Great pairing: Books and food

Friday, May 2, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 18

With the first quarter of 2014 behind us, it’s a good time to check in with New Year’s resolutions. I had hoped to read more, but I’ve spent too much time in restaurants instead.

So in an effort to combine the two pastimes and provide some inspiration, I decided to match local restaurants with books – both old favorites and newer titles.

I also asked Susannah Felts of The Porch Writers’ Collective for her ideas. She’s better read than I, and her new organization helps promote a literary culture in Nashville through classes and events – sometimes at restaurants, even.

Susannah’s Picks:

The restaurant: Husk

37 Rutledge St.

The book: “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee

Chef Sean Brock is famous for being exacting about and lovingly dedicated to a heritage approach to Southern cuisine. In his sprawling, lyrical magnum opus, Agee was no less reverent about the “minute particulars” of Alabama sharecroppers’ lives. Both book and restaurant create a deeply atmospheric experience of the authentic South.

The restaurant: Stone Fox

712 51st Ave. N.

The book: “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac

Journeymen musicians come and go daily through the doors of this west-side club and restaurant, which has quickly proven itself as one of the best places to catch a great live show. We think Kerouac and Cassady would have been quite comfortable at the bar, surrounded by all the vintage décor.

The restaurant: Mas Tacos Por Favor

732 McFerrin Ave.

The book: “100 Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez

OK, so the late, great Marquez was Colombian, not Mexican; still, his beloved novel telegraphs the same magical essence I feel whenever I set foot inside this tiny, colorful spot and order up a bowl of their transcendent tortilla soup.

The restaurant: Five Points Pizza

1012 Woodland St.

The book: Tie: “The Flamethrowers” by Rachel Kushner or “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit

I love to eat alone, just me and a good book, bellied up to the bar. Either one of these seems like the perfect companion for a slice and a beer at this East side staple – just the thing to keep annoying men from inquiring, “Hey, whatcha reading?”

My picks:

The restaurant: Pinewood Social

33 Peabody St.

The book: “The Vacationers” by Emma Straub

There’s something about Straub’s stylish and well-designed short stories that make me think her forthcoming novel, The Vacationers, would make a good match for this spot. Imagine reading it poolside later this year when phase two of Pinewood is complete. The Vacationers, after all, has a pool on its cover. Not that we’d judge by that.

The restaurant: Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

7238 Nolensville Rd. (also in Mt. Juliet and on Belmont Blvd.)

The book: “I Never Met a Story I Didn’t Like” by Todd Snider

Have you ever heard Pat Martin tell a story? That guy can spin a yarn, and so can East Nashville-based musician, Todd Snider. I’m not sure if Snider enjoys barbecue or if Martin listens to Snider, but the first chapter in this memoir kicks off with a story about Snider touring with Jimmy Buffett. And you’ll definitely hear Buffett at Martin’s sandwiched between the Merle and Skynard.

The restaurant: The Catbird Seat

1711 Division St.

The book: “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl

This book isn’t a new book, but it’s one I enjoyed and would like to revisit. And like The Catbird Seat, it can seem deceptively complicated and stuffy. But Special Topics in Calamity Physics is about the adventures of a teenager, and The Catbird Seat – even with its accolades and tasting menu – is about adventures in good food.

The restaurant: The 404 Kitchen

404 12th Ave. S.

The book: “The Fact of a Doorframe, Poems 1950-2001” by Adrienne Rich

This jewel box spot inside an orange shipping container in The Gulch feels right for poetry. Both the restaurant and this book bring us carefully selected, beautiful collections wrapped up in tiny packages. (Full disclosure: I work part-time at the 404 Hotel next to this spot.)