Waiting For The Nashville Dining Experience

I recently read an interesting article from the Charleston City Paper entitled “Will Nashville of 2013 be the Charleston of 2012? “  It is about how Nashville is poised to become the next fine Southern fare capital.

I am by no means a restaurant and culinary expert, but for me Nashville’s got a ways to go before it’s ever up to the standards and quality of Charleston restaurants. National award winning Husk coming into town this spring will help us begin the transition from good to great.

For years I knew there was something missing in my restaurant visits in Nashville, but I didn’t know what it was. I was sometimes paying exorbitant prices for what was not equal value food. I nearly always left more regretting the price I paid rather than savoring what I was hoping would be an exceptional night of cuisine. And I’m not talking about just the food.

Then there was Charleston. After a couple of visits to this historic city in the low country of South Carolina, it became clear what had been missing. First of all the food was spectacular and not much more in price, and in some cases less, than the upper-tier restaurants in Nashville. Some of the finest dinners I have ever had and all in one city. Just as important though was the service we received at Husk, Fig, and a host of other incredible restaurants that blew away anything we had received in Nashville. It turned a great night of food into a culinary EXPERIENCE and so much so that when the hefty bill came it was completely worth it. No concerns, no second thoughts. Worth it. I’ve rarely said that about a high level Nashville restaurant.

So many prime eateries in Nashville rely upon their interior space, bar, location, or LA/NY sophistication. Or they rationalize the expense of their dishes because they are organic or “farm to table” when they are simply trendy and pretentious without the cooking to back it up.

Such as it was at a recent dinner at a Nashville suburb restaurant just outside of Franklin, TN. A group of us made New Year’s Eve plans at a popular place that sounded like it would be a wonderful experience with a set menu, but was just a plain rip off. An expensive evening of good farm to table food, but terrible service and nothing even close to being an experience to remember, other than a special time with friends. I’m sure we will always talk about that evening and our reactions when we got the bill, which was nearly twice as much as we expected it to be. Everyone at the table agreed it was not even close to being worth it. Needless to say I won’t be going back there and is just another story of little value from a high price tag.

With that said, I agree that Nashville is poised to be the next Charleston as it relates to Southern cuisine. We have a good start with places like The Southern, Capitol Grille, City House,  Mack & Kate’s and Cork & Cow in Franklin, but not without Husk and more Charleston type restaurants leading the way to discovering incredible food, stellar service, and the adventure of dining experience.

Now if we can figure out the beach thing.

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