge for days. Great plateware, amazing service and the food was delicious. Each bite was filled with flavor. This particular biscuit has some sweet pepper jam that complements the rich flavors of the goat cheese. The chicken is truly where this shines though. Although the biscuits is great, the chicken is better. It is tender. Perfectly cooked. The breading is what makes it different. The breading itself has enough spices to let it stand on it's own. I could see where some may dislike the strong flavors it brings, but I like that extra fried feel. 

Overall, I really ended up liking this place. It was exactly what I wanted. Yeah, if you want something more basic you could go to the Chick-fil-a across the street but why settle when you can have something so much more. Well done Cracker Barrel, well done.

Location: 203 Franklin Rd #120, Brentwood, TN 37027

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