Astute OBSERVATIONS

A sentimental journey of East Side eating

Ah, yes. The food and drink issue… Greetings, my fellow epicureans, discerning gourmands, and unique flavor fans. I am currently lounging on my divan, my sofa, my settee at the Inglewood chateau, enjoying a Bombay martini, as finely prepared by my companion, Melody. I don’t know how I would survive life’s perils without her. As it is 2 p.m., I am attired in the typical daywear of silk robe and slippers and of course a natty ascot. It is Monday after all, and the week must be approached with discretion and circumspection.
      Please, join me on a sentimental journey, won’t you? I’m thinking back 20 years now and remembering so many reluctant dinners at J. Alexander’s. Seemingly, this was the only restaurant in town. It’s where one went to celebrate special occasions, to rendezvous, to dine on mundane dishes prepared in bland style with ingredients purchased from the only food supplier in town, Robert Orr-Sysco. Their motto: “What, you don’t like it?”
      It is with wonder and awe that I recall those bygone days of uninspired meals and the constant upsell of artichoke dip served in a “casually elegant” atmosphere. All over town, we were drowning in sweet tea and two-for-one entrees. Oh, Oh, Oh my god, save us from this peril!
      Great Bacchus and Dionysus! My friends, I must tell you that it was these culinarily dark days that made me the cook I am today. Thank the good lord for cookbooks because the path to something other than fast food or the same ingredients from the same supplier at every joint in town was one a man had to walk on his own. If you want something cooked, you have to cook it yourself ! That was my mantra. Thankfully, with the help of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, I burned, over-seasoned, singed, and scorched my way to some decent kitchen skills. In every cloud, there is a silver lining. In every obstacle lies an opportunity.
      Here in present day East Nashville, those distant memories from decades past seem like something from a dark dream, a fairy tale parents tell their children to traumatize them into appreciation and obedience. These days I feel like I am years behind on keeping up with independent restaurant openings, pop-ups, secret bars with passwords, authentic international cuisine, and let’s be honest, the occasional mediocre Asian bistro no longer residing in Riverside Village…
      Margot. Bravo! Folks from Green Hills braved the journey. I saw them as I sat at the Slow Bar. The fancy SUV traffic was conspicuous on Woodland Street at the time. Jamie Rubin and the Family Wash, thank you for bringing tasty, affordable food and drink to a hungry neighborhood and supporting music and starving musicians with your delicious shepherd’s pies at every gig. To me, these establishments set the scene for the food and drink revolution that is happening in our neighborhood today.
      The Inglewood Lounge, Mickey’s, Duke’s, the Edgefield, Fran’s, The Fox, Rosemary & Beauty Queen, Urban Cowboy. So many intoxicating choices!
      Fort Louise, Cafe Roze, Nomzilla, Mas Tacos, Butcher & Bee, Pharmacy, Rudie’s, Eastland Cafe, Lockeland Table, the Biscuit House. I’ve enjoyed delicious meals in every one. Thank you!
      Options. What?! It was not so long ago that the Inglewood Kroger was the only option for the evening’s meal. These days, world-class chefs compete for our neighborhood’s masticating loyalty.
      Bailey & Cato’s ribs… They get a paragraph. Fall off the bone, smoky and delicious right down to the marrow (and still available up in Madison).
      Prince’s Hot Chicken… Thank you. You started a national and international revolution. You were the first and are the best.
      I could go on listing and reminiscing over all the wonderful bars and restaurants in our beloved East Nashville, but my martini is dry and my thirst is long. Sláinte!