Restaurants help drive East Nashville resurgence

Friday, August 9, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 32
By Tony Troiano

Lockeland Table Community Kitchen and Bar features an ultra modern restaurant in a 1930s East Nashville building, capturing the old and the new.

-- Photo By Austin Gray

“People pass each other smiling,” says East Nashville resident Jason Facio while riding his bike through the neighborhood.

“I moved here in 2001, and can’t imagine being anywhere else, especially when you’re talking about eating out.

“The chefs are creative and each restaurant is different with its own identity. They’re great places to get together with friends,” Facio explains.

East Nashville has added a wide variety of notable and buzz-worthy restaurants since 2001 when the much-heralded Margot Café & Bar opened its doors.

The restaurants tend to fit in with the various smaller neighborhoods such as Lockeland Springs, Five Points or Edgefield, fostering the classic neighborhood life of green space, parks, festivals and all types of people, kids and pets out on the street.

“We have so much foot traffic like walkers, runners, bikers, strollers, and we’re very pet centric,” says Henry DeVaney, general manager of Eastland Café.

“East Nashville was a ghost town years ago, then you had an influx of younger people, younger parents forging an alternative lifestyle. East Nashville marches to its own drummer.”

A sign of growth

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean sees the East Nashville restaurant scene as a sign of financial stability for the city.

“Our restaurant scene is certainly one of several attributes that’s garnering Nashville so much attention,” says Dean.

“East Nashville has been experiencing a renaissance over the last couple of decades and during that time we’ve seen the establishment of a large number of new, locally-owned restaurants.

“To me, it’s a sign of a growing economy, the depth of talented, entrepreneurial people we have in our city and the bright future ahead for us.”

Another sign of growth and prosperity is the diversity in specialty, one-of-a-kind food and drink, ranging from the Holland House Bar and Refuge with its “epicurean cocktail tradition’’ to The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden, which labels itself “Nashville’s Wurst-Burger Joint.’’

Some places are casual as in any other part of town, but many hot spots in East Nashville fall in the “casual, but up-scale,’’ range with an array of fine bars.

Dress is relaxed, but the surroundings are quite rich with interesting dishes, delivered with artistic presentation.

All about the neighborhood

Lockeland Table Community Kitchen and Bar, built in the 1930s, in a structure that has housed a H.G. Hills Dry Goods Store, Archie’s Soda Shop, Studio East Art Gallery and a Unisex Boutique Coiffures and Tanning.

General manager Cara Graham and chef Hal Holden-Bache have tried to preserve the history of the building. There’s a drink named after the owner and hairdresser of Unisex.

Lockeland Table, attractive and inviting, has claimed numerous awards, so many Graham and Holden-Bache need a trophy case. Like other award-winning East Nashville restaurants, they are about neighborhood.

“Want to know why East Nashville is so popular with restaurants and bars now?” Graham asks. “We’re all community driven. We’ve seen an evolution and the community manufactures the business. This is a vibrant area.

Batter'd and Fried Boston Seafood House in Five Points serves classic New England dishes and is a haven for red Sox fans, including Mayor Karl Dean.

-- Photo By Jeff Lewis

“For us, we stress warm, cozy and comforting. If you come back, we’ll know you. We’re about building relationships and being genuine.”

“East Nashville is a destination now,” Holden-Bache says. “We have diners from all over the state and tourists visit regularly. The restaurants are mom and pop shops and all are unique. Some of our food items are staples, but we have a seasonal menu. We go fresh, using local farmers. You won’t find us serving fish grown in Indonesia.”

Farm fresh

Fresh food is front and center in nearly all East Nashville eateries.

Melissa Corbin grew up a farmer’s daughter. When her friends were napping in daycare, she was asleep in the cab of her father’s John Deere tractor. She learned all about working the land, from planting to harvesting.

It turned out her foundation matched a developing passion. Corbin has a local food and social media consulting service, Corbin in the Dell, LLC. She connects local farmers with restaurants and other food related businesses.

“People should know the origin of their food,” Corbin says. “Food produced a short distance away has 80 cents of every dollar staying in the local economy. It also reduces the carbon footprint.

“Everyone knows about spraying crops with chemicals and giving antibiotics and steroids to animals. This causes health issues in humans. Local and fresh is the best, and it just plain tastes better.”

Country French and Bailey’s Goose

Marche’ Artisan Food is an off-shoot of Margot. Marche’ is housed in a building which used to be a telephone switching center before it was a hot rod shop.

“We’re proud of what we have to offer,” says Perry Chan, general manager.

“Our theme was inspired by Margot McCormack’s family and friends taking a trip to France. We’re semi-modern with a rustic flair. You get the feel of a European café. We want all the business we can get, but you’ll discover all the restaurants around here supporting one another.”

In addition to its dining, Marche’ has a retail section with various take-away food items.

Some people might have called Roderick Bailey silly as a goose when he opened his café, Silly Goose. He started with a George Foreman Grille, blender, ice cream maker and Panini press.

“We’ve come a long way, that’s for sure,” Bailey says. “We now offer sandwiches and a full dinner menu. Just like about everybody else, we do fresh, our food is locally grown. We work hard, offer a good product and are cognizant of our customers.”

Silly Goose, like Marche’, has a small retail center offering syrups, oils, spice rubs, t-shirts and greeting cards.

Home plate (for Boston fans)

Batter’d and Fried Boston Seafood House is loaded with just about every kind of fish you would find in a Boston eating place and cooked the same way.

Despite being decorated with all things Beantown, especially the athletic teams and most notably baseball’s Red Sox, Batter’d and Fried isn’t a sports bar, but a friendly family restaurant.

Owner Matt Charette‘s father made a living in the culinary business, which had a trickledown effect to Matt.

Charette, from the Boston area, moved to Nashville in 1994 for a fresh start. Following a long and successful stint with Wildhorse Saloon, he came to East Nashville and struck out on his own, and that’s no play on words with Batter’d’s baseball decor.

Aside from Batter’d and Fried, Charette owns Beyond the Edge, Drifters BBQ, Wave Sushi Bar and Watanabe.

“I’ve been lucky and fortunate with my restaurants,” Charette says. “I got in at the right time in East Nashville because this is a happening part of the city now, so diverse. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

And neither can Mayor Dean, an avid Red Sox fan who frequents Batter’d.

“No doubt about it,” Dean says. “Batter’d and Fried will be the right place to be when the Sox capture the American League Championship and win the World Series.”