The purpose of our weekend trip to Nashville was to see the Blackhawks take on the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. We figured we’d spend some time in the honky tonks, too, listening to some live music. But what we – or, I should say, I – didn’t expect was the abundance of dining options, and I definitely did not expect the food to be so good.
We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Nashville and it proved to be the perfect location for a weekend trip sans vehicle. It is walking distance to Broadway, which is where the honky tonks, bars, and restaurants are, and to Bridgestone Arena. We arrived on a Saturday morning, too early to get into our hotel room, so we left our bags with the hotel valet and walked down to Broadway in search of some breakfast. Our breakfast came in the form of live music and bloody marys at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, since no restaurants on Broadway were open, and none serve breakfast. We waited until 10:30 when Jack’s BBQ opened up and, judging by the line, plenty of others couldn’t wait for the restaurant to open, either. I ordered the beef brisket plate which comes with two sides; I chose macaroni & cheese and hot apples (it was all fat free, by the way). That brisket was probably the best bbq I have ever had. Perfectly tender, lean meat, incredible smoky flavor. From the array of self-serve bbq sauces, I went with the Kansas City, and it was a perfect match for my brisket. The mac & cheese and apples were incredible, as well. We visited Jack’s again two days later and did not have quite the same experience. We all were quite disappointed with our food. I ordered the brisket plate again (it was too good the first time; I had to), with mac & cheese and cream corn (both were delicious). The brisket, however, was fatty and a little tough. The employee cutting and carving the meat wasn’t the same guy from our first visit so maybe he had something to do with it. Whatever the reason, I was seriously disappointed. I’d still recommend Jack’s, though. We might have just caught them on a bad day on that second visit.
Some other dining highlights from our weekend in Nashville:
Big River Grille & Brewing Works – We chose this place on Saturday night for our pre-game meal. At 5:30pm, we were told it would be a 30-minute wait for a table; that’s how crowded it was. Luckily, we found a four-top in the bar area so our wait was quite short. Since Big River is a brewery, I gave their 16th Avenue Pilsner a go. It was good enough for me to order a second. The food was solid but nothing overly spectacular; typical American, upscale bar food-type menu. I had hazelnut crusted chicken with a sun-dried cherry sauce, served with white cheddar mashed potatoes – quite tasty.
The Pancake Pantry – Now I understand why there is a line outside this restaurant every morning. I would go back to Nashville JUST to eat again at The Pancake Pantry. All you need to know is: Sweet Potato Pancakes. They’re not stingy about the portions. I got a heaping plate of warm, powder sugar-dusted goodness, served with homemade cinnamon cream syrup. I can’t write about it anymore because I’m starting to drool.
The Stock-yard Restaurant – Named one of America’s top 10 steakhouses, the restaurant is housed in a building that originally served as the offices and overall business center of the Nashville Union Stock-yards. Built in 1924, the interior looks much the same as it did when cattle and hogs were being auctioned off on the lower level of the building. I’m not a steak eater so I admit that I enjoyed the history and the atmosphere more than my food. I had filet mignon (about the only cut of steak I can handle), prepared boursin style. It was enjoyable and it filled my steak quota for the next year or so. The highlight for me, though, was walking through the halls of the restaurant and touring the upper floor (which is encouraged by restaurant personnel). The one-time offices, saloon, and barber shop are now finely-appointed individual dining rooms. It was like a step back in time. The Stock-yard also is home to the oldest bottle of wine in the USA, a 1776 Madeira, which is kept in a safe behind a glass display window. I can’t even imagine what that wine might taste like nowadays…
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant – Even before we left for Nashville, I had a hankering for biscuits and gravy. If you remember, we had a hard enough time finding breakfast in downtown Nashville, let alone a specific breakfast item. It was our last morning in Nashville so we asked our hotel concierge where we might find the elusive biscuits and gravy. He pointed us in the direction of Puckett’s, newly opened and within walking distance of the hotel. Plain old biscuits and gravy are served only as a side order, but there is an item named Bubba’s Eggs Benedict (which I ordered): “Split biscuits, topped with your choice of bacon or sausage, covered with two fried eggs, cooked to order, and smothered in pepper gravy.” I was so excited when our food arrived but that quickly ended when I realized the gravy was cold. Again, Puckett’s had just opened for business so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt; they were still working out the kinks. I just asked our gracious server for some extra – hot – gravy, and all was right with the world. We sat in Puckett’s for a long time after we’d finished breakfast; it’s that comfortable. And even after we’d paid our bill, our server kept coming back to refill our water and coffee. Later in the day, around lunchtime, we walked past Puckett’s and there was not an empty seat in the house. Despite our one minor setback, I’d go back to Puckett’s, especially to sample the lunch and/or dessert menu.
A couple more quick notes about Nashville: I loved all the live music in the various bars, but my favorite venue is Robert’s Western World. It’s the one spot on Broadway to hear real, traditional country music (the type I prefer, not the modern-day pop-music-with-a-slide-guitar-thrown-in that is passed off as “country”). Secondly, the Sheraton was a fine place to stay. Read my review here on TripAdvisor. And, lastly, my photo set from the trip on Flickr, to which I’m still adding photos.