Five years can seem long yet pass in a blink; through the ever-changing lens of Nashville’s boomtown life, the year 2014 feels more like a decade ago. Boomtown or not, five years in any restaurant’s life is a major milestone.
It’s been five years since The Melrose, a retail strip bracketed by Sinema Restaurant+Bar in the former Art Moderne movie house at one end, The Sutler Saloon at the other, opened in its repurposed form. It was an instance where existing buildings were preserved, restored and incorporated into a multi-use neighborhood project. We hadn’t dined at either Sinema or The Sutler in a spell and decided to check in with both at this significant anniversary.
2600 Franklin Pike, Nashville; 615-840-6124
When business partners Austin Ray and Joe Parkes Jr. revived The Sutler (Johnny Potts’ legendary watering hole which had a 30-year run, 1976-2006), they kept it true to its roots — a casual hang for good eats, drinks and live music. (The packed weekend Bluegrass Brunches attest to that.) Over time, things have evolved: The Southern pub menu has become less cheffy, the downstairs cocktail bar more polished, yet accessible, and the beloved dive-y billiard parlor has a renewed, still dive-y life. Looks like The Sutler et al will be a Nashville fixture for another 30 years.
A group of us recently cruised in for a midday meal. We found some new items, old favorites and a Lunch Express menu. All told, everyone came away full and content.
First of all, don’t pass over the hot catfish tacos. Planks of the sweet fillet are battered-and-fried to a toothsome crisp, with the right kick of heat. Give ’em a spritz of lime. Served in a corn tortilla topped with kale-peanut slaw and a swipe of comeback sauce, these are absolutely dee-lish.
You can’t go wrong, either, with the cold-smoked roast beef sandwich, chilled rosy slices piled on a sesame bun with pickled onions, chimichurri and horseradish cream sauces. Or the meatloaf patty melt, which, with its bacon-wrapped slab, nestled with Swiss cheese and grilled onion on rye, is not for the faint of heart. Get a side of citrusy avocado salad to assuage any guilt and bring balance.
Iterations of chicken and waffles abound in this town, and we’re partial to The Sutler’s. So good, it has a firm place on both main and brunch menus. Its foundation is a cheddar and scallion laced cornmeal waffle (scrumptious on its own) and its counterpart, a buttermilk fried chicken breast (boneless, yet with tender, juicy meat). Slather on the whipped butter; pour over the cinnamon-bourbon spiked syrup and dig in. Yee-haw.
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