Dinner Time Stories (Downtown)

The experience itself is unlike anything you and I have ever experienced.

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dinner time stories

not your average bedtime story

Let's start off by saying that my pictures just don't do the experience justice. It is unique and cameras can't catch what our eyes can. I also had taken photos of the food itself, but with the lightning, I was unable to capture shots that were flattering. With that being said, be ready to see some real interesting things.

a book is placed in front of you

a book is placed in front of you

I am going to keep this critique vague on part of the story itself. The experience itself revolves around the world's smallest Chef giving you an experience around the world. Images are projected, using the book as its canvas. The 3-D rendering is spectacular. That in itself is enough to justify the experience. A photo for how immersive it truly is.

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In between each destination, a dish is placed in front of you. All dishes are the same for all guests, except for the main course, which is one of three options that you choose prior to the experience. (I'll let you know which one to choose later in this)

I want to take a moment and address something that I feel needs to be in the forefront of the conversation. I feel that the experience, meaning the projectors and story-line greatly outweighed the flavors and dishes served. 

Because this is a unique experience, I do not want to spoil any details of the dishes and what they may be, but it seemed to me that 3 dishes were on par with the experience while the other 3 seemed to be an after-thought. What I find even more interesting is that it is the final three dishes that I find to be what I was expecting. Lucky for all of you, the main course (choose the duck) was spot-on. Well cooked, seasoned, and the vegetables served with it were both flavorful and plentiful.

The last three dishes stood out because they were exactly what I expect in an experience such as this. I do not have much to compare it to (as projector with food is a first for me) but based on multi-course immersive experiences, I feel that it fell a little short - until the end. 

BUT! - here are three points that I want to stress that helped me overlook the first three courses:

1 - the people we were with: you get to talk and network with so many people of different walks of life. It truly is a communal experience

2 - It owns the market when it comes to projector 3-d experiences. It stands on it's own and frankly, you are paying for the experience

3 - service. From the servers to the host, all are professionally trained to give you a smoothless evening. Drinks are poured correctly, dishes are placed over the correct shoulder and their is a sense that they choreograph their night very well. 

these are how some courses are served

these are how some courses are served

Here, you will be paying $162 + an $11 fee to book for 6 courses. It's worth depends on how much the audio/visual aspect of it interests you. If you have the money for a special event, this could be it. If you don't care about the story line and just want amazing food, it really isn't for you. 

If you aren't picky about food, this experience could be worth it. It truly is a treat for your eyes. Let's get all 6 courses to better represent the evening, and then perhaps the $162 pricepoint will be justified for me. 

dinner time stories

dinner time stories

Buy Tickets Here: (CLICK HERE)

Plaza Mariachi (Antioch)

The world needs a few more of these. Scratch that - a lot more of these.

argentinian

argentinian

I wish I got a picture of the actual place. It's HUGE. Small shops, mexican market, and little knick knacks like the halls. It leads you into a eating, dancing, and party open area with a stage a larger than life television. Yeah. It's what your dreams are made of. Inside this area are a few dining options - I'll focus on two.

wood fired grill 

wood fired grill 

Tres Gauchos is spot on. From the wood fired grill, to the plates they serve, they know what they are doing. We ended up ordering 2 different dishes. I would have ordered much more if I was not craving tacos so much. Let's focus on what I did end up eating.

This giant pile of meat and potatoes was a meal for 3. It was by far the highlight of the afternoon. The flavors were so robust and the smell of wood was prominent in the dish. The meat was definitely a cheaper cut, but that didn't take away from the flavor profile. One thing that this dish does is remind you of a meal that you would enjoy at a family party somewhere in Argentina. It takes you home. I would call it comfort food.

My last bit of Tres Gauchos was the cheese empanada. Now you have a few different empanadas out there. They are different based on the region you are ordering them from. Peruvians, Mexicans, and most Central and South American countries have savory empanadas that are typically baked. Argentinian, Uruguayan and a few others have the crunchy variation - fried. Now there is a battle between baking or frying it. Each has it's place but let's be honest, everything fried is better. These were not only crunchy, but the cheese was melted perfectly. Gives you that pull you only see on TV.

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Now Taqueria Hidalgo was your classic street tacos. Right in front you see the lady working on the taco masa, making sure those tortillas are authentic. The presentation is nothing to rave about but the tortillas are delicious. Depending on how busy it is and which one you order, you may run into one or two being a bit more dry than the others. My favorites by far were the Al Pastor and Carne Asada. 

I do want to finish by saying that Taqueria Hidalgo had an employee who was disinterested in my order and had a rude and mean countenance the entire time. He was acting like he did not want to be there and it really gave me a bad experience. Luckily, the lady in the back was kind enough to explain the process of the dishes. 

Out of the two, I would say to check out Tres Gauchos. Unique and flavorful. Also be sure to check out their website for events as they do have salsa dancing and parties quite frequently. 

Location: 3955 Nolensville Pk, Nashville TN 37211 USA

Website: https://plazamariachi.com/calendars

The Soda Parlor (East Nashville)

I first went to this location because I have an unhealthy habit of eating ice cream. I was blown away. I then got invited back before I was able to publish my first article and even with three complete different options, I can say that you cannot go wrong.

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the soda parlor

bow down to greatness


The second you walk in you are going to ask, "Why are they selling space stuff?" It is a mystery that I had when going in. I was just so confused as to why a clothing line and Dessert shop had in common. The reason is quite amazing. You see, the show creator, Olan Rogers, had a YouTube channel. In this channel he pitched this idea of a show back in 2010. With a few years of tinkering here and there, a pilot episode was made for "Final Space" and it caught Conan O'Briens attention. After a bidding war, TBS won. (and yes, I have watched every episode so far).

final space apparel

final space apparel

So we know that the show "Final Space" is fantastic, but are the desserts that good? Yes. Yes they are.
 

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Do not doubt the ability to craft a dessert like this. I will say, hands-down, it is the best dessert shop I have visited yet. Complain all you want Jeni lovers but this place has it all. You have an option of three different type of desserts: Waffle Mondaes, Moonshakes and Floats. Within those options you have several to choose from. Out of my options, the king of all are the Waffle Mondaes.

cinnamon bun

cinnamon bun

 The mixture of ice cream from Mike's (I need to stop by there soon!) and the waffle underneath it all are just ridiculous. It's a dessert to share. Unless you're like me and then just eat it yourself. I not only enjoy the creaminess and flavors of this place but I also appreciate the creativity. Fun Fact: Waffle Mondaes are called so, because of one of his more popular YouTube videos. So creative in fact that you even see an easter egg pertaining to that video in the first video. 
Creativity at it's finest.

a final space character - mooncake

a final space character - mooncake

The Moonshake we ordered was the Cub Scout. I sometimes don't even know why I write articles explaining things when all I want to say is that you have to go and try it. The milk shake is thick. It uses local ice cream that gives it such a dense flavor. They even give you a large straw because they know that it will amplify the effect of what you are drinking. Not only is this milkshake amazing but look at that presentation! Mason jars lined and decorated with perfection of a water-falling effect of hot fudge.

the cub scout

the cub scout

Now here is a disclaimer: I don't drink soda. Out of just trying to stay healthy, I cut soda off. From time to time, I appreciate a quality made soft drink from time to time. This orange beauty is the 'Freakin Foster'. It is a creamsicle in your mouth. It is childhood in the form of a liquid. This place is just a place where you go to feel like a kid again. A feeling I feel that many of us are missing in our lives. And hey, if you hate having to wait, you won't have that worry here.
They even provide you a bunch of free arcade games you can play with your friends. If you need a Ninja Turtle teammate, hit me up.
 

freakin foster

freakin foster

And hey, if you hate having to wait, you won't have that worry here. They even provide you a bunch of free arcade games you can play with your friends. If you need a Ninja Turtle teammate, hit me up.

free arcades

free arcades

I'm done writing about this place. Just go and pay it a visit. It's just that good. Best dessert only spot I have visited so far.

Location: 966 Woodland St, Nashville, TN 37206

Show: Airs every Monday on TBS. Can also view on the TBS app.
 

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

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

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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