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May 15, 2008 11:45 AM

Nashville-Vandy q's from a solo hound

I'm coming to Nashville on business next week by myself, and I have been combing the boards making my chow plans. If anyone reads my choices and questions and thinks I would be uncomfortable dining alone there, please pipe up...I decided against Monells, because when I'm solo, I usually read or eat at the bar.

Decided on Arnold's for the meat and three- thanks to everyone who pitched in on another post on what I should order! Gonna skip BBQ - I have enough smoked meat in my life. Definitely going to get try to get to Margot and Radius 10 or Flyte, and Fido looks great for quick and casual, but I'm staying at the Marriott near Vandy, and had some questions about the close-by options there.

Midtown Cafe - seems like the more recent posts have indicated a decline...I'd love to hear some recent reviews, because the menu looks great and it is so close! Also, besides the lemon soup, any specific rec's?

Amerigo/Valentino - Neither really look that amazing, but having Italian food so close makes me want to roll the dice. I'm leaning more towards Valentino, specifically a wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sage and truffle oil....any comments or opther faves?Amerigo is a chain, and a couple of things on the menu makes me a little suspicious, but if anyone has a must-try dish there, I'm probably game.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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  1. I would definitely favor OMBI or Zola over Midtown Cafe. I wouldn't waste my time with Amerigo or Valentino's.

    10 Replies
    1. re: grundoon

      Thanks grundoon. I will take your advice - I didn't realize how close your two choices were to my hotel - perfect. Is there bar dining at OMBI or Zola? Got any fave dishes? They both look great.

      1. re: saticoy

        Ombi vs. Zola...I'd say the food is a push...and Ombi is probably better for solo I say go with Ombi. I don't think you'll be disappointed by anything on the menu.

        I like Midtown, but it's not in the same league as Ombi or Zola.

        You'll love Arnold's. That place is so Nashville.

        Margot and Radius10 are both amazing, too. And both should be pretty solo-friendly.

        Italian is definitely one of Nashville's "culinary blind spots". There are very few (if any) truly great Italian restaurants here. Amerigo is good at "what they do", I suppose, but "what they do" is a very Americanized version of Italian cuisine. Valentino's is definitely more interesting, but I've found their execution to be very inconsistent. I wouldn't count on having a great meal there. If you want to drive over to Sylvan Park, there is a very nice little Italian place there called Cafe Nonna. It won't blow your mind, but it's very solid, traditional Northern Italian.

        Cafe Nonna
        4427 Murphy Rd, Nashville, TN 37209

        1. re: jamiecarroll

          Thanks jamiecarroll - I am hurting for Italian food, but I will wait for another trip to another city. Can you guys critique my list?

          Breakfast - Bread & Co (near my hotel)
          Elliston Place (is their coffee decent?)

          Lunch - Arnold's
          Prince's (and/or Boltons? Chicken at Princes, fish at Boltons?)

          Dinner - Ombi
          Radius 10

          More questions - I know I said no BBQ, but I read about this pork sandwich at Joe's BBQ & Fish that sounds amazing - any thoughts? Any input on Sevala's Bosnian cuisine? What about Coco Loco?

          Thanks for all your help!

          1. re: saticoy

            Breakfast - good choices. You might consider the Pancake Pantry, since it's kind of a Nashville institution and you're staying in that area. It's kind of a tourist trap, but the food really is outstanding, and if you go during the week, you probably won't have to wait.

            Lunch - I am more of a fried chicken guy than a fish sandwich guy, so of course I'm going to tell you to go to Prince's. You should know, though, that it's not very close to where you're staying.

            Dinner - Not a bad one in the bunch, there. You're in for some great dinners!

            Joe's BBQ & fish - Hmmm...haven't been there in a while, but I don't remember it being very special. I think Real Deal BBQ is the best of those Clarksville Pike places, and even it is not that great. If you do eat there, please report back.

            1. re: jamiecarroll

              You've made good choices. I'll be curious to hear about Elliston Place at breakfast. WHen I think "coffee" I don't automatically think "Elliston Place." But you're so near other good coffee options that if their coffee stinks, you can pop down the road and get something better.

              I had lunch at Elliston a couple of years ago and it was good -- meat-n-three. I'll be interested to hear an update on their meat-n-three. Late I find that the homemade, handmade items are dropping off menus in favor of items that can be assembled from ready-made components (coleslaw) or obtained from Stouffers commercial (scalloped apples, corn casserole).

              I agree that you might try Pancake Pantry. It's not worth a 1-hour wait that you'd find on a weekend, but the pancakes really are something special and the whole place in very 'houndy.

              I haven't eaten at Joe's in years,though it was stupendously good back in the 1990s. Prince's is a sure bet, though it's really quite some distance from you in a not-so-nice (but not scary) neighborhood north of town involving several interstate changes. Also stupendously good. You'll share tables with strangers if you want to eat there. If you're taking out, take along a frisbee to catch the grease (my friend Chris's suggestion)-- a paper bag is no match for the fluorescent orange grease.

              Unless you are yearning to see East Nashville, I might stick with Ombi, Radius 10 or Flyte for dinner. Ombi has the most atmosphere and is good for solo dining. Radius 10 also good for solo dining. Flyte is pricier but has phenomenal meats.

              Had takeout from Sevala's couple years back. It really is good. Open for lunch only (actually, she may be open until 6 p.m. -- check). Parking is nonexistent. You'll have to find a street spot, or walk several long blocks, or pay the going rate at the (ancient, narrow, occasionally inhabited by homeless) garage two or three doors down or take a taxi.

              Go to either Sole Mio or Caffe Nonna for Italian. Amerigo is part of a small chain. Sole Mio has handmade pasta and is across from the Shelby Street bridge -- scenic and nice for walking. Nonna is in an adorable neighborhood a mile or so from where you're staying. Valentino's has been getting great reviews lately from some of the city's best-regarded foodies. But it's pricey. So if you have a disappointing experience, it will have been a really expensive disappointing experience.

              Happy eating!

          2. re: jamiecarroll

            Good choices all around -- Radius 10 is one of my favorites and dining at the bar solo would be great -- they also have some great happy hour deals on food in the bar between 5-7 weeknights, just fyi.

            Fido is another really good choice and along with being a coffee shop, they also serve beer and wine now as well. I would definitely do Cafe Nonna over Amerigo any day. Amerigo is a corporate chain, Nonna is locally owned. That usually makes the difference for me.

            All good choices...enjoy!

            1. re: jcr05

              We had drinks and apps at the bar at Radius 10 during happy hour last night. While there were drink specials (half off wells, domestics, house wine), I saw no food specials.

              Still, our apps (the kobe short ribs and the heirloom tomato salad) were both excellent.

              1. re: menuinprogress

                The food specials are M-F, 5-7pm and are half off pizzas and 25% off bar menu. Sounds like you ordered from the MAIN menu, which other than pizzas isn't included. Bummer, but still good food!

                1. re: jcr05

                  That makes sense - we did order off of the main menu. I really liked what we had though, so no harm done.

          3. re: saticoy

            Definitely do OMBI for solo dining. I love their sweetbreads appetizer and their hanger steak, although I've also had some very good dishes from their nightly specials last couple of times I've been in. And they DO make a great Rye Manhattan...

        2. For single bar dining you need to go see AD at tayst restaurant and wine bar. Just ask him to take you through the night and that you want to try a bunch of things. Also check out for a list of local independent restaurants.

          1. Your choices look very good. You need to know that Rotiers is very close to your hotel. It is a hamburger joint that I love and is very popular with the Vandy crowd. Also Springwater BBQ is directly across the street. Haven't been there in years but it is a classic dive. Cafe Nanna, Ombi and Radius 10 are all great picks. Avoid Amerigo's at all costs! I agree that Midtown is in somewhat of a downturn. It's sad. Arnold's is by far the best meat and three is town. Have a great time. The weather should be great.

            1 Reply
            1. re: smoot60

              FYI...*Hog Heaven BBQ* is right next door to the *Springwater Supper Club*. They are two different places.

            2. Thanks again to everyone for your recommendations - I had a hectic week in Nashville, and the conference had a lot more food-related (yuggy catering) events than I anticipated. Still got some hounding done, though.

              Ombi - beautiful place, lots of niches for a solo diner to tuck into. I felt rushed by the server who had only one other table, and wound up with a Hendrick's martini instead of the manhattan I had forgotten I wanted. Great martini - perfect, in fact. But, I'm afraid the food was a bit of a let-down. Caesar salad was full of wilted leaves, was overdressed with a very generic-tasting dressing, croutons were small and boring. Mussels were nice - served with little batons of spanish chorizo, nice and plump. The torchon of foie was also nice, but fairly uninspired - the bread was toasted on one side only, and the fig jam was really, really thick. The duck ravioli were a total disaster - there was a bone in one of them, and they were folded in such a way that the pasta couldn't cook through - tough to chew!

              Pancake Pantry - I am SO glad that I was pointed in this direction. I got silver dollar buttermilk pancakes with scrambled eggs and bacon...the eggs and bacon were fine, but the little pancakes were divine, and the place is really great....especially the cross section of people in there - seems like the PP is devoid of class, race, age or any kind of social barrier, and that was cool. Also, when I drove by there was a line, when I got there they whisked me right in to a table, and when I left there was a line. PP karma!

              SoBro Cafe at the CMHOF - this happened sort of against my will, but when the server said they made their own BBQ on site, I broke my rule and tried the pulled pork with griddle cakes and slaw - green beans and squash on the side. Pork was delicious - crusty bits, all nice and moist and smoky and fabulous. The slaw was eh, the corn cakes were great, and the veggies were nutritious. This made me want to re-read the posts on the best BBQ in Nashville, but I was hyper-busy and internet deprived, so this was, alas, my only pulled pork experience. I'm hooked, and next time, it will be a priority to try the 'hound recommended places.

              Rotiers - another big thanks - I was just so over burgers, but the grilled cheeseburger on french bread was unique and DELICIOUS - the meat tasted like meaty meat, seemed to be freshly ground, the bread stood up to the juicy challenge, the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and it was just great. Anemic fries, though.

              Prince's Hot Chicken - thanks to all who warned me about how far this was, but I knew I would have driven to Knoxville to try it. FAB-U-LOUS. It will torment me forever, knowing this chicken is being served with me a thousand miles away. I got a leg quarter, medium hot, and it was HOT...I consider myself to be fairly spice-tolerant, and maybe I got hot instead of medium, but this was off the charts. And I couldn't lips were burning, my eyes were tearing up, and I murdered that bird until the bones were clean. Then, for dessert, I had the miraculous white bread that had absorbed the spicy grease. I took it to go, but wished I had stayed to eat there. Next time.

              Elliston Place - The coffee - denied, and as suggested, I swung by either Fido or Starbucks after my visit - cant remember. I got a country ham/cheese/egg biscuit - for $3.25. I would be enormous if I lived in Nashville, just from this. Making this in sandwich form is folly - the biscuit is so ethereally light that it can support nothing besides its own pillowy, crisp on the bottom insanely goodness, let alone a meaty, salty, juicy slice of country ham, a fried egg, and american cheese. But I smashed it and ate around the falling off bits and eventually took a knife and fork to it and yum. Yum.

              Sezvalas - took a walk up there on a break and had chavapi - I THINK that's what it was called. I had never had Bosnian food, and was very curious. These were sort of like meatball fingers - I couldn't tell what kind of meat or spices were in there, the ingredients were finely ground, and then when they griddle fried them, they got crispy on the outside and the insides were good but a little dryish....luckily they had this tangy garlicky dressing over them. Pita bread came too, and I wish it had been dry, but it was heated on the oily griddle - good but heavy. All in all very interesting - actually quite delicious.

              I cannot believe I didn't make it to Arnolds - I just couldn'y make it happen. Also decided to skip Italian - I'm going to NY in July. I wanted to go the wine bar at Tayst, and Radius 10, but it was just not to be. Next time.

              But I DID, on Sunday, find a wonderful Japanese place, almost in Belle Meade. Used to be called Benkay, now I think it is Sonobono. Good, solid, inexpensive sushi, with tons of good looking and inexpensive little plates - I got mixed tempura appetizer (very nice) and oshitashi (good, not great), and wished I could try their natto, and other authentic Japanese dishes. Next door was a Turkish restaurant....but I was leaving.

              Thanks again all - there is a LOT to eat in Nashville, and I only got a taste...can't wait for the next trip!

              3 Replies
              1. re: saticoy

                Wow. Thanks for the report. I have never had the barbecue at SoBro - I will have to look into that. And I have never had anything but burgers and shakes at Elliston Place, I'd like to try their breakfast.

                Also, I should have warned you about the heat at Prince's. I too have a high heat tolerance, but the "MILD" at Prince's is plenty hot for me.

                1. re: saticoy

                  Thank you so much for the report back.
                  I am a Boston Chowhound, headed to Nashville, June 7-13 and also staying near Vanderbilt.
                  The warning about Ombi is much appreciated.

                  1. re: bgavin

                    Ombi gets a lot of love on this board, so I'm thinking my experience might be the exception to the rule....