Monday, August 25, 2008

Miss you much ...

I've been haunted in my sleep
You've been starring in my dreams
Lord, I miss you

-- Rolling Stones, "Miss You"

I recently - and by recently I mean exactly three weeks ago today - happened upon a little trailer on Nolensville Road from which hot fish sandwiches and other "soul food" was being dispensed. The little trailer in question, which was doing business in a gas station parking lot, didn't have a proper name (it just had "soul food" painted on its backside), and it had a very limited menu -- limited to hot fish sandwiches (fried whiting fish on white bread, garnished with onions, pickles and hot sauce), fried catfish and fries, and fried bologna on white bread with mustard.

I ate at the Soul Food Trailer exactly three times. First time, I had a hot fish sammich. Second time, I had a fried bologna sammich. And the last time I ate there, August 16, I had me three pieces of fried catfish and three lbs of French fries (I ain't kiddin'). The food served there was obviously very good, or I would not have gone back.

Whilst travellin' down Nolensville Road this afternoon, I noticed that my favorite little soul food trailer was no longer sittin' in the gas station parking lot in which it was, well, sittin' last week. I immediately turned around and made straight for that gas station. I inquired within -- "What happened to the soul food?" -- and no one could tell me nothing. "They just left" ... that's what I was told.


You know, there're very few things in life that disappoint me more than finding that one of my favorite restaurants has gone out of business. Over the years, I've had a lot of favorite restaurants that've closed up shop. My stomach rumbles, and my mouth waters, just thinking about 'em. In no particular order, here're the restaurants I miss most:

El Inca Peruvian Restaurant

I could write about El Inca all day. In fact, one of the earliest A Man's Gotta Eat posts was a review of El Inca. Here's a portion of what I wrote:

My favorite item on El Inca's menu is lomo saltado: strips of juicy beef, grilled onions, tomatoes and fresh cilantro, served on a bed of rice. (The same dish is also available with chicken -- saltado de pollo.)

As much as I like the food at El Inca, what really makes me keep going back is the "green sauce" they place on each table as a condiment. It consists of olive oil, celery, cilantro, boiled potatoes, and imported Peruvian peppers. Ask nicely and they'll give you a big cup of the stuff to take home ...

Man, I miss that place.

Houston's Restaurant

Houston's is the only restaurant on the face of the earth upon which I've ever heaped praise due to the quality of its salads. Houston's salads were filled with homemade dime-sized bacon bits, were covered with homemade dressings (bleu cheese being the best), and featured vegetables that were so fresh that you'd swear they'd been picked that day. I was told, but was never able to verify, that Houston's used produce straight from the Nashville Farmer's Market.

That said, I never went to Houston's just for their salads. No, I went for their grilled steaks and chops, which were every bit as good as the steaks and chops served at Nashville's high-end steakhouses ... and for half the price.

Boo's Hot Chicken

Hot chicken is a delicacy native to Nashville. For the uninitiated, hot chicken is fried chicken - usually a breast quarter or a leg quarter - that gets dusted with a mixture of cayenne pepper and hot paprika as soon as it comes out of the deep fryer. It's served on a couple of slices of white bread, and its topped with a fist-sized pile of dill pickle chips. If you like spicy food, you'll love hot chicken.

Nashville's had a lot of hot chicken joints that have gone as quickly as they came, and deservedly so. Boo's had it a good thing goin': a distinctive pepper mixture ( a unique pepper - the booglea (sp?) - grown only in Louisiana, and an equal amount of hot paprika and sweet paprika), great side items (fried corn and spicy cole slaw, among others), and a rotund proprietor straight out of Cajun central-casting (who was quick with what seemed like an endless repertoire of off-color jokes). Boo's was featured on WNPT's Tennessee Crossroads program 'bout four years ago, and then the place was gone ... replaced with a barber shop.

Boo's always had a steady stream of customers, so I was at a loss as to why the place closed. I still don't know why it closed, but I do know thisdo know this: I miss Boo's!

Elliston Place II

I lived for a short time about a quarter-mile from Elliston Place II -- or The Two, as my friends and I called it -- which was located on Nolensville Road in South Nashville. I never quite understood why the place was called "Elliston Place II," seeing that it was located a good six miles from Elliston Place. (And I was never able to locate Elliston Place I. Perhaps it was in North Nashville!)

The Two turned out some pretty good soul food for lunch and dinner (fried chicken, meatloaf, turkey and dressing, taters, beans, turnip greens, etc.), but it was the all-you-can-eat catfish, served every Friday and Saturday night, that made The Two a go-to place for me. The Two not only served up some of the crispiest catfish in town, they made their own tarter sauce, which was equal parts sweet and tangy and full of chunks of dill pickle.

The Two closed about five years ago. If you know anything about the restaurant scene on Nolensville Road, you can pretty much guess what replaced it.

Cafe Orient

Cafe Orient was owned by a chap from Japan who also had (and maybe still does) a pretty popular catering business. The sushi served there was first-rate, but it was the Thai-inspired dishes that I enjoyed most.

One particular dish featured juicy chunks of pork, and long strips of green peppers, jalape├▒os, onions, and carrots, which'd been simmered in a spicy, garlic-filled sauce. I would take a spoon and ladle the sauce over white rice, and eat the meat/vegetable mixture and rice separately. It was like getting two different dishes in one ... and I always had plenty of leftovers!

Cafe Orient didn't stay open for very long, a victim perhaps of the fact that it opened right across the street from the well-established - and damn popular - Your Choice Asian restaurant.

Joe's Hot Fish & Soul Food

I discovered Joe's pretty much by accident. I was driving down Nolensville Road one day when I had to turn around to retrieve something I'd left at home. I turned around in Joe's parking lot (Joe's shared a parking lot with a Shell gas station) and came to a dead stop when I saw how many people were standing in line inside the restaurant. Intrigued, I went there for lunch the very next day. And I went back the day after that. To say that I was impressed with Joe's soul food is a profound understatement. Indeed, it quickly made its way to near the very top of my favorite soul food restaurants ... and it was close to my house, which was a plus.

Joe's had a pretty good spread of Southern-style meats and sides, but there were two things served there that kept me coming back for more. First, Joe's had some of the best fried cornbread I'd ever had. A lot of soul food joints have a hard time frying crispy cornbread without having it taste burnt. Not so with Joe's. I never - and I mean never - had a piece of cornbread from Joe's that wasn't cooked to perfection. Second, Joe's was the only restaurant in which I've ever eaten that served fried pork steaks like my Granny Ruby used to make. I probably frequented Joe's two-dozen times, and there were only two times when I went there that I didn't have their pork steaks ('cause they were out of 'em).


Anonymous said...

I miss the Mr. Gatti's from when Harding Mall closed

BP said...

"Elliston Place I" was probably refering to Elliston Place Soda Shop. Right?

Joltin' Django said...

"'Elliston Place I' was probably refering to Elliston Place Soda Shop. Right?"

I thought of that. I inquired in Elliston Place Soda Shop and Elliston Place II if there was, or ever had been, a connection between the two. I got a "negative" in both eating places. The folks who owned The Two may've very well wanted to associate themselves with the EP Soda Shop. Or perhaps they opened up as an extention of a long-closed meat-and-three somewhere else on Elliston Place. I guess the world will never know ...

Brian Stanley said...

That is the best thing you have written in months! Sorry but it is!

Anonymous said...

I cant believe you didnt mention wilma kayes cajun over by the dam. you dont know so much.