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VOL. 37 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 9, 2013

Nashville's most romantic restaurants

By Hollie Deese

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A look at some of Nashville's favorite spots for great food and romantic surroundings.

360 Wine Bar Bistro (6000 Highway 100, 353-5604, 360bistro.com)

Happy hour offers a joyful start to an evening out, thanks to $6 martinis, margaritas and wines by the glass. A couple of drinks and you can just ease into dinner, possibly by splitting the wild boar tartar with mountain huckleberries, shallots, chive oil and smoked sea salt. And whether by glass, flight or bottle, the selection of wines would be intimidating in the hands of a less experienced staff, leaving you to relax and just enjoy.

1808 Grille (1808 West End Ave., 340-0012, 1808grille.com)

This two-story dining establishment is one of the newer offerings in Midtown, offering sustainable American offerings. Since 2009 diners have been drawn to Chef Charles Phillips’ menu, including the seared scallops with summer corn puree, pineapple and red pepper sambal and popcorn salad. Phillips really cares about food and has partnered with the National Foundation for Cancer Research to promote the healthy eating habits that aid in cancer prevention.

Antonio’s of Nashville (7097 Old Harding Pike, 646-9166, antoniosofnashville.com)

You don’t last more than two decades without a connection to the community, and Nashville diners have loyally been gathering for Old World style dinners at Antonio’s, despite being tucked away in a strip mall in Bellevue. Maybe it’s the shrimp bisque in cognac, roasted rack of lamb, homemade stuffed pasta or superb pizza. Service is friendly and informative but with a casual, friendly feel.

Cabana (1910 Belcourt Ave., 577-2262, cabananashville.com)

As soon as you slide into one of the private cabanas and pull the curtain, you’ll know exactly why this bustling Belmont offering from Randy Rayburn and crew is considered romantic. Pillows, television and music dock let you personalize the experience (there is a $250 minimum for one on Fridays and Saturdays), but it is the best way to enjoy their lump crab hushpuppies, lobster brie mac and cheese and sweet tea smoked chicken if you are looking for some alone time with your significant other.

Caffe Nonna (4427 Murphy Road, 463-0133, caffenonna.com)

Small, intimate and insanely delicious, Chef Daniel Maggipinto makes from-scratch pastas and sauces based on his grandmother’s recipes. The restaurant in Sylvan Park is an institution the neighborhood has grown around. Very few seats and limited square footage make for a private experience no matter how busy. Buy your favorite Arrabiata or marinara sauce, jarred and ready for at home use, on your way out the door.

The Capitol Grille (231 Sixth Ave. N, 345-7116, capitolgrillenashville.com)

Make it a night to remember. The Capitol Grille offers the perfect setting for a romantic date. Start with a drink in the adjacent Oak Bar, with its extensive wine list, fully stocked bar and unique environment have earned it many “best bar in Nashville” titles. Then, dinner for two at the Capitol Grille, with dessert, is an experience all on its own – the wood paneling in the restaurant is modeled after that used in the Titanic ballroom. Then, finish the evening with a night at The Hermitage Hotel where many have been known to pop the question.

The Catbird Seat (1711 Division Street, thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com)

When Bon Appetit names a restaurant to its 10 Best in the Country list, people tend to pay attention. At Catbird Seat, it’s all about the shared experience with your fellow diners that makes for a memorable evening. The creation of Max and Benjamin Goldberg and co-chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, reservations run on a 30-day rolling calendar, and that is about as far out as you want to try to book if you want in.

City House (1222 Fourth Ave. N., 736-5838, cityhousenashville.com)

Tandy Wilson is still working rustic magic in Germantown. The multitude of accolades for the James Beard Award-nominated chef have not affected his straightforward Italian via Nashville dishes. The wood-fired brick oven is a standout in the space, producing perfect thin-crust pizzas topped with house-cured meats. A cocktail from the bar makes for a perfect meal.

Eastland Café (97 Chapel Ave., 627-1088, eastlandcafe.com)

This east side favorite has quickly become one of Nashville’s most popular dining destinations, not only for the exceptional food and fine wine, but also for great service and ambiance. Happy Hour is a hit for people looking to get a jump on the evening, thanks to incredible deals on fish tacos and stone-baked pizzas. The staff is professional, knowledgeable, gracious, and take great pride in the food. With exceptional seared scallops with celery root puree and potato and thyme gnocchi dotting the menu, what’s not to be proud of?

Etch (303 Demonbreun St., 522-0685, etchrestaurant.com)

Fans of now-closed Zola have been salivating, waiting for this new venture from Chef Deb Paquette, and they haven’t been disappointed. Located in the ground floor of the Encore tower downtown, Etch offers a private dining room, full bar and an open kitchen with bar-style seating, allowing guests to interact with the chef as she works on her bold flavors and colorful presentations. The cuisine is complemented by a comprehensive wine list, featuring an extensive collection of wines from around the world.

Firefly Grille (2201 Bandywood Drive, 383-0042, fireflygrillenashville.com)

The seasonally changing menu is punctuated by the fun and funky décor at this Green Hills staple, which makes it a great escape to pop into when the traffic gets too crazy. Tuck into an artisan cheese plate while you wait for your Cuban sandwich with housemade dill pickles, pork butt and Swiss or grilled hangar steak with Mediterranean potato salad and grilled asparagus.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar (2525 West End Ave., 342-0131, flemingssteakhouse.com/locations/tn/nashville)

Yes, it’s a chain, but we don’t mind since the service is stellar, the food is delicious and the wine is thoughtfully chosen. Fleming’s does all of that and more, serving innovative dishes in a cool setting. The broiled Pacific swordfish is a winner if you don’t like beef, but you can’t go wrong with the melt-in-your-mouth short ribs, pan-crisped pork belly appetizer with goat cheese grits, or the heirloom tomato and housemade burrata salad.

Flyte World Dining and Wine (718 Division Street, 255-6200, flytenashville.com/)

Fresh, local and creative are the tenants of Flyte, and the diners are the ones who reap all of the rewards. Chef Matthew Lackey offers responsibly sourced meat and fish and locally grown produce whenever possible, as well as locally-crafted artisan foods. For something truly outstanding, order the beef flyte with a filet, coulotte, bone marrow, roasted faro and mizuna. Wine director and co-owner Scott Sears has compiled a superb high-value selection of offerings from around the globe, the majority of which are available by the glass. They want guests to explore wines they've never tasted or even heard of before, or to get to know wines that are variations on their favorites, so sample away until you find one just right.

F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar (2210 Crestmoor Road, 269-5861, fscotts.com)

For decades Nashvillians have chosen F. Scott’s to help celebrate special occasions, and for good reason. Sourcing local ingredients long before it became popular, the chefs throughout the years have been standouts in the community, including current chef Kevin Ramquist. They take risks with their menu and their wine list, so while F. Scott’s is a standard, what you expect when you sit down is certainly not. A summer salad with squash blossoms, pea aioli and warm goat cheese may be here today, but gone tomorrow.

Giovanni Ristorante (909 20th Ave. South, 760-5932, giovanninashville.com/media/giovanni.html)

Soft piano music, subdued lighting, Italian accents, red wine – Giovanni is all about romance and then some. Proposals happen often, and the staff are more than happy to accommodate any special request to make your night a memorable one. For the past five years rustic Northern Italian fare like thinly slice carpaccio and roasted artichokes in herb sauce have been offered. No matter how full you are, don’t miss pastry chef Jessica Collins’ creations, especially the chocolate molten cake with passion fruit gelato.

Husk Nashville (37 Rutledge St., 256-6565, husknashville.com)

In a time when Southern ingredients are shining on menus across the city, Husk Nashville is still a star. Located in Rutledge Hill, it is the newest outpost of James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock’s renowned restaurant, Husk. Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Morgan McGlone, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products. Constructed into the side of a hill, the design of Husk’s interior only enhances the building. Everything on the daily changing menu is delicious.

Kayne Prime (1103 McGavock Street, 259-0050, mstreetnashville.com/restaurants/kayne-prime)

With a bevy of awards under its belt, including Gayot’s pick as one of the Top 10 Steakhouses in the country, Kayne Prime is the artful fusion of an innovative newcomer and classic steakhouse. Aside from the outstanding food, the interior makes the evening that much more special with its sleek wood, rich leathers, and reclaimed railroad ties. Some of the city’s best views too, overlooking the historic train yards, Union Station and the downtown Nashville skyline.

Lockeland Table (1520 Woodland St., 228-4864, lockelandtable.com/)

One of the area’s greatest talents, Hal M. Holden-Bache, opened Lockeland Table in August 2012, after spending more than a decade delighting palates all over the city, first as the executive chef at Nick and Rudy's Steakhouse, then briefly on the team with Tyler Brown at Capitol Grille before moving on to be the executive chef of Eastland Café. After five years at Eastland, Hal decided to venture out and now Nashville is blessed with Lockeland. Try one of the woodfired pizzas, or dig into a plate of sweet potato gnocchi with blistered tomatoes, corn, spinach, apple, and Kentucky blue Gouda.

The Mad Platter (1239 Sixth Ave. North, 242-2563, themadplatterrestaurant.com)

New restaurants come and go, but The Mad Platter has remained a consistent bright spot in Germantown for more than 20 years, serving up some of the area’s most iconic dishes – chocolate Elvis anyone? The charming rooms are filled with old books and memories, and when the sun goes down, the lighting is perfect for getting intimate. And their longstanding offer to add four extra courses to your entrée for $20 is still one of the best deals in town.

Margot Café (1017 Woodland St., 227-4668, margotcafe.com)

Intimate, warm and buzzing with camaraderie, Margot has been luring diners with its seasonal menu long before East Nashville was flooded with many more additional, thoughtful options. Still, the competition does nothing to detract from what Margot does best, and that’s cook. One day you might be blessed with a hot bowl of Vidalia onion soup with croutons and a trio of melon with basil and chiles. Another day it could be grilled amberjack with basmati rice and a pepper, onion and tomato stew.

Mason’s (2100 West End Ave., 321-1990, masons-nashville.com)

Tried and true southern provisions is what they tout, and that is what you get. Self-described as an edgy yet elegant Southern Brasserie, the menu features historic, traditional Southern dishes prepared with classic French techniques. Head chef Brandon Frohne approaches his menu with energy while honoring his local quality ingredients. Indulge in a bone marrow and beef cheek confit served with a quail egg and gremolata, or for the less adventurous, a bowl of shrimp and grits with South Carolina mustard barbecue, Tasso ham and pepper brado. A side of grits with cured bacon, shitake mushrooms and Kenny’s white cheddar? Thank you very much.

Merchants (401 Broadway, 254-1892, merchantsrestaurant.com)

Broadway doesn’t immediately scream romantic ambiance, but once you walk through the doors at Merchant’s you’ll forget about all that noise out front, especially if you snag a table upstairs in the more refined seating area of the restaurant. It even has a more refined menu, with pork belly wraps and marinated beets sharing space with duck fat fries and a Wagyu flat iron steak.

Miel (343 53rd Ave. N., 298-3663, mielrestaurant.com)

If you aren’t there for one of their wine dinners, it doesn’t matter. The entrees on the regular menu delight anyway, like the duck breast with faro, baby zucchini and sauce bigarde, or the artisanal cheese plate accompanied with Marcona almonds, berries and local wildflower honey. Somehow, Miel makes eating French cuisine in an old barn in Nashville seem just right.

Midtown Café (102 19th Ave. S., 320-7176, midtowncafe.com)

Offering fine dining in more of a casual setting than sister Sunset Grill, now is the perfect time to go. Through Aug. 18 their special menu is a salute to Julia Child, spotlighting some of the classic dishes she helped make famous. Trout almandine with lemony brown butter, crunchy almonds and haricot verts and duck a l’orange are total throwbacks you need to try once again. With perfect wine pairings, you might not get a culinary experience like this again unless it’s in your own kitchen.

M Restaurant and Bar (209 10th Ave. S. #223, 678-1591, mrestaurantandbar.com)

Jan and Bernie Strawn of Macke’s, Mack and Kate’s and m.market expanded their southern dining empire into Cummins Station last November with M. Restaurant and Bar. Classics like fried green tomatoes go beyond basic with the addition of pimento cheese, Benton’s bacon marmalade and Sriracha aioli. The sweet tea brined airline chicken breast with skillet gnocchi, rainbow chard and vegetable hunter sauce also excels.

Nero’s Grill (2122 Hillsboro Drive, 297-7777, nerosgrill.com)

If you are celebrating a special occasion, Nero’s wants to know about it so they can help make the night perfect. They handle surprise proposals with as much thoughtfulness as they do planned parties and aim to make memories with their diners every night. The classic American menu helps. Start with a plate of oysters, then move on to ahi tuna, chicken piccata or grilled elk. Finish with a glass of wine and music in the bar to make an evening out of it.

Park Café (4403 Murphy Road, 383-4409, parkcafenashville.com)

The philosophy at this Sylvan Park staple is to create innovative cuisine using high-quality seasonal ingredients from the vine. For years they have been committed to serving market fresh cuisine featuring products from local farms, gardens and artisan producers. Simple preparations allow the quality of the ingredients to shine, like in the diver scallop dish with parsnip puree, capers, orange supremes, spiced pistachio, arugula and orange caramel, or the 12 oz. pork porterhouse with chili creamed corn, Swiss chard, Andouille, pickled peaches and peach moonshine jus.

Prime 108 (1001 Broadway, 620-5665, prime108.com)

The beauty of the grand architecture hits you right away, with its glass ceilings, large stone fireplace and hand-blown Italian glass chandeliers. It’s that ambiance that immediately elevates your Nashville dining experience into something memorable. Then it’s hammered home with the food. The lobster ravioli, is paired with locally grown asparagus and shiitake mushrooms covered in a delicious tomato brunoise. Unsure what to sip on? The in-house sommelier will help steer your pairings in just the right direction.

Rolf & Daughters (700 Taylor St., 866-9897, rolfanddaughters.com)

Located in the historic Werthan Factory building, Rolf & Daughters offers upscale rustic food at its finest. Their take on “modern peasant food,” involves thoughtful cooking rooted that produces dishes like baby octopus with black garlic, pork belly and celeriac or dry-aged meatballs or squid ink canestri with shrimp, squid and rad pancetta. Sit by yourself, but walk-ins are relegated to the communal tables and bar.

Rumours Wine Bar (1104 Division St., 432-2740, rumourswinebar.com)

After the original Rumours closed, fans were without their favorite wine bar. But they were soon rejoicing when Christy Shuff and crew reopened in the Gulch, patio and all. Wines of course remain a draw, but the food is right up there with appealing pull. The fried Brussels sprouts with balsamic reduction, Benton’s bacon and Gouda will make you a convert, and the mussel bowls can be topped with your choice of sauce- Thai coconut, white wine and caper with feta, tomato caper cream, curry-basil or classic pesto with feta.

Rumours East (1112 Woodland St., 262-5346, rumourseast.com)

Grab a table outside and forget where you are for a couple of hours. The pergola-covered patio and backyard feels more like a friendly hangout than a typical al fresco dining area. The freestanding brick fireplace contributes to the ambiance, as do the twinkling canopy of lights. Dinner will continue to add to the experience, especially a rich bowl of chanterelle and mascarpone risotto with summer squash, bacon and peas, or a whole grilled bronzini with braised green beans, raisin and pomegranate molasses, fried onions and tahini sauce.

Silo (1121 Fifth Ave. N., 750-2912, silotn.com)

Another southern-influenced offering in Germantown, Silo is a collaboration between Clay Greenberg, formerly of Virago and Lime, and Paul Cercone, previous owner of Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery in Charleston. Together, their take on farm food combined with a room designed by nationally award-winning architect Greg Ibañez, creates a total moment. Opt for the community table or one of the patios and sink your teeth into cast-iron jalapeno cornbread or hot chicken with coleslaw, potato salad and housemade pickles.

Sole Mio (311 Third Ave. S., 256-4013, solemionashville.com)

Owner GianCarlo Agnoletti first opened a restaurant in his hometown near Rimini, Italy, but Nashvillians have been lucky enough to have him for nearly 20 years now. In fact, people have been spending special occasions at Sole Mio, thanks to their commitment to service and the community. The delicious food certainly helps, and customers love the option to choose your favorite housemade pasta from nearly ten options, and then top it with their favorite sauce, like the gorgonzola cream with walnuts or vodka tomato cream.

Sperry’s (5109 Harding Pike, 353-0809, sperrys.com)

Sperry’s has been more than a tradition since 1974. It has been a cornerstone for many people who remember their first date, 15th anniversary or grandchild’s birthday. Sperry’s is all about celebrating life with loved ones, and that comes through loud and clear through the service and the food. Grilled quail with Byrd’s Mill stone ground grits and burgundy mushroom sauce is just one classic dish that shares space with the jumbo lump crab cakes, barbecue shrimp and grits and twin lobster tails.

The Standard at the Smith House (167 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., 254-1277, smithhousenashville.com)

Rich leather, soft lighting and an outstanding chef are three key ingredients for a romantic evening and The Standard offers them all. Each entrée is more tempting than the next: filet with The Standard sauce, truffle hash, and fried tobacco onion; The Standard’s prime heart of rib-eye with whipped potatoes, wilted greens, and caramelized corn; a Root Beer marinated duck breast with ginger sweet potato puree, braised kale and citrus root beer gastrique. Seems like date night could become a regular occurrence.

Sunset Grill (2001 Belcourt Ave., 386-3663, sunsetgrill.com)

Randy Rayburn has a formula that works, and the regulars are the ones who reap the rewards. Sustainability and local ingredients are important to Rayburn, as is evident by the Mississippi Delta catfish, Cajun spice seared or cornmeal fried, with Benton's country ham, butter bean confit, dill remoulade and crispy shallots or the house-smoked double cut pork chop with whole wheat penne and gruyere cheese, seared mustard greens and whole grain Dijon demi glace.

Table 3 (3821 Green Hills Village Drive, 739-6900, www.table3nashville.com)

Table 3 Restaurant and Market offers customers an authentic brasserie experience, in a setting that combines contemporary design elements with an Old World atmosphere. That, and their distinctive and affordable wine list and fresh menu make this a must-try. Crispy duck confit, pan seared octopus and fried frogs legs are just the beginning. Classic coq au vin and cassoulet will do no wrong, and neither will the beef short rib bourguignon.

Tin Angel (3201 West End Ave., 298-3444, tinangel.net/)

One of the Nashville Originals, Tin Angel was opened by Vicki and Rick Bolsom in 1993. Tin Angel is one of the few historic commercial buildings left on Nashville's busy West End Avenue. The building has been carefully restored, from its brick walls and floors and its round freestanding fireplace built from brick salvaged from Church Street, to its period tin ceilings. The menu is just as appealing as the interior, like the lobster and shrimp lemon herb risotto.

Valentino’s Ristorante (1907 West End Ave., 327-0148, valentinosnashville.com)

Open since 1991 and still going strong, Valentino’s continues to appeal, especially if you book a seat in the wine cellar. This room is requested the most thanks to the intimate atmosphere, brick walls and fireplace. In fact, it is the perfect place to share a bottle of wine and one of their set menus. Don’t leave without sampling the tiramisu – still a perfect ending to a great Italian meal.

Watermark (507 12th Ave. S., 254-2000, watermark-restaurant.com)

Outstanding views, creative cocktails and of course, impeccable dishes have kept Watermark at the top of the Nashville food chain for a while now. Chef Bob Waggoner has created an experience unlike any other with dishes like seared halibut over caramelized fennel and Vidalias in a blood orange vinaigrette or hickory grilled domestic lamb tenderloin over a ragout of young leeks, patty pans and braised neck in a yellow tomato, olive, caper and garden thyme jus.

Whiskey Kitchen (118 12th Ave. S., 254-3029, mstreetnashville.com/restaurants/whiskey-kitchen)

This intimate hot spot that offers a bit of everything with a menu that is a mix of chef-inspired pub favorites, southern classics, and wood-fired pizzas. An extensive list of cocktails accompany an extensive collection of world-class whiskeys, bourbons, ryes, and scotches. Reclaimed oak and crocodile leather wall coverings create an atmosphere of both comfort and sophistication, and paired with upscale pub favorites – think truffle and parmesan wings – and date night just got a lot more fun.

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