Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse

During the 2010 Restaurant Week, Tracy was fortunate enough to get reservations at Jimmy Kelly’s along with her good friend Tyler. This was quite a feat since the restaurants participating in Restaurant Week were booked solid for the entire week. It must have been meant to be that we were able to sample some of the best food that Jimmy Kelly's has to offer. Tracy was definitely left wanting more. Tyler suggested that she and Brian come back for their “J’ restaurant. So, Tyler, this post is dedicated to you!

It was 8:25 PM and Tracy was rushing to make the 8:30 reservation. Suddenly, she realized that she had no idea where she was (an often occurrence). She called Brian to figure out where Jimmy Kelly’s was. His response, “I’m not quite sure,” was very reassuring. While we were trying to get our bearings, Tracy turned a corner and almost smacked right into Brian’s car! It turned out that we were lost in the same place! While on the phone, we winded through back roads until we were where we were supposed to be, Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse. Turns out it is one block off of Elliston, just north of Café Coco.

Jimmy Kelly’s has been serving some of the finest steaks in Nashville for over 75 years. As we walked up the steps under the awning, it felt as if we were about to enter an historical landmark. On any given night you can find the who’s who of Tennessee having dinner, or sitting at the bar with Mike Kelly himself!

This week we were joined by two of Tracy’s great friends, Melanie and Jamie. They had already eaten but came to keep us company. Our waiter came by as soon as we were seated with a charismatic welcome. He took our drink orders - scotch for Brian and a cosmopolitan for Tracy - and left to give us a chance to peruse the menu. Melanie, a regular at Jimmy Kelly’s, was happy to give us suggestions, while our waiter brought out a plate of their famous corncakes with butter. Delicious! The four of us downed an entire plate before we ever placed our order.

The waiter recommended the fried gulf oysters as an appetizer. Unfortunately, they never arrived. Luckily we were too involved in our corn cakes to notice. In fact, we didn’t even realize our lack of an appetizer until a couple of days later when Tracy was describing the meal to her mom! We definitely won’t hold it against the restaurant since we obviously both forgot about it!

For her meal, Tracy ordered the half fillet with a house salad ($19.75). The fillet came with a choice of baked potato or fries. Tracy chose the baked potato. Her steak came out perfectly cooked and her potato steaming with a side of sour cream. Nothing fancy, just a leafy garnish. That is definitely the restaurant’s appeal; you can expect your meal to be just that, with no smoke and mirrors.

Brian, always indecisive, chose to go with the mixed grill - a combination of half filet, salmon and jumbo shrimp - seasoned to perfection and garnished with greens and a half lemon. The kitchen must have run short on shrimp because two lobster tails found their way onto Brian's plate. It felt like drawing the "Bank error in your favor" card from the Community Chest pile in Monopoly. Every bite of steak was tender and juicy, melting in Brian's mouth. The lobster tails were fresh and delicious and the salmon topped with seasonal butter flaked loosely to the touch. Steak fries were the perfect accoutrement to the, well…steak!

For dessert, our waiter rattled off the choices but as soon as we heard “blackberry” we were sold. The Tennesse Blackberry Cobler, “Fresh Tennessee blackberries topped with French Vanilla Ice Cream” ($7.75) arrived at our table with two spoons. Brian told the waiter it was one spoon too many. He definitely wanted it all to himself! Quite possibly the best dessert the alphabunch has seen thus far, the blackberry’s seemed fresh picked and the ice cream didn’t stand a chance on the piping hot, homemade, buttery crust.

With a myriad of fancy restaurants in town one-uping one another, garnishing their steaks with one extravagant ingredient after the next until they ultimately overpower the flavor of the steak, it was incredibly refreshing to dine at a white tablecloth restaurant where the steak itself was the star of the plate. As good friends often do, we shut down the restaurant and were the last to leave. As we walked out of the dining room, we were met by none other than Mike Kelly, who made sure we were satisfied with our meal. Now that’s what we call great service! It is clear that Jimmy Kelly’s is one of the gems of Nashville restaurants.

Pros: Small town atmosphere, service with a great big smile! Valet parking

Cons: Appetizer mix-up

Location: Louise Ave. off of West End.

Food Quality: Simply delicious

Drink Quality: Strong, proceed with caution!

Service: Genuine eagerness and attention.

Ambiance: Friendly and upscale, great for people watching.

"K"an't wait for "K!"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The International Market

The best thing about dinner this week is that we didn’t have to choose the restaurant! Thanks to everyone who voted, we appreciate your support. The International Market & Restaurant won with 50% of the votes.

As we walked into the restaurant, the first thing Tracy noticed was the incredible smell. The first thing Brian noticed was the tea. The International Market & Restaurant is half Asian restaurant and half Asian market. Brian looked like a kid in a candy store as he smelled all of the tea for sale and picked his favorite. Tracy couldn’t wait to see where her nose would lead her as she made her way towards the food. The food is served cafeteria style in the back of the restaurant. Everything is in front of you, which makes it very easy to pick what you want (or extremely difficult if you are of the indecisive persuasion).

Tracy went for the fried rice to start. It looked delicious and fluffy, and not dry and sticky like you would find in a food court. It tasted just as good as it looked. The sweet corn was the perfect ingredient and made the rice sweet and savory all at the same time. Tracy followed a rice trend and chose rice noodles with broccoli as her second item. With a little soy and chili sauces, this dish was satisfying and so tasty that she had to fight the urge to go back for seconds! Luckily, she also ordered an egg roll, the staple of a Chinese meal. It was definitely the lowest point of the meal, but in no way bad. Tracy would be happy to recommend all of these dishes to anyone. All together, the meal was around $6.

Brian also started with a base of the fried rice accompanied by hearty portions of spicy beef with bamboo shoots and chicken with mushrooms. The fried rice was tremendous. Were it not for the consistency, Brian could have closed his eyes and been certain he was eating the sweet cornbread of his childhood. Either way, rice or cornbread, he was guaranteed to have something on his shirt after the first bite. Thank goodness for the plentiful corn and peas, otherwise his choices would have been severely lacking in color. The beef had just the right amount of spice and tangy flavor. It wasn't stringy like you might experience from cheap takeout. What was interesting was that The International Market used jalapenos to accompany the red pepper flakes- not customary in Asian cuisine. The chicken was as good as the beef, with plump white meat pieces and two-dozen perfectly cooked mushrooms and sweet onions. To wash it all down, Brian finally had the sweet tea he had been craving since last week, a traditional black and green blend with jasmine.

For dessert, Tracy picked out the rice pudding. There were four small servings, which she decided to have heated. After Brian burned the roof of his mouth on the first bite, the flan-like consistency of the pudding was comforting, as was the taste of the sweet confection. It was a reasonably priced, very satisfying meal. Brian even got a tin of loose leaf jasmine tea to steep at home and the whole thing cost a little over $14.

The International Market & Restaurant is a delicious cornerstone of the Belmont area. It is often overlooked due to the trendy restaurant growth across the street but will definitely never be again by these two writers! REAL Chinese food is often hard to find in the south but The International Market is authentic, affordable and absolutely amazing!

Pros: Free refills on tea, Restaurant and market in one, casual

Cons: Sometimes parking can get a little tough, parallel knowledge is a must!

Price: $ An Alphabedible record!

Location: Belmont Boulevard right off Belmont’s campus

Food Quality: Excellent, authentic

Drink Quality: Assorted teas were delicious

Service: Friendly Buffet

Ambiance: Casual and fun for friends to catch up

We're "j"umping for "j"oy "j"ust thinking about next week!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hog Heaven

If you are like us, you have lived in Nashville for many years and have driven through centennial park countless times. You have also passed by a little shack with a painting of a pig on it and have thought every time, “I wonder if that place is any good.” When we reached the letter “H” and noticed how many followers suggested it, we knew it was finally time to try Hog Heaven.

It must be said that the 10 AM-7 PM hours of Hog Heaven are not very favorable for dinner, especially if you are commuting from Brentwood (Brian). We arrived at 6:50 PM, just 10 minutes before closing time. Suffice it to say, our food was probably served from the bottom of the barrel. With that said, here is our opinion of the meal we were served, but since so many people we know love Hog Heaven, we refuse to believe that our experience was the norm.

As we sped up the street toward the restaurant we were praying that they hadn’t closed early, and we were happy to see that the metal gate at the entrance was still open. The building is not exactly impressive – cinder blocks and chain link fence welcome you to a dining room of weathered wooden benches, exposed to the elements. We are strong believers that some of the best restaurants are the “hole-in-the-walls” so the appearance didn’t throw us off one bit. We did decide that due to the cold weather, we would be eating in the car! The menu is posted next to their ordering window and once we figured out what we wanted, we ordered and paid.

Tracy went for her barbeque staple, the pulled pork sandwich with slaw ($2.38). She also ordered the potato salad and green bean sides ($1.29 each) because a barbeque joint is only as good as its sides! The biggest complaint Tracy had about her sandwich was its temperature. It was lukewarm at best and clearly not the best of pulls from the pig. The sides were a little on the small side but Tracy liked the spice of the green beans and the mustard based potato salad.

Brian ordered the pork platter ($6.99), which comes with a cornbread pancake and two sides. How could he go wrong with baked beans and macaroni and cheese, the vegetable special of the day? Unfortunately, the pork was a little cold and watery. The baked beans had a unique, peppery flavor. The macaroni and cheese, probably scrumptious when first pulled from the oven, had begun to clump (as anyone who has come home to a half-eaten pot can tell you). The real disappointment of the night, however, was the sweet tea. Either they got confused behind the counter and poured a glass from the wrong pitcher, or they need an introduction to good ol’ brown sugar and molasses.

I guess you could say we were a little under whelmed by our dinner, especially after we heard so many good things about it. Needless to say, we were ready for something sweet to turn our night around. In all the rush we completely forgot to order any at Hog Heaven, so we drove a few blocks east on West End until we arrived at the first local “H” we saw, The Hutton Hotel’s trendy 1808 Grille (We know, it’s a bit of a stretch, but go with it!). We knew we were in for a unique experience as the steps leading up to the restaurant from the valet stand were positioned on an angle – perfect for those with high heels or a small gait. As we walked in, we were warmly greeted by the host who made sure to find us a nice table despite the packed bar and dining room and even checked in with us a couple of times during our dessert. We could tell that this was definitely a place to see and be seen.

After taking in the atmosphere we both got to pick one of the small dessert plates to share. A half dozen banana beignets ($5) were served in a brown paper bag. A quick shake at the table and they were covered in powdered sugar. They were more like bananas in a blanket than true beignets, but whatever their shape and style, they were delicious, especially when dipped in the hazelnut crème anglaise dipping sauce. As a sweet addition to our beignets, we ordered the assorted chocolate truffles ($5). Two each of three truffle flavors (heath, cocoa, feuilletine) were the just the amount of chocolate we needed to make our dessert perfect.

Our night was saved by dessert at the Hutton Hotel. We may have to go back for dinner before we finish the alphabet. We plan on revisiting Hog Heaven for lunch and hope barbeque bliss will, one day, be ours.

Pros: Price, laid-back atmosphere, perfect for a picnic in the park

Cons: Hours, ill equipped for inclement weather

Price: $

Location: Centennial Park

Food Quality: Average, scraps

Drink Quality: Tea wasn’t sweet as ordered

Service: Quick and painless

Ambiance: Tracy’s car was very warm and cozy!

Please help us pick our next restaurant adventure by voting on our "I" poll at the top of the page!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Garden Brunch Café

First of all, we would like to send a special welcome to our new followers on Twitter. We hope you enjoy what you read as much as we enjoyed writing it. And we hope our blog will help you answer the ever so frustrating question, “Where should we go to eat?” We were overwhelmed by all of your “G” restaurant suggestions and would like to give honorable mentions to The Germantown Café and Gabby’s Burgers and Fries. As delicious as they are, it is our goal to go to restaurants that we have never visited and we finally found one that fit the bill.

On that note, welcome to Alphabedible Adventures: The Brunch Edition!

Brian is actually responsible for finding our “G” restaurant this week thanks to suggestions from a credit card rewards website. The Garden Brunch Café is located on Jefferson Street near Rosa Parks in north Nashville right outside of MetroCenter. It’s a cute converted home sandwiched between a muffler shop and a Popeye’s Chicken. The interior is colorful and refined with an “urban” vibe. The walls are covered with beautiful paintings and photographs for sale. There is even a mic stand in the corner for the occasional performance of jazz music and spoken word.

At least three servers and managers immediately welcomed us and they made sure our table was in perfect condition before they invited us to sit down. Our waiter, Justin, informed us that we were in for a treat when we let him know that we were first time visitors. He seemed genuinely happy to serve us. He took our drink orders and left us with a breakfast menu and a lunch menu. Tracy’s coffee came in a very contemporary mug and she loved the beaker looking glass that the cream came in so much that she had to take a picture. Brian’s fruit tea tasted just as delicious as it looked. We had fun trying to guess what fruits were concocted to make this tasty beverage. To keep you from losing sleep, it turned out to be cranberry, orange, and mango juices.

The menus were not overwhelming, but there was a decent selection to choose from. We found it refreshing and had a much easier time deciding. The lunch menu was somewhat limited with a few salads and mix-and-match paninis. We both decided to focus on the breakfast menu, which seemed to be the other patrons’ preference as well. Who doesn’t love breakfast at any time of the day?

Tracy’s love for eggs benedict made her decision very easy. She went with the Germantown West Benny, which consisted of, “Two over easy eggs, topped with smoked salmon, sautéed spinach, cherry tomatoes, 
onions, hollandaise sauce and capers on an English muffin.” After she devoured her eggs benedict, practically in one bite (minus the bite she gave to Brian), she realized that she never really tasted the smoked salmon or the spinach… or the onions or the capers for that matter! But it was too late; she had already finished her meal. After inquiring, we did find out that Justin accidentally put the order in for their Jefferson Street Benny, “an English muffin topped with two over medium eggs, topped with turkey bacon, and cheddar cheese.” She enjoyed the Jefferson, but can’t wait to go back and try the Germantown.

Brian, notorious for his indecision, was debating between the Pumpkin Pancakes and the Original Breakfast. Tracy nudged and nagged until he picked the more unique and daring pancakes “sweet memories of grandma’s pumpkin pie, warm spiced and topped with whipped cream”. At least they came with turkey sausage to satisfy his inner carnivore. The pancakes were warm and fluffy and real whipped cream made it seem more like dessert than breakfast. Pumpkin is probably the ideal "comfort" flavor for chilly weather and three pancakes was the perfect portion for the midday meal. Brian definitely wants to go back to try the Bananas Foster Pancakes next time.

We hardly spoke through our meal except to say, “can I have a bite of that,” in between mouthfuls. We took that to mean that we enjoyed our brunch more than words could say! We both have plans to return as soon as possible. Want to come with?!

Pros: Ambiance, Service, Fruit Tea
Cons: Limited Lunch Selection, Limited Parking (in the back)

-Price: $
-Location: Jefferson Street in North Nashville
-Food Quality: Absolutely delicious!
-Drink Quality: Tons of tasty options
-Service: Attentive and with a smile.
-Ambiance: Warm and welcoming. We could have stayed all day!

"H"appy Eating!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Firefly Grille

For those of you who follow us on Twitter, we apologize for the tease. We very much enjoyed Fiesta Azteca but learned after dining that they have a second location in Georgia. If you’ve been with us since the beginning, you know that we only blog about restaurants unique to Nashville, so although we very much enjoyed our meal and recommend it, we felt it only right to stick to the rules.

So tonight we ventured to Green Hills and a neighborhood favorite called the Firefly Grille. We’ve been spoiled dining mid-week and were caught off-guard when we called ahead for a table and were told it would be at least an hour and half before we could be seated. But Firefly was so worth the wait. Brian thinks this was the best meal yet and soon he’ll tell you why.

The Firefly Grille is conveniently located (for you suburbanites) in Green Hills , but a bit of a haul for us downtown dwellers. It’s tucked into Bandywood in the “bar district” and surrounded by quaint little shops. If you’re there for lunch, you can definitely make a day out of all the area has to offer. We parked in the adjacent shopping center lot and made our way into Firefly.

The restaurant is a converted home and to keep out the bitter cold, the entrance looked liked the front of a fraternity house on a Friday night with a heavy painted sheet guarding the entrance. For a small space there are an awful lot of tables. The décor resembles the aftermath of a small tornado having swept through an attic full of holiday decorations.

The atmosphere was alive and well on this Friday night. Tables of friends and family, and Brian’s boss (yes, he has a day job!) ate and talked over the distant music in the background. One of the first things we noticed when we sat down was a board on every wall displaying the night’s dessert selection. We both ate a couple bites less of our meals because we knew the promise of a delicious dessert would be kept. Our only complaint for the night was that we couldn’t hear the waiter when he told us the specials! Luckily we didn’t need them because we had enough options on their seasonal menu.

Instead of wine, of which there were many to choose, we opted for champagne in honor of Tracy’s promotion at work. Nothing like a little bubbly to wake up the taste buds!

Firefly had a great selection of appetizers. We narrowed the field to scallops or oysters, but the waiter was little help in swaying us toward one or the other. We finally settled on the “Szechuan style fried oysters tossed in aromatic tangy citrus barbeque sauce with fermented black bean ranch for dipping” ($12). The portion was substantial and looked like something Colonel Sanders would have created had he gone to culinary school. The taste was orgasmic (or maybe it was just the champagne that put us in the mood). The fried oysters were crunchy and sticky and the creamy white barbeque sauce balanced the taste of the seafood well.

For his entrée, Brian chose the “tender Asian-style braised lamb leg in a sweet and spicy aromatic jus scented with blood orange, ginger, lemongrass, Chinese black beans, garlic, kaffir and plum wine, steamed jasmine rice, sugar snap peas” ($26). This Asian-inspired comfort food hit the spot. Brian was practically moaning in ecstasy with every bite as the lamb fell apart with a mere touch of his fork. The complex flavor started off sweet with a lingering heat stays with you in the back of your mouth until the jasmine rice clears your palette. The snap peas were crisp and well seasoned, a great texture complement to the lamb and rice. The meal came with a side salad and tangy vinaigrette. The whole experience was so satisfying that Brian fully intends to request the dish next time he visits - even if it isn't still on the menu!

Tracy stuck with a night of seafood and ordered the “sautéed large shrimp in a ragout of bacon, fingerling potatoes, celerias, shallots, garlic, white wine and crème fraiche, accented by fresh sautéed pea tendrils” ($17). From the first bite to the last, this dish didn’t disappoint. The only tragedy was that Tracy filled up on oysters and couldn’t finish her meal! Luckily we both saved room for a couple bites of dessert. But which do we pick?!

The boards on the wall offered everything from crème brulee to berry cobbler. Since we were both pretty full, we opted for a light dessert with a heavy name, the blackberry pound cake. We probably would have gobbled up the berry cobbler or something equally as heavy but the pound cake was delicate and refreshing and didn’t leave us with our usual “I just ate way too much” feeling. Whole blackberries peeked out from the depths of the slice and Tracy made sure not to miss a single one, once Brain was finished, of course!

Firefly Grille had a neighborhood feeling with gourmet food and we can’t wait to go back!

Pros: Local feeling, casual style

Cons: Inaudible waiter, décor!

-Price: $$

-Location: Green Hills area, tucked into Bandywood

-Food Quality: A+ all around!

-Drink Quality: Perfect for celebrating

-Service: Could have been a little more attentive but it was a very busy night

-Ambiance: Buzzing with excitement and spirit

We’re on a roll and can’t wait for “G!”

Outdoor photo:

Indoor photo: Armando Sanchez