Williamson's most romantic spots

Friday, August 9, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 32

Some of Williamson County's favorite spots for great food and romantic surroundings.

Cork and Cow (403 Main St., Franklin, 538-6021, corkandcow.com)

With a solid base of good wine, in-house mixologists and quality aged beef, how can you go wrong? Cool Springs has options, but downtown Franklin had been missing a proper steakhouse until Cork and Cow opened last October in the old Sol space. Chef Jason McConnell, also of Red Pony and 55 South, highlights all the best of classic steakhouses not just with the steaks, dry-aged pork chops and Benton bacon burger, but takes them up a few notches with sides like parmesan corn pudding and baked French gnocchi with parmesan truffle cream.

J. Alexander’s (1721 Galleria Blvd., Franklin, 771-7779, jalexanders.com)

Chain dining done right, J. Alexander’s prepares contemporary American wood-fired cuisine with a focus on service. The menu features a wide selection of classics like prime rib of beef, steak cut in-house and fresh seafood, as well as a number of rotating specials, all with a modern spin. A full-service bar includes an outstanding selection of wines both by the glass and bottle. Splitting a sweet slice of white chocolate cheesecake will only prolong a delicious evening.

Mack and Kate’s Café (3078 Maddux Way, Franklin, 591-4104, mackandkatescafe.com)

Soft lighting after the sunset transforms this place from rustic lunch spot to romantic café. The menu is fine dining, but the approach is all welcome-home hospitality. Jan and Bernie Strawn source local ingredients as much as possible, and the lobster mac and cheese has become a local favorite. Kate’s bouillabaisse is another standout, a Pernod broth filled with shrimp, crab, mussels and fresh fish. The carefully selected wine list has more than a few, reasonably priced, highlights.

Mere Bulles (5201 Maryland Way, Brentwood, 467-1945, merebulles.com)

Candlelight dinner in an old plantation home named after “Mother Bubbles” sounds pretty romantic to us. The staff work hard to recreate the classic atmosphere that could be found in the home of the French-born Civil War widow Michele Rutledge, who had a penchant for Champagne and who started a small restaurant in 1866 in Charleston. The wine and champagne list is extensive, as are the martini and cordial options, all perfect starters to the classic Southern steakhouse fare.

Red Pony (408 Main St., Franklin, 595-7669, redponyrestaurant.com)

The restaurant is celebrating seven years in September, and continues to draw newcomers and regulars alike with its rotating diverse menu from Jason McConnell (55 South, Cork and Cow). The cuisine is southern for sure, but global influences abound, like the Misoyaki grouper served with bok choy, cucumber, crispy rice, soy and a ginger and avocado puree. Even a BLT is given the fine dining treatment, with Red Pony’s version touting bacon, lobster and tomato over Yukon gold ravioli and truffled corn cream.

Saffire (230 Franklin Road #11Y, Franklin, 599-4995, saffirerestaurant.com)

Owner Tom Morales of catering company TomKats and Nashville’s The Southern Steak & Oyster is all about creating a top-notch dining experience. Located in the historic Factory at Franklin, Saffire combines locally-grown produce with exotic ingredients to deliver creative cuisine in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Saffire offers modern updates to classic Southern cuisine courtesy of chef Vinny Tardo, including a peach-glazed pork chop with turnip greens and crème fraiche mashed potatoes and lobster empanadas. An extensive whiskey selection hammers home how great it is to have such a place close to home.

Sperry’s (650 Frazier Drive, Franklin, 778-9950, sperrys.com)

The Williamson County outpost of the Belle Meade staple may share its classic steakhouse appeal and dark wood paneling, but it has plenty of followers of its own that may have never been to the original. Customer service is top of mind to the crew as they aim to make special occasions outstanding and create regulars out of every new guest. Lobster truffle mac and cheese will make you a convert, and if not, be sure to order the bananas foster for two prepared tableside. It is sure to secure Sperry’s a spot in your favorite restaurant hall of fame. Plenty of wines are half-off for the month of August as well, at both locations.

Wild Ginger (101 Market Exchange Court, Franklin, 778-0081, dinewildginger.com)

Wild Ginger stands out among a sea of dining options in Cool Springs thanks to its blend of Pan-Asian, western and South American cuisine. Sushi shares menu space with sweet potato fries, Okinawa whipped potatoes, and Asian coleslaw are just the right sides to go with your braised short rib with wilted spinach with bacon, mango salsa and drizzled truffle oil. For dessert, the gluten-free flourless almond cake with diced walnuts topped with milk chocolate mousse, crunchy pecan praline and a creamy coffee custard is a decadent winner.

Wild Iris (127 Franklin Road, Brentwood, 370-0871, wildirisrestaurant.com)

Brentwood lucks out by having this foodie haven with an extensive wine list. Order the cheese plate with smoked honey, dry-cured meats, Marcona almonds and mostarda while perusing the rest of the menu. Low country bouillabaisse with shrimp, mussels and chorizo is delicious, as is the pork tenderloin en crepinette with house-made sausage, sage and gruyere spoonbread, red wine sorghum glazed collard greens, whole grain mustard herb sauce and pickled cherry tomatoes.