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VOL. 39 | NO. 6 | Friday, February 6, 2015

Great dishes from Nashville’s landmark restaurants

By Ellen Margulies

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Monell’s plate of skillet fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, green beans and corn pudding.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

When a restaurant’s been around for a decade or eight, that’s usually a pretty good indication that the food is palatable. We’ve rounded up some of the best dishes to try at Nashville’s longest standing dining establishments, and, of course, it’s impossible to pick just one thing. Feel free to recommend your own favorites in the on-line comments.

Arnold’s

605 8th Ave. S., 256-4455

No website, because why do you need one when people are in line 50-deep out the front door? At some point along the way, the classic Southern/soul food/meat-n-three/cafeteria-style diner went from working man’s lunch to “Hey, did you see (fill in your own celebrity or star athlete name here, because you’d be hard-pressed not to spot one on any given day).” Arnold’s is as well-known for its roast beef and fried chicken as its banana pudding (get there early because they WILL run out) and chess pie. And every soulful Southern dish in between.

Capitol Grille

231 6th Ave. N., 345-7116

capitolgrillenashville.com

They don’t just have a picture of their prime rib on their website, they have a picture of the cow. Ok, so maybe it’s not the exact cow, but it’s at least a second cousin, and it’s within mooing distance of the restaurant. Oh, and Chef Tyler Brown raises those cattle, btw. You heard right: a chef who raises his own meat. He also grows produce is a garden plot just a few miles away. He’s not roasting his own coffee beans or harvesting his own cacao, as far as we know, but the year’s still young.

Monell’s

1235 6th Ave. N., 248-4747

monellstn.com

Ah, Monell’s, that most Southern of Southern restaurants, with its family-style tables and platters of vegetables and fried meats and big ol’ biscuits. All created, of course, by a guy from New Jersey. That’s OK. We’re not mad at him. He’s one of us now, and his people KNOW what fried chicken is, and you will, too, if you sit down next to a soon-not-to-be-stranger and put some on your plate.

Mad Platter

1239 6th Ave. N., 242-2563

madplatter.com

The Chocolate Elvis at The Mad Platter.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

If you ask a longtime Nashvillian – yes, we DO exist – what they should order at the Mad Platter, they might tell you to get the curried autumn bisque. They could mention the shrimp and grits, which is definitely a favorite. But, of course, the menu is seasonal and subject to change. Know what’s always in season? Chocolate. Know what people almost ALWAYS tell you to get? The Chocolate Elvis, a flourless torte with three kinds of chocolate ensconced on a bed of crushed graham crackers and crushed walnuts.

Midtown

102 19th Ave. S., 320-7176

midtowncafe.com

Even non-soup fans warm up to the lemon-artichoke soup at Midtown, which is creamy enough, tangy enough and artichokey enough to strike a perfect balance in every spoonful. It’s offered on the menu under the appetizer section, presumably shuffled off while you move on to lobster brie mac and cheese or chicken picatta. But don’t get it twisted – there’s no WAY you’re letting the server take away that soup bowl until every drop is gone.

Margot Cafe

1017 Woodland St., 227-4668

margotcafe.com

How do you nail down a signature dish for a place that literally changes its menu every single day? You don’t (unless you’re going for the house-made chips, which you totally have to try). You go with a signature meal service, and at Margot, it is hands-down brunch. A recent menu included a roasted cauliflower and sundried tomato omelet; potato, bacon and cheddar crepes; and a cinnamon-pecan sticky bun. They also had French toast. Hint: It’s NEVER wrong to order the French toast at Margot.

Bound’ry

911 20th Ave., 321-3043

boundrynashville.com

The Lobster Pizza at Bound’ry

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

This is a far cry from running for the border; this is a place where fine dining and fun go hand-in-hand. Bound’ry knows no bounds when it comes to having playing with food, and past menu items have included things like rabbit ravioli, bubble gum brulee and ostrich. The menu has changed with the times over the decades, and there are offerings that come only seasonally. Some perennial favorites remain: The bar is always a hit, and you should not leave without trying the Lobster BLT Pizza.

Jimmy Kelly’s

217 Louise Ave., 329-4349

jimmykellys.com

Why has Jimmy Kelly’s been in business since The Depression? Service, service, service. Oh, and also did we mention the food? Time after time, online diners mention the “perfectly cooked” steaks at Jimmy Kelly’s, from the prime cut bone-in filet to the rib eye. And time after time, diners also rave about the little corncakes that come with the meal and the blackberry cobbler. Old-school, yes, but updated enough to get lots of online reviews.

Merchants

401 Broadway, 254-1892

merchantsrestaurant.com

How wonderful to have choices. You’ll find au currant ingredients like kale, pomegranate and bone marrow on the menu upstairs. In the more rustic downstairs, you’ll find rib-stickers that are still modern, like sweet-tea marinated pork loin with pimiento cheese grits. Skip the stairs and get the duck fat tater tots. Throw in a Dark & Stormy for good measure, because it’s the best one in town.

McCabe Pub

4410 Murphy Road, 269-9406

mccabepub.com

It’s Southern-meets-pub, so maybe they should create a new category called Spubern. Or Pubthern. The upshot is that your salad-loving spouse and your chicken-finger kids and your cheeseburger aficionado won’t clash with your mother-in-law’s need for some fried okra, broccoli casserole and chicken livers. And nobody from any category is going to be turning down that coconut cake. McCabe’s been around since long before the internet, and hopefully you can still get the meatloaf sandwich after your dock your flying car.

Sperry’s

5109 Harding Pike, 353-0809

sperrys.com

There is a place in Nashville where you can dine, literally, like royalty. The Prince William Blue Cheese Stuffed Filet is so named because way back in 2004, a handsome young majesty was visiting a friend in the area and dined at Sperry’s on his now namesake filet, which is also wrapped in bacon, in case you were wondering. It’s nice to think he might someday bring Kate and the kids back to Sperry’s. We’ll keep you posted.

Swett’s

2725 Clifton Ave., 329-4418

swettsrestaurant.com

Put down that quinoa and step away from the kale. Remember “rice” and “turnip greens?” At a meat ’n’ three, you can get those along with your choice of fried apples (counts as a vegetable), mac and cheese (also counts as a vegetable), candied yams, pinto beans, okra, creamed corn, creamed potatoes, cabbage, green beans or squash casserole. If we list the meats and desserts, your already-watering mouth is liable to overflow. Suffice it to say there are options like fried chicken and peach cobbler. Which does not count as a vegetable, but who cares.

Valentino’s Ristorante

1907 West End, 327-0148

valentinosnashville.com

Valentino’s Osso Buco

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

For families and grads, birthdays and girls’ nights out as well as romantic evenings with your bae, you can’t beat Valentino’s for old-school Italian restaurant ambiance. And by “Italian,” I mean the kind of Italian we’ve co-opted as our own. It can hold its own with similar places in Chicago and New York. Top-notch service includes tableside Caesar salads and bananas Foster(s). If you can tear your lips away from your bae long enough, seal them around forkfuls of the lasagna or osso buco. Delizioso!

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