From Berkeley to Nashville
So the SO has a job offer from Vanderbilt, and we're thinking of pulling up roots here in Berkeley, CA (home of Chez Panisse, Berkeley Bowl, and self-satisfied ex-hippie jerks). Of course my first worries were about the availability of CSAs, grass-fed beef, locally roasted coffee, and delicious cheap food of varying ethnicities. We're going to be visiting the city for the first time in a couple weeks. I would love to see your recommendations for good everyday restaurants and cafes. We especially love coffee, wood-fired pizza (Pizzaiolo in Oakland is our favorite), Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and barbecue (of which we're sorely lacking in Berkeley). Any thoughts?
We moved here from a combination of the Peninsula and later LA and have been on the whole happy with the food and options. As someone else said, manage your expecations and you will be fine. :-) I love that the CSAs here can provide eggs, meat, cheese (something I didn't have in CA) and we love the BBQ. Crema for coffee, Woodlands for Indian, Martin's for BBQ, Tofu House for Korean - I think you will be pleasantly surprised. And I am totally writing down everyone's reqs for ethnic because we've been here a year and a half and I am still learning.
There are dozens of CSAs around, as has been mentioned. Some of them provide meat, and other locals with their own pastured, beef, lamb, pork (including smoked and cured pork), chicken, and eggs show up at the Nashville Farmers' Market and at some of the neighborhood farmers' markets.
We've got a lot of local coffee roasters; Bongo Java/Fido is probably the most popular but I think Portland Brew does a better job of roasting. There is also Drew's Brews and a couple of other newish ones.
There's a range of opinion locally about how good various local ethnic restaurants in town are; it's probably worth your while to read the various Nashville posts on this board to see what is said. I know that coming from NYC I find the Chinese food here inedible and the Indian acceptable (Woodlands and Bombay Palace are your best bets), the Vietnamese good and the Thai good but oddly overpriced.
A person can eat a lot of good, local, fresh food here with a little trouble. A lot of what's available at a moment's notice will depend on where precisely in the area you end up living.
First of all please realize that your area is the epicenter of the localvore/trendy/foodie/etc universe. Almost nowhere you go is going to give you the amt of what you have now. Are there CSAs? Yes? Are there 10,000 CSAs? No. Etc. Just manage your expectations and you'll find there's plenty here, just not in the vast quantity/variety you are used to.
For coffee beans check out Fido / Bongo Java.
For CSAs and local produce/meats/etc. take a look at picktnproducts.org, specifically http://picktnproducts.org/food/CSAFarmsTennessee.htm. This is just a partial list, though -- I belong to a CSA not listed here. This list seems more comprehensive, my CSA is on it: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
Wood-fired pizza: New place called Porta Via that is getting some raves but I think they're still finding their feet. Bosco's also does nice little personal pizzas, as does Bound'ry.
The Woodbine / Nolensville Rd area is where immigrant populations have congregated -- not just Hispanic, either. There are tons of ethnic grocers and restaurants, some big and well-known, other holes in the wall.
The first and still one of the best Thai restaurants in town is also in this area -- Siam Cafe. There are many others all over town, as with Indian as well. There are a number of Vietnamese restaurants in the Charlotte Ave area. Japanese is well represented. BBQ and Southern food is all over the place. A couple of Nashville specialties you might want to try are hot chicken and hot fish. As with all restaurants everywhere in all genres, some are good and some aren't so good, but there's a lot to choose from. Higher end restaurants with a commitment to quality, local, etc. are all over the place as well -- Margo/Marche, City House, Flyte, tayst, and on and on.
If all else fails we have a couple of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
Nashville is a great medium-sized town, and Vanderbilt is a terrific institution (I should know, I'm a grad and an employee). It has its downsides like everywhere, but if you focus on what it HAS rather than what it DOESN'T, it's quite lovable.
Rest assured Nashville has a pretty diverse group of people here.
You’ll find everything from Korean to bbq, to Ethiopian.
A list of my favorites:
Woodlands (Sound Indian)
)So Gong Dong Tofu House (Korean)
Kien Giang (Vietnamese) best pho and bahn mi in Nashville
Miss Saigon (Vietnamese)
Drew’s Brews (locally roasted) you’ll find it at the better coffee shops in Nashville.
Crema (best coffee in Nashville)
Taqueria San Luis (al pastor & chorizo tacos)
Taco Lopez # 2
City House (Italian & wood fire pizza)