We are coming up on the one-year mark of living in Nashville. As I look back in the year with all of its ups and downs, some of the biggest ups have to do with food (naturally). While I still miss the foodie paradise that is Chicago, Nashville offers an impressive array of tasty options to soothe the Music City soul. Here are the top five food moments from the past year, shared with you in the hopes that, whether a resident or a visitor, you likewise can delight in Nashville’s bounty.
#5 My new go-to taco truck
Working with Edible Nashville has its perks, one of which is finding out about other peoples’ favorite haunts. One of its recent articles focused on hot spots in my neighborhood, and my eyes widened at the mention of Taqueria El Dollar #2 with 99 cent tacos and, get this, walking distance from my house. I don’t often crave Mexican food but when I do the craving is fierce. During one such yearning, I remembered the taco truck and set out to find it. We pulled into the gas station wherein sat an unassuming, permanently-parked taco truck. No one else was there when we arrived, but by the time we got our tacos our car was blocked by the swarms of taco lovers clamoring for their fix. When we finally freed ourselves from the car throng and got home with our tasty loot, we understood why this little truck had so many fans: the meats were bursting with flavor and the pickled carrots paired beautifully with the cilantro-packed fresh grilled tortillas. Aw man, now I need some tacos!
#4 The Franklin Chili Cook-off
The lovely historic Franklin downtown puts on some excellent festivals, including the pumpkin fest in the fall, the Dickens-esque Christmas fair, and art shows in the Spring in the summer. The festive atmosphere is contagious and the local artists are impressive. The pumpkin fest positively charmed us last fall, what with all the kids decked out for the costume contest, the smell of fresh donuts, and a gorgeous golden fall day. We heartily enjoyed tasting 15 different chilis provided by local restaurants, each of whom vied for our votes and bribed us with extra fixins’. Needless to say, it was a very difficult decision.
#3 Bowling and Brunch
My family came to Nashville for the Christmas week last year and it was my good fortune that I had just met someone who worked at Pinewood Social, a hip restaurant and hangout joint located in a renovated factory building just outside of downtown. Pinewood Social boasts all local ingredients and artisan cocktails, as well as two small swimming pools, outdoor yard games, and several antique bowling lanes you can rent for $40/hour. This new friend arranged for my family to enjoy a Christmas Eve bowling and brunch, complete with farm fresh eggs and shoe rentals. We spared no expense. Way to strike gold for a new Christmas tradition. (Too much? 🙂 )
#2 Best Indian Food I’ve Ever Had
The first time we went to Taj Indian was last fall a few weeks into our move to Nashville. Our hearts were heavy and homesick for Chicago and our favorite restaurants there. Yelp pointed us toward Taj, so we decided to give it a go. The food was so good we not only agreed it was the best Indian cuisine either of us had ever had but we also felt so uplifted we began to believe Nashville might work out after all. Thank you, Taj Indian, for giving us hope. And thank you for being so delicious. We now live two minutes from your door. Expect to see us often.
#1 Falling in love with The Cookery
We arrived at The Cookery on a wet winter’s day to find the door locked and no one inside. We turned to walk away just as a voice with a strong Australian accent beckoned us back. “I am so sorry we are closed today,” he said warmly. “Our guys have just been working so hard over the Christmas holiday I thought I’d give them a week off to rest. But I don’t want you to go away empty-handed. Can I bless you with some dessert?” I tried to form words of polite decline, but they didn’t come (no doubt quelled by my persuasive sweet tooth). The man smiled and went to fetch the treats. A minute later the man with the accent returned with two ramekin cups. He firmly pressed them into our hands and said, “Turn your oven to 425 degrees and throw these in there for 12 minutes. When they’re done, flip them over onto a dish for your chocolate lava cake.” We did so. The cake was fantastic. We found out that The Cookery is actually a training ground for homeless men to learn the culinary arts. Brett Swayn, the founder and chef, once homeless himself, believes firmly that these men don’t need a hand out–they need hope. A new skill set gives these guys a new outlook and the belief that they are capable of more than they imagined. I recently had the honor of meeting these gentlemen and writing an article about them for Edible’s Nov/Dec issue. I also got to taste their handiwork, and boy, do they sure know how to craft some serious flavor.