Sunday, January 11, 2009

Miss you much (redux)

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

-- Rolling Stones, "Miss You"

Last August, I told you about my favorite now-closed restaurants. I just knew that I was leaving a few out when I penned that short piece. I was right, of course, and here're three more Nashville restaurants that I wish were still with us (I'm sure I'll think of a few more) ...

Old Heidelberg

When it comes to German food in Nashville, most people think of the Gerst Haus. While I like the Gerst Haus as much as anyone, it ain't exactly what you'd call "authentically German." Oh, sure ... they serve kraut and knockwurst and hasenpfeffer and German fried potatoes (all of which is pretty darn tasty), but they also serve hamburgers and other American-style pub food. Again, authentic it ain't

Up until a couple of years ago, folks in these parts could dine in a German restaurant that was as authentic as some of the "authentic" German joints you find some of America's biggest cities. That restaurant was located right smack in the middle of downtown Nashville, and its name was Old Heidelberg (which was located on Union Street near TPAC). Whereas the Gerst Haus - the new one anyway - has all the ambience of a Steak & Ale or some other such chain restaurant, stepping into Old Heidelberg was like stepping into a quaint little German-owned joint in NYC, D.C., or Chicago. Black and white photos of Germany bedecked the walls; soft German music was always playing; and when you were greeted at the door, the person doing the greeting always had a German accent. Then there was the food ...

When I worked in downtown Nashville, I ate lunch at Old Heidelburg at least once a week. For six bucks you could get a knockwurst or brat, potato salad, kraut, a slice of rye bread and a small bowl of chicken soup. And oh, man, was it good. With each bite you just knew that someone's German grandma was in the back doin' the cookin'.

I would give anything if I could have just one more portion of OH's potato salad. I doubt if I'll ever have potato salad that good ever again.

Belle Meade Cafeteria

Back in my undergrad days, I dated a girl whose parents lived about a mile and a half from the Belle Meade Cafeteria. The very first time she and I went out, I picked her up at her parents' house and we went to Nashville's Cheekwood art gallery. When I asked her where she wanted to eat she said (these are her exact words, which I can remember to this day): "Let's go to the Belle Meade Cafeteria. It's the only restaurant in Nashville that makes fried chicken and mashed potatoes that's as good as your grandmother's."

Well, the Belle Meade Cafeteria's fried chicken wasn't quite as good as my Granny Ruby's fried chicken, but it was pretty damn good. The green beans, mashed taters, fried okra, and turnip greens were also darn tasty. And - and this was one of the things that made the Belle Meade Cafeteria one of my very favorite after-church lunch spots - you could just taste the buttermilk in the BMC's cornbread ... and that is always a good thing (apologies to Martha the Ex-Con).

One of the Belle Meade Cafeteria's quirks was the dozen or so bow tie-wearing gentlemen who would take your tray to your table and then come back later to refill your drink. I can't tell you how many times one of these fine gentlemen not only refilled my drink but brought me extra portions of okra or cornbread without me even asking. And for that they were always well-rewarded. Indeed, I don't think I ever once left the BMC after placing less than a $5 tip on the table.

Most of the gentlemen in question were black, a fact that led one Nashville-based food writer to remark that she not only felt "uncomfortable" going to the BMC, she more or less compared the place to a plantation. I sent her an e-mail in which I reminded her of this: most of the guys who made her so "uncomfortable" had been working at the Belle Meade Cafeteria for years, and some of 'em had been there since the place opened in the '60s. It was hard to imagine that those great guys would've hung around that long if they (a) weren't paid well or (b) had been mistreated or dehumanized in any way.

2nd and Goal

2nd and Goal, which was located smack in the middle of 2nd Avenue between Broadsay and the Metro courthouse, had all the trappings of a typical sports bar: lots of sports-related crap on the walls, lots of high tables with stools, lots of attractive young waitresses, er, servers, and a no-frills menu that featured lots of fried stuff. That said, the folks at 2nd and Goal could serve up one hell of a grilled chicken sandwich A 2nd and Goal chicken breast went something like this:

A stumpy toasted hoagie roll. A juicy grilled chicken breast that spilled over the sides of said roll. Sliced red onions, sliced tomatoes, and green leaf lettuce.

2nd and Goal's chicken sandwiches didn't come with any condiments -- the chicken was so damn juicy and flavorful it didn't need no embellishment. Indeed, you had to request condiments for chicken sandwiches. I'm sure a great deal of snickering went on in the 2nd and Goal kitchen whenever some poor soul requested mustard, mayo, or (GASP!) ketchup for his or her chicken sammich (Only thing I ever put on a 2nd and Goal chicken sammich was a dash or two of Tabasco 'cause, well, I can't eat nothin' unless it has hot sauce on it or in it.)

Speaking of 2nd and Goal, I had two memorable experiences there -- and each time I ate a chicken sammich.

The first was in 1998 at a "draft party" for the Tennessee Oilers. The draft party took place two days after a tornado tore through downtown Nashville; thus, wasn't nobody downtown that day. I not only sat at a table with Nashville radio titans (!) George Plaster and Duncan Stewart, my beer-drinking visage appeared in the local paper the next day (I was literally lifting a mug of beer to my mouth in the pic).

On election night in 2000, my bud Mr. Mordecai and I ate dinner at 2nd and Goal before heading to the Wildhorse Saloon for the Tennessee Republican Party's election shindig. We all know what happened that night -- and what happened over the next 30+ days -- so I ain't gonna do no political rehashing. However, I can't think of that election night without also thinking about the excellent chicken sammich I devoured at 2nd and Goal.


Brian Stanley said...

wasn't 2nd and Goal on Broadway?

Joltin' Django said...

wasn't 2nd and Goal on Broadway?

No, "it was" right in the middle of Historic 2nd Ave, 'bout 100 yards north of the Hard Rock Cafe.