I love “Nashville.” I wonder how long it will take for Luke to turn evil, so Rayna and Deacon can reunite. I enjoy the Avery character, partly because I watched Jonathan Jackson grow up on “General Hospital.” And, although I’m not the biggest country music fan, I appreciate the musical performances. Oh wait…did you think this was about dining in Nashville? I’ll get there.
When my husband and I plan a visit to Nashville with three other couples, initially all I can think about is the ABC television show. Can we visit the Bluebird Cafe? Will I spot Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere meandering through the streets, pausing for photos with fans? And if I see Clare Bowen, is it okay to remind her that she responded to one of my tweets?
Then I start investigating the dining scene. It doesn’t take long before my attention turns away from television and towards Rolf and Daughters, named #3 Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit in 2013. This amps up my desire to visit Music City.
Rolf and Daughters has the brick walls/exposed pipes/industrial chic look that is becoming a familiar sight in restaurants around the country. Housed in a 100-year old former factory, the space and menu is reminiscent of Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore’s earthy farm-to-table restaurant.
The menu boasts an intriguing list of small plates, born in the South and infused with Mediterranean accents. Unfamiliar ingredients such as urfa biber (dried Turkish chili pepper) and jimmy nardello (sweet pepper) give us pause. They enhance dishes such as crostini with smoked trout, and green wheat with green tomatoes and medjool dates. Green wheat does not initially grab our attention, but our waitress encourages us to give the grain-based dish a try. We thank her for steering us towards this full-flavored inventive dish.
Chef Philip Krajeck’s proficiency with pasta contributes to Rolf and Daughter’s popularity. Indeed, squid ink canestri with nduja (spicy, spreadable salami), clams, scallions, and breadcrumbs takes my breath away. Chewy, spicy, crunchy….this dish hits all the right notes. Rolf and Daughters is a no-brainer on our Nashville dining itinerary, and we depart singing the restaurant’s praises.
Honing in on a lunch spot for the next day…not so easy. There is no shortage of appealing options in the city, but many on my radar don’t serve lunch (The 404 Kitchen, Cityhouse, Catbird Seat). We land at the relatively new Adele’s in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood. Chef/owner Jonathan Waxman of New York’s Barbuto, is well-known and widely admired. Chef Waxman’s two appearances on “Top Chef Masters” has brought him to my attention.
Adele’s ambiance is another ode to industrial chic. The space, formerly a tire center, is uplifting with a light and airy ambiance. Our seats in front of the open kitchen influence our ordering. Peanut butter with bananas and honey on a thick piece of toast looks appetizing. A plate of heaping fresh kale is also enticing. We order both as we ponder entrees. Roast chicken adorned with salsa verde captures our attention, and more than a few of us are seduced.
I am not prepared to be as wowed as I am. The meat is as moist as any I have encountered. The slightly crispy exterior has an alluring crackle. I am powerless to put down my utensils, particularly as I realize our afternoon plans are not conducive to hauling around leftovers. At the time we are unaware that Chef Waxman’s roast chicken is legendary. His recipe is available here.
It’s hard to follow up a lunch that features the perfect roast chicken. But I cannot depart Nashville without the hot chicken that is one of the city’s defining dishes. A late dinner at Hattie B’s is on the agenda, following our visit to the Grand Ole Opry. We are not particularly hungry, but I am not willing to forego the experience. Some of my travel companions opt to chicken out.
There aren’t a lot of menu options at Hattie B’s. There’s fried chicken, sides (greens, mac & cheese, black eyed pea salad, fries, etc) and dessert. You choose your preferred level of spice. I order three chicken wings “hot,” which is a level below “damn hot” and “shut the cluck up.” And then we wait for our food for what seems like a very long time. It’s worth it.
Hattie B’s chicken is hot, spicy, juicy, and decadent. I tear through quite a few napkins, wiping away chicken juice and hot sauce, and a few of my own tears. If you’re going to eat chicken twice in one day, this is the way to do it. No regrets.
Nashville is a terrific city for a weekend getaway. The Country Music Hall of Fame, Cheekwood Art & Gardens, and a nighttime stroll down Broadway to listen to country music are all rewarding activities. While I regretfully give up on a “Nashville” sighting as the weekend comes to a close, I’m well-sated by the noteworthy Nashville food scene.
*One consolation prize- while shopping I stumble upon a store selling a limited edition T-shirt from the show.
Rolf and Daughters, 700 Taylor Street, Nashville
Adele’s, 1210 McGavock Street, Nashville
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, 5209 Charlotte Pike, Nashville
In case you’re a fan of “Nashville” check out this website for shooting locations.