Tokyo: With Money to Burn

From having a chef prepare teppanyaki in your own exquisite limestone-cave-reminiscent dining room, to eating in front of a multi-story glass-paned wine cellar, to mouthwatering foie gras-topped wagyu inside of Tokyo’s most exclusive private club, to painstakingly perfect sushi so gorgeous that you hesitate to eat it, if you have a plethora of ¥10,000 yen notes, I have the places for you to spend them. I also have the places for you to avoid like the plague, places that are date ruiners, places that could cause whoever you are with to look at you with contempt if you take them there. Knowledge is power.

Azuman|2-3-9 Azabujuban, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0045, Japan +81 3-3454-5871
Opening Hours: Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 11 am – 1 pm | Dinner: Friday – Saturday, 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm.
Closest Subway Station: Azujuban

Azuman plays it so cool that, even with highly precise directions and the GPS on my phone repeatedly announcing that I was standing directly in front of my intended destination, I found myself staring at a brick wall, mouth open, baffled. Neither neighboring shop on either side of the alleged restaurant/actual brick wall had any idea what Azuman was, nor recognized the logo on the business card that I showed them. It was a riddle wrapped in a mystery. Just as I turned around to leave, a black-tinted, nondescript door on the edge of the flower shop to the edge of the brick wall caught my eye. No sign, no indication of where the door led to, no clues. With nothing left to lose, I stepped inside. Darkness fell upon me, but, dim light spilled down from the top of the steps on the second floor. Gingerly walking up, ignoring the nagging feeling that I might be barging directly into someone’s living room, I heard the gentle murmur of voices. Upon reaching the top of the stairs, I turned to the right, where a wide-eyed Japanese hostess greeted me. “Irrashaimase,” she cooed. “Welcome to Azuman.” Leading me into a cozy little waiting area, where the rest of my lunch party was already waiting, she informed me in Japanese that it would be just a minute before our private room was ready. Less than 15 seconds later, before I even had time to properly sink into a soft leather chair, we were led away.

Where you wait for your private room to be ready

The cozy little waiting area

As we passed the long communal counter that ran perpendicular to most of the private rooms, I was able to peer into the open doors.

If you are not feeling a private room, you can also eat lunch at this elegant counter.

One of the private rooms

One of the private rooms I passed.

Finally reaching our private room, I noticed that the configuration was exactly like the counter in the main part of the restaurant, meaning that it was difficult to hold a conversation with anyone except for the people seated on either side of you. However, with this configuration, everyone had unobstructed interactions with the various members of staff that rotated on and off of the other side of the table: the sommelier, the chef, and the restaurant’s manager.

My private room seated 5.

The enthusiastic sommelier.

Another member of my lunch party ordered for the table, meaning that I never even peeked at the menu. This was not a great loss, as I doubt they even had a menu in English. Instead of fretting over what to eat, I sat back and enjoyed a perfectly chilled glass of champagne.

A pretty appetizer

My pretty appetizer: tempura something with flowers.

First came a pretty little appetizer, tempura something with tiny purple flowers. While I didn’t care for the sauce it was floating in, the presentation was aesthetically pleasing enough to overlook it.

Followed by this

Ensuite…

The next appetizer was a mystery. Cucumber and salmon were involved, but beyond that I know nothing.

Then this

The hot mess.

The next dish was a hot mess of assorted seafood and vegetables.  I stoically worked my way through the dish, feeling slightly bored and unimpressed with all that had been on offer up until now.

Next, some little plates were placed in front of me.

Next, some little plates were placed in front of me.

Suddenly, glistening chunks of wagyu caught my eye at the same time that three bowls of seasonings and a slate plate with horseradish and wasabi were placed in front of me.  I looked up, hopefully. A chef entered the room. Pensively staring down at his chopsticks, he lit a small fire. A plate of sliced vegetables was placed next to the plate of wagyu. Australian Shiraz pooled ruby-red in our wine glasses. A hush fell over the group. The stage was set.

The chef appeared

The pensive chef.

I was like, "Let's do this!"

I was thinking, “Let’s do this!”

So he did.

He cooked our lunch with a small charcoal fire and chopsticks. La classe.

Yummers.

Yummers.

The wagyu was by far my favorite part of the meal. Added bonus: fried garlic chips!

Japanese digestive soup

Japanese digestive soup

As the meal wound down, I was given a bowl of miso soup, the traditional ending to a Japanese meal. Each restaurant makes their miso soup just a little bit differently than all of its competitors, so I always enjoy trying a mouthful or two of it when eating somewhere for the first time.

Dessert

Dessert

Dessert was a slice of mango cake with a scoop of indeterminate ice cream. At this point I was so full that it took everything in me to feebly manage one spoonful of sugary sweetness.

Looking back on this lunch, months later, I can not tell you how to get to Azuman, even with the restaurant’s business card, even with the GPS on my cell phone. However, I clearly remember the mouth-watering flavor of the wagyu chunks and the poetic melancholiness of the chef. While this is an excellent place to have a quiet lunch with friends, it would be a nightmare for a non-Japanese speaker. Bring a Japanese friend.

Lunch for one at Azuman, without wine, is approximately $150 USD. Good luck finding it.

Dazzle|2-4-1 2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061, Japan +81 3-5159-0991
Opening Hours:  Dinner: 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Closest Subway Station: Ginza

The wine cellar at Dazzle

The multi-story glass-paned wine cellar at Dazzle is the show piece of the restaurant.

Dazzle is yet another somewhat difficult restaurant to find. Even if you manage to locate the elevator and press the button to the correct floor, you’ll notice that you’ve been deposited squarely in the middle of the restaurant’s kitchen, with, in my case at least, several chefs and sous-chefs eyeing you. Don’t worry. You are, in fact, exactly where you’re meant to be. Turning to the right, a small, nondescript area contains two hostesses, one of which will gently guide you over to them if you become frozen in the gaze of the kitchen staff. After crossing your name off of the reservation list, one of the hostesses will lead you to another, smaller elevator. The first elevator you had to come up in was not large to begin with, or even normal sized, so this smaller elevator is one you should only enter with people you wish to know intimately. It is Parisian-sized. You will take the elevator up one floor, and, stepping out, rest your gaze on one of the most gorgeously weird wine cellars I’ve ever seen in a restaurant. It is the focal piece of the main dining room and something about staring at the dark bottles of wine in the multi-story glass structure is soothing.

Dazzle describes itself on its website as follows, “Dazzle’s vibrant kitchen is alive with sights, sounds and flavor to excite the senses. The beautiful open design makes you part of the kitchen as we blend the best of traditional cooking technique with the finest ingredients to create a uniquely contemporary cuisine.” I think that the open design makes you part of the wine cellar, and not part of the kitchen, which is not even on the same floor as the dining area. In any case, it is a weirdly, and wonderfully designed, multi-level space.

I found myself at Dazzle for a wine dinner that promised excellent pairings of Shafer wine with each course. Reasoning that, even if the food was boring, the wine alone would be worth the cost of the meal, I went with relatively high expectations. While all of the Shafer absolutely lived up to its reputation, the food was also surprisingly good, if not innovative. My only objection went to the summer truffles in the venison tortellini, as no good truffles come from the summer. The truffles were tasteless, but that was only to be expected.

The wine dinner I attended

Zee menu.

Here are Dazzle’s DinnerDessertWine and Cocktails menus. This would be a safe choice to bring a date, business associates or friends. While the food is not particularly exciting, the quality is consistent and the decor is intriguing. Dinner for one, without wine, runs approximately $100 USD.

Decanter at Tokyo American Club|2-1-2 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0041, Japan +81 3-4588-0675
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 6 pm – 11 pm. Closed Sunday.
Closest Subway Station: Azujuban

Decanter is one of my happy places. Part of Tokyo American Club, where I am a member, it is conveniently located for spontaneous steak cravings in an upscale setting. I go so often that all of the staff know me by name, which is nice. It is also a three-minute walk away from the fitness center, which is even nicer. Eating dinner at Decanter feels like being back in the States, which is incredibly comforting when constant Japanese food starts to feel overwhelming.

Decanter’s website describes itself as follows: “The Club’s flagship culinary destination, Decanter, invites diners to indulge in its playful avant-garde concept. Featuring an eclectic mix of Las Vegas- and Hollywood-inspired spaces and menus, diners can expect nothing less than impeccable service, fabulous new American fare and uncomplicated dining fun, partnered with one of the country’s finest wine collections. Decanter, which is open to adult Members and non-Members alike, offers seating for 60 in the main dining area, with up to an additional 40 in the dining bridges, FLATiRON and the intimate chef’s table.”

Decanter

Decanter

Low lighting, discrete seating arrangements and luxurious velvet chairs make Decanter a blissfully romantic place to bring a loved one, or someone who you would like to become a loved one. Besides couples murmuring softly to each other, I often see groups of businessmen intensely negotiating deals over $400 bottles of wine and groups of women chatting over cups of tea. The views from the floor to ceiling windows are stunning, the food is delicious and the staff is incredibly attentive. Not only have all of the servers memorized my (never-changing) order, but they also remember whatever I told them the last time they saw me and follow up on it. “How was your trip to Scotland,” “Did you have a nice birthday,”  and “How much longer before your cats arrive,” are only some of the questions I’ve been asked. Everyone working in Decanter is kind, without being uncomfortably familiar, and quick to do any and everything that could make your experience at Decanter any more pleasant. Tokyo American Club’s President is known to walk around the restaurant, shaking hands with all of the members, which is also a fun experience is you are lucky enough to be there at the same time as him.

Zee menu

Zee iPad menu

The finish on the wood tables is sexy, the glassware is sexy and the iPad menus are sexy. The magnifying glass icon, seen in both the above and below pictures, shows you a picture of each item on the menu when you tap on it. This is helpful when stuck between deciding on two dishes, or when bringing a guest to Decanter that has never tried anything on its menu before.

Zee menu part 2

Zee menu part 2

One of Decanter’s best-kept secrets is its incredibly competitively priced wine menu. I have ordered excellent vintages here at a fraction of what I could get them for anywhere else in Tokyo. If you are willing to drop $200 or $300 USD on a bottle of wine, you’ll find that your purchasing power is on par with someone who has $500 or $600 USD to spend on the same bottle elsewhere in Tokyo. Here are the Dinner and Wine menus.

Decanter

A bottle of 2003 Pommard on the incredibly sexy table.

A yummy brioche

A yummy brioche

Once you’ve placed your order, a delicious brioche with black sea salt appears on your table. Fluffy, buttery goodness pared with salt is a flavor profile not to be missed. My record number of brioche eaten before a meal? 3. I have to cut myself off at some point, each and every time. I could eat nothing but Decanter’s brioche and sea salt and be satisfied. When the mere before-dinner bread is this good, you know great things are coming.

Tenderloin with foie gras

5 ounce Wagyu Tenderloin with foie gras

I always order the 5 ounce Wagyu tenderloin with a side of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese that the table shares. Sometimes, if I am feeling particularly decadent, I will order the wagyu topped with seared foie gras.

Dessert

New York Cheesecake

The New York cheesecake is one of the desserts on the old menu, which was recently, sadly, changed. Nothing on the new dessert menu appeals to me, but this cheesecake, if ever brought back into the mix, is a creamy, graham cracker crusted delight.

Dessert

Deconstructed Black Forest Cake

My other favorite dessert from the old dessert menu was the Deconstructed Black Forest Cake, seen above. Oh, the decadence.

Dinner for two, with a mid-range bottle of wine, is $350 USD for members of Tokyo American Club, $400 USD for non-members.

The French Kitchen|Grand Hyatt Grand Hyatt 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0032 +81 3 4333 8781
Opening Hours: Daily, 6:30 am – 9:30 pm | Bar: 11 am – 9:30 pm

The restaurant was completely empty when I visited it last week, at 9 pm on a Wednesday evening. My 8 person dinner party felt very small in the cavernous indoor space, leading me to wonder what had gone so terribly wrong that no one else in Grand Hyatt’s 200 room hotel wanted to eat there. Then, I ate the bland steak and boring sour cherry tart and understood. There was no passion in the food, no soul, no life. It was definitely not, as it describes itself, “Classic French”, despite what was listed on the menu.

Additionally, the service was painfully bad. I kept flagging down waiters to ask for water, which is rather annoying when you can finish off the half-filled water glass in two gulps.

The French Kitchen describes itself on its website as follows: “The French Kitchen offers breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch buffets, and is open all day, serving classic French dishes from Pâté de Campagne and Sole Grenobloise to Boeuf Bourguignon. The restaurant features an open kitchen, a bar, an outside terrace and the “Chef’s Table”, a private dining room equipped with its own kitchen that is ideal for special dinners, private parties and company celebrations.”

frenchkitchen2

The outside dining area at The French Kitchen.

frenchkitchen

The inside dining area at The French Kitchen

Here are The French Kitchen’s BreakfastBrunchLunchDinner and Bar/Dessert menus.

Dinner for one, without wine, is approximately $125 USD. I would not recommend eating here unless you need a place to break up with someone, end a friendship, resign from a job or announce depressing news.

Kazahana|Conrad, 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-7337 Japan +81 3-6388-8000
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 9 pm | Sunday: 11:30 am – 2 pm
Closest Subway Station: Shiodome

Kazahana

Oh, the gorgeousness of it all.

Having eaten sushi all over Tokyo, I have become a bit of a sushi connoisseur. At the very least, I can tell good sushi from bad sushi. The quality of Hazakana’s sushi is no better than the sushi I can get for $10 in the building next to my apartment. Do not get me wrong, the preparation of this sushi is the stuff legends are made of. Unfortunately, you will pay through the nose for it without tasting any discernible boost in quality. Additionally, the sushi chef is a bit controlling on how much soy sauce you can use. I realize that sushi should not be submerged in soy sauce, but some of us like doing that, and no one should try to make us feel bad for doing so. The decor is nice, it is The Conrad, after all, but the taste of Kazahana’s sushi lacks any sort of wow factor. It is once again, in my opinion, extremely expensive for the quality of the sushi received.

The Conrad’s website describes Kazahana as follows: “Sample traditional Japanese dishes given a contemporary twist at Kazahana. Take in the skyline view through floor-to-ceiling windows and appreciate the contemporary Japanese decor. Dine on a countertop and soak up the convivial atmosphere. Indulge in an intimate dinner in a private dining room and enjoy the elegant ambiance. Savor innovative Sushi, Kaiseki and Teppan dishes while taking in the minimalist design of this skyscraper restaurant.”

I ordered the Sushi Set Lunch. This was the first thing I received, some sort of salad from hell.

A pretty ballsy salad for a sushi restaurant.

After the salad, which I half-heartedly forked through, the sushi started coming, fast and furious, as beautiful as sushi can possibly look. When I asked the chef for soy sauce (because none had been provided), he pretended not to hear me. Homie don’t play that. I ended up with the soy sauce I wanted, but not before he explained to me what a mistake I was making. As I was plunging each piece of sushi in the soy sauce directly in front of his face, I felt a tad uncomfortable. His eyes shot daggers at me. I tried to ignore him, but, remembering a long-ago watched episode of Seinfeld, a little voice in my mind kept chanting, “Sushi nazi, sushi nazi, sushi nazi!”

Kazahana

Isn’t this exquisite looking?

Kazahana

A piece of art.

Kazahana

Look at how rich the color of this piece of sushi is.

Kazahana

Yummers.

Kazahana

Hello, beauty.

Here are Kazahana’s KaisekiSushi and Teppan menus.

Lunch for two, with a mid-range bottle of wine, is approximately $250 USD. If presentation is all that you care about, and you are cool with someone trying to micro-manage the amount of soy sauce that you use, Kazahana might be just the place for you.

La Tour D’Argent|4-1 Kioicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-8578, Japan +81 3-3239-3111
Opening Hours: Daily, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Closest Subway Station: Nagatacho

La Tour D’Argent’s Tokyo website reads, “Since 1582, La Tour D’Argent in Paris has upheld a standard of quality and tradition, serving only the most exquisite French Cuisine. It has been honored for being the most authentic representation of French culture and tradition, and has been compared to a National Treasure. La Tour D’Argent, Tokyo, is the only other La Tour D’Argent. It is decorated with period pieces and its rooms have the style and design representations of the many centuries that have marked the original. Let us majestically wine and dine you with the best wine cellar in the world and the seasonal creations of our Chef.”

Wikipedia adds, “The restaurant claims that it was founded in 1582 and frequented by Henri IV; it does not however offer any documentation for these or other claims about its history. Duck, especially the pressed duck, is the specialty (Canard à la presse, Caneton à la presse, Caneton Tour d’Argent). The restaurant raises its ducks on its own farm. Diners who order the duck receive a postcard with the bird’s serial number, now well over 1 million.”

I could not get over the carpet. It reminded me of the castle at the end of each level of Super Mario Brothers 3. All that was missing was the Princess.

La Tour D'Argent

An elegant location for lunch, especially if you played Super Mario Brothers 3 as a child.

The Precious.

The Precious.

La Tour D'Argent

Zee menu.

La Tour D'Argent

Choices, choices, choices.

La Tour D'Argent

Christofle cutlery. Ooh la la. Notice the Super Mario Brothers castle on the tablecloth.

La Tour D'Argent

Aesthetically pleasing.

La Tour D'Argent

Salad.

La Tour D'Argent

A nice bottle of wine.

La Tour D'Argent

I liked the shape of this dish.

La Tour D'Argent

I tend to not like branded glassware but this was tolerable.

La Tour D'Argent

Tasty.

La Tour D'Argent

I ate duck #22047. Sorry, buddy.

La Tour D'Argent

Elegant.

La Tour D'Argent

Choose  your cheese, bitches.

La Tour D'Argent

Delish.

La Tour D'Argent

Perfection.

La Tour D'Argent

Yummers.

La Tour D'Argent

I liked the china.

La Tour D'Argent

What a gorgeous dessert presentation.

Eating at La Tour d’Argent reminded me of every high-end restaurant in Paris that I love. Lunch for one, with a decent bottle of wine, is approximately $400 USD, and is, if you can ignore the Super Mario Brothers carpet, worth every penny.

Had I listed all of the restaurants in Tokyo that I love or loathe, this entry would have become extraordinarily long. Thus, I will continue documenting my quest for quality meals in subsequent posts. In the meantime, いただきます!

Tennessee: Southern Fried Everything

Having been born and raised in the immediate vicinity, I have eaten at a fair portion of the restaurants in and around Nashville. Thinking back over all of the places I’ve frequented, and what I’ve ordered at each one of them, a theme emerges. I tend to order traditional Southern food. Perhaps I find Southern food comforting. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread and cold milk were readily available my whole childhood.

And this.

Cornbread

I would like some of this.

Fried chicken and cold milk

What comes to mind when thinking about traditional Southern food? Fried chicken? Mashed potatoes? Cornbread? Collard greens? Grits? Here is Wikipedia’s take on Southern food: “A traditional Southern meal is pan-fried chicken, field peas (such as black-eyed peas), greens (such as collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, or poke salad), cornbread or corn pone, mashed potatoes, sweet tea, and a dessert that is usually a pie (sweet potato, chess, shoofly, pecan, and peach are traditional southern pies), or a cobbler (peach, blackberry, or mixed berry are traditional cobblers). At least a dozen soups also have their origins in the American South. Some other foods and beverages commonly associated with the South are grits, hushpuppies, country ham, Southern styles of succotash, mint juleps, chicken fried steak, buttermilk biscuits (may be served with butter, jelly, preserves, honey, gravy or sorghum molasses), pimento cheese, boiled or baked sweet potatoes, pit barbecue (especially ribs), fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, bread pudding, okra (fried, steamed, stewed, sautéed, or pickled), butter beans, pinto beans, and black eyed peas.”

Hushpuppies

Hushpuppies

Grits

Grits

Wikipedia continues, “Fried chicken is among the region’s best-known exports. Pork is an integral part of the cuisine. Virginia ham is one example. Stuffed ham is served in Southern Maryland. A traditional holiday get-together featuring whole hog barbecue is known in Virginia and the Carolinas as a “pig pickin”. Green beans are often flavored with bacon and salt pork, biscuits served with ham often accompany breakfast, and ham with red-eye gravy or country gravy is a common dinner dish. It is not uncommon for a traditional southern meal to consist of only vegetables with no meat dish at all, although meat or meat products are often used in the cooking process. “Beans and Greens,” which consists of either white or brown beans alongside a “mess” of greens has always been popular in most parts of the South. Turnip greens are generally prepared mixed with diced turnips and a piece of fatback. Another Southern staple is “Beans and Cornbread,” consisting of pinto beans, stewed with ham or bacon, and cornbread. This is served sometimes with collard, turnip, or mustard greens.”

Chess Pie

Chess Pie

Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

Curious about the origins of Southern food, I turned to The Learning Channel, where I came across this brief history of Southern food: “A medley of cultural influences from around the world has helped make Southern food what it is today. At its core, Southern food is rooted in local and imported ingredients, necessity and frugality. It all began in Africa and Scotland — fried chicken that is. The Scots had a tradition of deep-frying chicken in fat. Scottish immigrants came to the South where African slaves had already introduced a tradition of frying food. Over time, deep-frying became a common way of cooking chicken and other food. African ingredients like okra and black-eyed peas became a staple of the Southern diet, in addition to the homegrown green staples of collards, mustard, turnips and kale. Other highly used crops include pecans and peanuts, sweet potatoes and peaches. The region’s lakes, rivers, tidal pools and oceans served up oysters, shrimp, crawfish, crab and Mississippi catfish. Local game included opossum, rabbit and squirrel, the main ingredient of Brunswick Stew, which historians say was popular in Virginia and Georgia. Prior to the Civil War, most southerners were subsistence farmers who lived off the land. Pork and chicken, not cattle, were typically raised. Farmers working outside needed a lot of calories to get through the day, therefore they indulged in big breakfasts and suppers.”

Of the fifteen restaurants, five bakeries/ice cream shops and 2 bars I have listed, the majority serve Southern food. Since an University of Alabama study concluded that people who eat Southern food 6 times per week have a 41% higher chance of having a stroke than people who each it once a month, I would recommend, as I always do, moderation.

Bleacher’s Sports Grill | 1010 Murfreesboro Rd, Franklin, TN 37064 +1 (615) 791-4160
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 am – 11 pm | Saturday – Sunday, 11 am – Midnight.

Just to the right of the entrance to my childhood neighborhood, this was the closest place to get food when growing up. I always ordered the Mozzarella Sticks, a steal at $5.95. My brother always ordered a Club Sandwich. This may be where my love of fried and cheesy things originates. Though I have tried Mozzarella Sticks the world over, Bleacher’s remain the best. Here is their menu. Also, if it isn’t immediately obvious, there are links to each of the restaurants I have listed in the actual address line of each restaurant.

Bleacher’s website describes itself as follows: “We have been serving up great food in a family oriented atmosphere for over 22 years. You will enjoy signature items from our menu in a smoke free environment as you relax while watching your favorite ballgame or just catching up with friends. We invite you to check out our extensive choice of the finest imported and domestic beers along with our liquor and wine selections. Bleachers Sports Grill is known throughout the Franklin community for great food and excellent service in a relaxing atmosphere.”

There used to be a dartboard right next to the bathroom door. I don’t know if it is still there anymore, but I always thought it seemed like the worst possible place for a dartboard.

A meal for one costs $10 USD.

Bricktops | 3000 West End Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37203 +1 (615) 298-1000
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 am – 10 pm | Friday – Saturday 11 am – 11 pm |Sunday 10:30 am – 10 pm.

Bricktops has the most whacked out salads I have ever had the honor of eyeballing. Look at Mt. Vesuvius-like Cobb Salad I ate there recently, with a substitution of cheddar for blue cheese.

Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad at Bricktops

Their Sunday Brunch is famous throughout Nashville. I always get the Cobb Salad, come hell or high water, but the Huevos Rancheros (two over easy eggs, corn tortillas, black beans, chorizo, and salsa) is what the people around me always seem to order.

Here are Bricktops BrunchLunchDinnerDessert and Gluten-Free menus. The glassed-in patio is the best place to sit, both in terms of people watching and natural lighting.

Brunch for one, without wine, costs approximately $20 USD.

Christie Cookies | 4117 Hillsboro Pike #104, Nashville, Tennessee 37215 +1 (615) 297-0274
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 6 pm | Saturday 10:30 am – 6 pm | Closed Sunday.

I first discovered Christie Cookies in high school. Barring cookies made in my own kitchen, these are the best cookies I have tasted in my life, all gooey and full of melted caramel. Although there are also Sandwich Cookies, Brownies, and Gelato on offer, I always stick with the traditional chocolate chip cookies. Here is a link to some of the cookies they offer on their website.

Christie Cookies

Christie Cookies in Green Hills

Christie Cookies website reads: “Inspired by a childhood memory of a neighbor’s homemade cookies, Christie Hauck quit his corporate job, determined to master the “perfect cookie.” His quest involved experimenting with gourmet ingredients from all over the country and frequent taste testing by close friends. In 1983, Christie suddenly outgrew his apartment kitchen with the receipt of his first order, and hence, The Christie Cookie Company was founded. Three retail stores followed shortly thereafter, and Christie often rented a tuxedo and offered free samples to entice customers. Millions of cookies later, The Christie Cookie Company is known for elegant gift packages and unique corporate gifts and continues to thrive in the retail, mail order, and wholesale markets.”

One cookie runs between $1.25 – $2 USD.

Cracker Barrel | 4210 Franklin Commons Court,  Franklin, Tennessee 37067 +1 (615) 794-8195
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 6 am – 10 pm | Friday – Saturday 6 am – 11 pm.

Cracker Barrel is a part of my childhood. I spent many a Sunday afternoon on the front porch of this restaurant, rocking back and forth on the rocking chairs thoughtfully put out for waiting customers. I love their Buttermilk Pancakes. I have never tried anything else on the menu, despite going there at least 30 times in my life.. Cracker Barrel’s gift shop, with its Yankee Candles and homey blankets, is fun to browse. The little peg game on each table in the restaurant, put there to play with while waiting for the food to come out, is fun. Cracker Barrel also has the people watching ever. Some of the people that come in here that seem to have stepped right off the set of The Beverly Hillbillies, while others are exquisitely dressed, with Rolexes sparkling in the sunlight. Here are Cracker Barrel’s Seasonal OfferingBreakfastLunch and DinnerKids, and Dessert Menus.

Check out the rocking chairs on the front porch.

Check out the rocking chairs on the front porch.

Cracker Barrel’s website reads: “Traveling the highways of America, you drive through the places where many folks in this country still live: the small towns. One of them, just off the stretch of I-40 that runs between Nashville and Knoxville in Tennessee, is a place called Lebanon. Now, unless you’re a hunter and collector of antiques, you probably haven’t heard of Lebanon. But that’s okay because folks in Lebanon like it just the way it is: comfortable, friendly, and a great place to come home to. No wonder Dan Evins thought it was just the place to start a business that, as it turns out, would someday become anything but small!

While working in the family gasoline business back in the late 1960s, Dan began thinking of ways to better meet the needs of folks on the road. Back then, the interstate system was still young and goods and services were hard to come by and often not to be trusted. What’s more, with the rise of fast food, the little places that served up some of the real flavor of America seemed to be getting pushed out. Fast food might be a good business idea, Dan thought, but it sure wasn’t such a hot eating idea. Truth is, Dan always saw mealtime as special – a time to catch up with your family, your friends, and your thoughts. Meals weren’t meant to be swallowed down in three bites with a squirt of ketchup. One of Dan’s stories was to tell how, at the beginning of the suppers he remembered from childhood, his mother would let the family know they could start eating by pointing to the wide variety of country vegetables spread out across the table and saying, “Well, there’s the crop.” Dan began to think about all the things that would make him feel comfortable were he far from home. Things like big jars of candy and homemade jellies, pot-bellied stoves, folks who let you take your time. He thought about simple, honest country food, and a store where you could buy someone a gift that was actually worth having. What Dan had in mind was the kind of place he’d been to hundreds of times as a boy. It was a place called the country store, something every small community once had. Out west, they called them trading posts; up north, they were general stores. Where Dan grew up, in Middle Tennessee, they were old country stores, and Dan figured maybe folks traveling on the big new highways might appreciate a clean, comfortable, relaxed place to stop in for a good meal and some shopping that would offer up unique gifts and self-indulgences, many reminiscent of America’s country heritage.

Well, people liked Cracker Barrel and word got around. Pretty soon, folks were waiting in line for turnip greens, biscuits and gravy, and all the other good country cookin’ that Cracker Barrel had to offer. As time marched on, Cracker Barrel grew. Yet even now, the mashed potatoes are scratch-made every day, the made from scratch biscuits come served with real butter, and the unique items in the gift shop offer genuine value. Things are likely to stay this way, too. Call it nostalgia if you want, but the goal isn’t simply to recreate to a time gone by – it’s to preserve it. Because the way we see it, the lifestyle of rural America isn’t about where you live. It’s about how you live.”

Breakfast for one is approximately $20 USD.

Donut Den | 3900 Hillsboro Pike #2, Nashville, Tennessee 37215 +1 (615) 385-1021
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 5 am – Midnight | Saturday – Sunday 6 am – Midnight.

Donut Den is another staple of my childhood. It has the best Cinnamon Twists, Old Fashioned Cake Donuts and Glazed Donut Holes anywhere in the world. I may be biased, I admit. Here is their menu.

Some delicious donuts

Some delicious donuts

Donut Den’s website reads: “Fox’s Donut Den has been serving up the greatest pastries you can sink your teeth into for more than 30 years. Right in the heart of Green Hills in Nashville, Tennessee (next door to Hillsboro High School on Hillsboro Road), this Nashville landmark is a tradition for families, businesspeople looking for a place to meet, and college students cramming for tests. The coffee is fresh and hot and delicious, and the sweet treats are unforgettable!”

One donut runs between $1-2 USD. Don’t take the last Cinnamon Twist before I get there.

Fleming’s | 2525 West End Avenue , Nashville, Tennessee 37203 +1 (615) 342-0131
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday, 5 pm – 10 pm | Friday – Saturday 4:30 pm – 11 pm | Sunday 4 pm – 9 pm.

I love Fleming’s petit filet mignon. Due to its location on West End Avenue, just down the street from Vanderbilt University, parking can be tricky.

From the outside.

From the outside.

Fleming’s website reads: “A new kind of steakhouse, one with an atmosphere that  is stylish, lively and inviting — an inspired, contemporary evolution of an American classic. From the beginning, Fleming’s has always featured the very finest aged prime beef and fresh seafood with service that is both gracious and indulgent. Our award-winning Fleming’s 100, offering 100 premium wines served by the glass, is an industry benchmark. With a menu featuring Small Plates, generous sides, decadent desserts and an innovative Bar Menu, Fleming’s has raised the standard of steakhouse dining to a whole new level.”

Here are Fleming’s Food and Bar menus and Wine list.

Dinner for one, without wine, costs approximately $40.

F. Scott’s | 2210 Crestmoor Road,  Nashville, Tennessee 37215 +1 (615) 269-5861
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday, 5:30 pm – 10 pm | Friday – Saturday 5:30 pm – 11 pm | Closed Sunday.

F. Scott’s holds a special place in my heart. As evidenced by the title of my blog, I love F. Scott Fitzgerald. Few things are as delicious as F. Scott’s 4 oz. Tenderloin with Foie Gras butter and its White Truffle Parmesan Pommes Frites. For those wanting to splurge, a bottle of Billecart-Salmon’s Brut Reserve Champagne is $155 USD. Here are the Food, Wine By The Bottle and Wine By The Glass menus.

Inside.

Inside.

F. Scott’s website reads: “F. Scott’s Restaurant & Jazz Bar features Nashville’s finest contemporary American cuisine in a setting that combines the comfort of a neighborhood restaurant with flair and sophistication. With more than 300 wine selections and a menu that boasts the finest seasonal fare, F. Scott’s is a restaurant for all occasions, all the time. Located in the heart of Green Hills, F. Scott’s presents live jazz six nights a week, and is a smoke-free restaurant.”

Dinner for one, without wine, is approximately $80 USD.

Gigi’s Cupcakes | 1000 Meridian Boulevard, Franklin, Tennessee 37067 +1 (615) 472-1508
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 7 pm | Saturday 10 am – 7 pm | Closed Sunday.

For the decadent swirls of brightly colored buttercream and flavors such as Chocolate Salted Caramel, Kentucky Bourbon Pie and Scarlett’s Red Velvet, Gigi’s has the best cupcakes in Tennessee. Gigi’s website reads: “Each delectable cupcake on today’s menu was lovingly baked and decorated this morning by one of our 84 local Gigi’s bakers. To ensure that we’ve prepared something that fits your fancy, our menu changes every day. So visit us today and find your new favorite!” Here is the weekly menu.

Gigi's cupcakes

Gigi’s cupcakes

One cupcake costs approximately $3.25 USD.

J. Alexander’s | 1721 Galleria Boulevard  Franklin, Tennessee 37067 +1 (615) 771-7779
Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11 am – 10 pm | Friday – Saturday 11 am – 11 pm.

Oh, J. Alexander’s. How many Friday nights of my youth were spent in one of your booths? This restaurant has seen more of me, over the span of my entire lifetime, than any other restaurant in Tennessee.

Very Best Chocolate Cake

Very Best Chocolate Cake

J. Alexander’s website reads: “J. Alexander’s is a contemporary American restaurant, known for its wood-fired cuisine. Our core philosophy is to provide you with the highest possible quality dining experience. The menu features a wide selection of American classics including prime rib of beef, steaks, fresh seafood, sandwiches and entrée salads. The menu in each restaurant includes a varied and rotating selection of features like Seafood Czarina, Tuscan Steak, Grilled Fish with Mango Papaya Salsa and Chicken Milanese. The restaurant has a full-service bar that includes an outstanding selection of wines both by the glass and bottle.”

I always get the Southern Fried Chicken Salad, but even while I am eating it, I am anticipating the Very Best Chocolate Cake, which is one of the best desserts I have ever had. Monstrously huge, thick and gooey, it is big enough to share with up to 3 other people. Here is a link to J. Alexander’s food menu.

Dinner for one, without wine, costs approximately $30 USD.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams| 1892 Eastland Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37206 +1 (615) 262-8611
Opening Hours: Daily, 11 am – 11 pm.

Absinthe and Meringues, Juniper and Lemon Curd, Pistachio and Honey, and Savannah Butternut Mint are just some of the jaw-droppingly delicious ice cream flavors on offer at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Oh, the choices, the choices. Here are Jeni’s SignaturePerennialLimited EditionSorbet, and Frozen Yogurt menus for you to freak out over.

I recently went to Jeni’s for the first time, so I can only recommend what I, and my friend, tried. “You have to try this,” my friend enthused repeatedly, while eating a scoop of Yazoo Sue With Rosemary Bar Nuts ice cream. I was too busy devouring to my Salted Caramel with Smoked Almonds Ice Cream Sandwich to respond. The sandwich part was two golden almond macaroons, while the salted caramel ice cream was pretty much the most perfect thing I have ever tasted . I wanted to escort it directly to a church and marry it.

Seasonal Flavors at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

Signature Flavors at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

More flavors at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

More flavors at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Absinthe Meringues Ice Cream at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.

Absinthe Meringues Ice Cream at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Jeni’s website reads: “We create ice creams we fall madly in love with, that we want to bathe in, that make us see million-year-old stars. We devour it out of Mason jars, coffee mugs—whatever we can get our hands on. Handmade American ice cream = Bliss with a big B. Every single thing we put in our ice cream is legit. Generic chemist-built ice cream bases and powdered astronaut-friendly gelato mixes? No, ma’am. We build every recipe from the ground up with luscious, Snowville milk and cream from cows that eat grass. With that exquisite base, we explore pure flavor in whatever direction moves us at any moment, every day, all year.”

Yazoo Sue With Rosemary Pine Nuts has rave reviews.

Yazoo Sue With Rosemary Pine Nuts has rave reviews.

Some of the other ce cream sandwiches available.

Some of the other ice cream sandwiches available.

One Salted Caramel with Smoked Almonds Ice Cream Sandwich costs roughly $7 USD.

Loveless Cafe | 8400 Highway 100, Nashville, Tennessee 37221 +1 (615) 646-9700
Opening Hours: Daily, 7 am to 9 pm.

Loveless Cafe is the place in Nashville to go for traditional Southern food. Everything is scrumptious here, which is why one can wait upwards of two hours for a table. The Fried Chicken Salad is what I order, though I can usually only manage a few bites after stuffing my face on the world’s best buttermilk biscuits. Check out the menu to see some of the most popular Southern dishes around.

Loveless Cafe

Loveless Cafe

Fried chicken and biscuits. These tried and true Southern food staples have been a part of Loveless Cafe’s history for more than sixty years. In 1951, Lon and Annie Loveless began serving them right out the front door of their home to travelers who passed by on US Highway 100 in Nashville, Tennessee. Beginning as a party house in the forties, the little white structure that sits next to what is now the Natchez Trace had one of the largest hardwood living room floors around – perfect for dancing the night away. Weary travelers found comfort and refuge in the cozy home and in the food the owners served. As the tiny house became a planned stop for treks along Highway 100, the then private home became known as the Loveless Motel and Cafe. Lon Loveless built and ran the property’s 14 motel rooms while hungry crowds were drawn to Annie’s homemade preserves and scratch-made-biscuits – a secret recipe that remains unchanged to this day.

Outside Loveless Cafe

Outside The Loveless Country Market

Despite cultural changes that dot the timeline over the years, the Loveless Cafe remains true to what started it all in 1951: Serving true southern comfort food, encompassing a time when people ate what was indigenous to where they lived. Before the “super highways,” the rural South was a remote area with back roads leading to treasures known only to those who ventured down them. For years the Loveless was one of those treasures, located just yards from the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, one of America’s oldest roads that extends south from Central Tennessee 444 miles to Natchez, Mississippi. The Loveless Cafe represents a treasure trove of memories “out Highway 100” and the generations of families who regularly return to relive those memories. Take the Oliphant family, for instance, who has eaten Easter Sunday breakfast at the Loveless Cafe every Easter for the past 49 years – now, that’s a family tradition!

That sounds about right.

That sounds about right.

The best buttermilk biscuits I have ever had.

The best buttermilk biscuits I have ever had.

Today the Loveless Cafe serves more than 450,000 guests a year and makes between 4,000 to 7,000 biscuits a day — still using that same secret recipe from Annie Loveless all those years ago. If only Lon and Annie could see today what their little cafe has become. As Donna McCabe, another long-time owner of the Loveless said, “People just like real food.” The Loveless Cafe will always be a place where real people are welcome to come enjoy real Southern food!”

Lunch for one runs approximately $15 USD.

Mère Bulles | 5201 Maryland Way, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027  +1 (615) 467-1945
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 11 am – 9:30 pm | Saturday 4 pm – 9:30 pm | Sunday Brunch 10 am – 2 pm | Sunday Dinner 5 pm – 8:30 pm.

I first stepped foot in Mere Bulles last December, which is ridiculous for someone that lived in close proximity for it the majority of their childhood. Yes, I always knew it was there, regally keeping watching over Maryland Way, but I never took the time to check it out. When I finally succumbed, I could have kicked myself for waiting so long. I could have been eating Charleston She-Crab Bisque for years. Well, better late than never, right? Mere Bulles is currently my favorite place to eat when I am in Tennessee. On my most recent trip, I ate at Mere Bulles 3 times in 2 weeks. Here are the Lunch, Dinner, Patio and Weekend menus and Wine list for you to drool over.

Lovely Southern architecture at Mere Bulles.

Lovely Southern architecture at Mere Bulles.

Besides sitting inside, there is both balcony and patio seating available.

For those that don’t want to sit inside, there is both balcony and patio seating available.

Patio seating at Mere Bulles.

Patio seating at Mere Bulles.

Mere Bulles website reads: “At Mère Bulles we strive to recreate the atmosphere of the Charleston plantation home that French-born Civil War widow, Michele Rutledge, lived in after the Civil War. The War left the Rutledge family land rich and cash poor. Ever the survivor, Michele opened a small restaurant in 1866 on Charleston’s fashionable King Street in a building left to her by her husband. The family was scandalized because no Rutledge woman they had ever known had run her own business. The restaurant was an immediate success and wound up being one of the more popular in the city. She ran the front of the house as Charleston’s favorite hostess, but she also had complete control over the kitchen, which served dishes either created by or approved by her. After a few years, any negative feelings the family had toward Michele’s decision turned to admiration, and in later years she became its matriarch. One thing Michele loved throughout her life was champagne. She was known to have as many as a dozen toasts during an evening at her restaurant, and the bubbly was never far from her stove when she was cooking. Her love of champagne earned her the nickname Mother Bubbles, which in French is translated as Mère Bulles.”

Fried artichokes

Fried artichokes

Charleston She-Crab Bisque

Charleston She-Crab Bisque

I always order the same things at Mere Bulles: Fried Artichokes as an appetizer and a bowl of Charleston She-Crab Bisque as my main course. All of the bottles of wine on their wine list are permanently 50% off, which is a great little marketing ploy. My only criticism is that they do not know the correct temperature to serve Pinot Noir at (58-63 degrees Fahrenheit). Room temperature Pinot Noir is simply sad. I love everything else about the restaurant though.

Dinner for one, with a moderately-priced bottle of wine, costs approximately $50 USD.

Morton’s | 618 Church Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37219 +1 (615) 259-4558
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 4:45 pm to 11 pm | Sunday 4:45 pm – 10 pm.

Morton’s is known as one of the finest restaurants in Nashville, and one of only a handful of place to go for a really good cut of meat. I’ve eaten the Filet Mignon, Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes and Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake. All three dishes were technically perfect. This is a great place to impress a date by throwing down mad cash.

Morton’s has gone a bit menu crazy. Get comfortable before checking them all out: Lunch, Dinner, Bar, Gluten Sensitive Lunch, Gluten Sensitive Dinner, Soy Sensitive Lunch, and Soy Sensitive Dinner. Don’t forget the Cocktail and Wine lists!

A nice piece of meat.

A nice piece of meat.

Molten Chocolate Cake

Morton’s Legendary Hot Chocolate Cake

Morton’s website reads: “Morton’s The Steakhouse is conveniently located downtown, only blocks from some of the city’s finest attractions.  With Bridgestone Arena and LP field in close proximity, Bar 12.21 is the perfect location for pre-game and post-game dinner or Bar Bites and cocktails.  Also within walking distance of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Ryman Auditorium, Schermerhorn  Symphony Center, and a string of infamous live music venues – it is ideal for an early or late dinner to accompany a big performance!  With three private boardrooms, a spacious dining room and Bar 12.21, the restaurant is equipped for any occasion – from upscale private functions to post-work cocktails and special occasion dinners. Morton’s features an extensive wine collection, prime-aged beef, succulent seafood, signature steakhouse sides and elegant desserts – all available during dinner service.”

Dinner for two, with a moderately-priced bottle of wine, costs approximately $200 USD. Dress up.

Nero’s Grill | 2122 Hillsboro Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37215 +1 (615) 297-7777
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm | Friday  11 am to 10 pm | Saturday 4 pm till 10 pm | Sunday 11 am till 2 pm.

Nero’s has great Cobb Salad and Heath Bar Crunch Pie. Here are the Lunch and Dinner menus.

Nero's Grill

Nero’s Grill

Nero’s website reads: “Nero’s Grill boasts a modern twist on tradition. The menu offers classic American comfort foods featuring delicious signature dishes. True to Nashville, the Bar and Lounge promotes live music several nights of the week.”

Dinner for one, without wine, costs approximately $40 USD.

O’Charley’s | 1202 Murfreesboro Road, Franklin, Tennessee 37064 +1 (615) 794-9438
Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am to 11 pm.

This is one of the restaurants I frequented most as a child. I love O’Charley’s. Besides the insanely good rolls that come at the beginning of every meal, I always look forward to eating the Southern Fried Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing and a slice of Caramel Pie. When I was last home, I ate here 6 times in 12 days. This is a great place to come with family. Here is the menu.

O’Charley’s website reads: “At O’Charley’s, it starts with those incredible, unsliceably soft rolls that our guests just can’t resist. Then follow up with our butcher’s cut Premium steaks, fresh-never-frozen salmon, signature salads, inspired pasta dishes, double hand-breaded chicken tenders, Sunday Brunch and more. All served up with our genuine hospitality. At O’Charley’s we put the Oh’s in good food.”

Southern Fried Chicken Salad

Southern Fried Chicken Salad

Lunch for one, without wine, costs approximately $20 USD. I’m jealous of you if you go.

Puffy Muffin | 229 Franklin Road, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027 +1 (615) 373-2741
Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am to 11 pm.

If I am meeting up with a group of friends, Puffy Muffin is always my suggestion. The wait can be brutal but the menu is full of tasty, simple Southern dishes. I always order a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. After finishing lunch, I meander over to the bakery and sometimes pick up a cookie or a brownie. The words that come to mind when I think about Puffy Muffin’s bakery are: spoilt for choice. Here are the BreakfastLunch and Bakery menus.

Puffy Muffin

Puffy Muffin

Puffy Muffin’s website reads: “Like your Mother used to make – or better is our goal! We use the highest quality ingredients in our baking – imported Guittard Chocolate®, Wholesome Farms® dairy products as well as Clabber Girl®, Pillsbury®, Richs®, and Gold Medal® ingredients delivered fresh daily. An Austrian Pastry Chef is on staff to oversee the production of all our wonderful creations.”

Lunch for one costs approximately $10 USD. Don’t forget to order some Sweet Tea.

Rosepepper Cantina | 1907 Eastland Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee 37206 +1 (615) 227-4777
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, Lunch: 11 am – 2 pm | Dinner: 2 pm – 9:30 pm | Friday to Saturday 11 am – 10:30 pm | Sunday 11 am – 9 pm.

Rosepepper is the only reason I know East Nashville. When I am in town, I come here for lunch with friends. The Carne Asada Burrito is as big as my arm, and impossible to finish, but quite tasty.

I love the colorful decor.

I love the colorful decor.

Inside of Rosepepper.

The view from where I was sitting.

Rosepepper’s website reads: “Specializing in Sonora Style Mexican cuisine, Rosepepper offers an eclectic menu only to be matched by its equally unique vibe and atmosphere. With its full bar and over seventy varieties of tequila, it is the ideal jumpstart for a night on the town or a festive dinner among friends. Rosepepper Cantina mirrors the food of the Mexican state of Sonora – a fusion of traditional Mexican, french and native influences. the food is as diverse and creative as the environment, with options ranging from Chile Verde to Cabo Tacos and Carne Asada. These flavorful selections are accompanied by one of the most extensive tequila lists in town. Our well-trained, knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you pick the right spirit to compliment you meal. Located on the corner of Chapel and Eastland Avenues, we are just a few minutes from Five Points. In addition our dining area, we have a large outdoor patio adorned with lights and colorful works of art. Rosepepper is more than authentic food and award winning margaritas; it is also an experience. We invite you to indulge your senses in bold Mexican flavors, vigbant colors and spirited fun. Rosepepper strives to capture the soul of Old Mexico in the New Heart of Nashville.”

Delish.

Carne Asada Burrito.

Here is the menu and drinks list.

Lunch for one, without any alcohol, costs approximately $15 USD.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse | 2100 West End Avenue,  Nashville, Tennessee 37203 +1 (615) 320-0163
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 5 pm – 10 pm | Saturday 5 pm – 10:30 pm | Sunday 5 pm – 9 pm.

Ruth's Chris

Ruth’s Chris

Don't you want a piece of this?

Temptation.

Here is the menu and the wine list.

Ruth’s Chris’s website reads: “Ruth’s Chris Steak House was founded in New Orleans, Louisiana by Ruth Fertel, a single mother of two who wanted a better life for herself and her two sons. She purchased “Chris” steakhouse in New Orleans which had been operated for the 38 years prior. She changed the name to Ruth’s Chris when a fire forced her to move from the original location.”

Dinner for two, with a nice bottle of wine, will set you back at least $500 USD.

The Palm | 140 5th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37203 +1 (615) 742-7256
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 am – 11 pm | Saturday 5 pm – 10 pm | Sunday 5 pm – 10 pm.

The Palm is yet another great place in Nashville to go for steak. I always order the 9 ounce Filet Mignon.

The Palm

The Palm

A nice place for dinner

Notice the wall

Here are the Business Lunch, Lunch, Dinner and Prime Bites menus, as well as the Wine and Cocktails List.

The Palm’s website reads: “When you start with the best ingredients available, you don’t need to rely on overly elaborate recipes or culinary fads. That’s why The Palm Restaurant’s menu features honest, satisfying dishes that reflect the best of our Italian-American heritage – from prime aged steaks and jumbo Nova Scotia lobsters to Italian classics like Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Martini.”

Some of the local celebrities who have visited The Palm.

Some of the local celebrities who have visited The Palm.

Dinner for one, without wine, costs approximately $75 USD. Dress up.

Sweet Cece’s | 500 West Main Street, Franklin, Tennessee 37064 +1 (615) 807-1412
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11 am – 9 pm | Friday to Saturday 11 am – 11 pm | Sunday Noon – 5 pm.

Once TCBY petered out in Franklin, Brentwood and Nashville, I was left with a dilemma. Where could I go for yogurt as good as TCBY’s? Then, Sweet Cece’s opened. Problem. Solved. What I love about Sweet Cece’s, besides the fact that it has frozen yogurt, is that you make your own sundae. All of the toppings are neatly lined up, waiting to be pillaged. You can have a demure 300 calorie dessert or blow it out of the water with a 3000 dessert, the choice is yours. The final price is based on the weight of your creation. Children love this place. Here are the flavor and toppings menus.

Yummers.

Yummers.

Sweet Cece's is quite popular.

Sweet Cece’s is quite popular.

Sweet Cece’s website reads: “If you’ve been inside a Sweet CeCe’s before, you get it. The friendly atmosphere. The sweet smells. The mouth-watering choices. It’s a place to celebrate the big things and the little ones. A place to go to “just because.” Sweet CeCe’s is more than just a yogurt shop, it’s an experience. With a nearly endless array of combinations of frozen yogurt and toppings, Sweet CeCe’s offers an experience that is new every time. Featuring staples like Original Tart and Country Vanilla to crowd-pleasers like Cake Batter and Pomegranate Raspberry Sorbet, there is always something delicious to try.”

One cup of yogurt, with toppings, costs approximately $7 USD.

Taziki’s | 2190 Bandywood Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37215 +1 (615) 873-1027
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 am – 9 pm | Sunday, 11 am – 8 pm.

I only discovered Taziki’s a few weeks ago, but I’ve been twice since then. I only go on Wednesdays, because the only thing I have tried is the Wednesday Special, SpanaKopita, and I have no desire to try anything else. Taziki’s location is perfect for meeting up with friends for lunch.

Here is the menu.

I love the Wednesday Special.

I love you, Wednesday Special.

The Wednesday Special.

SpanaKopita

Lunch for one is approximately $15 USD.

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge | 422 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203 +1 (615) 726-0463
Opening Hours: Daily, 9 am to 2 am.

For a touristy place, lots of locals come to Tootsie’s. The history is incredible, the drinks aren’t bad, and it is a fun place to kill a bit of time on a Friday night.

Tootsie's

Tootsie’s

Tootsie’s website reads: ‘Mom’s was the original name of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Tootsie Bess bought Mom’s in 1960. She credits a painter with naming Tootsie’s. She came in one day to find that he had painted her place orchid…thus the name Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. She was a singer / comedienne with “Big Jeff & The Radio Playboys”. Jeff Bess was the bandleader and Tootsie’s husband. She recorded, “My Little Red Wagon” and “Tootsie’s Wall of Fame” Records recorded about Tootsie’s include “The Wettest Shoulders in Town” and “What’s Tootsies Gonna Do When They Tear the Ryman Down?” Charlie Pride gave her the jeweled hatpin that she used to stick unruly patrons. It is rumored that Roger Miller wrote “Dang Me” in Tootsies. Famous early customers were Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, Roger Miller, Webb Pierce, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and many more. Movies filmed at Tootsie’s include “W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings” starring Bert Reynolds, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” about Loretta Lynn and starring Sissy Spacek, and “The Nashville Rebel” starring Tex Ritter, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young, Loretta Lynn, The Wilburn Brothers, and Waylon Jennings.

A segment of the Dean Martin summer show was filmed at Tootsie’s. TNN (The Nashville Network) did a 30-minute show about Tootsie’s, produced by Gus Barba. Esquire and Penthouse magazines did articles about Tootsie’s. Willie Nelson got his first songwriting job after singing at Tootsie’s. The photo and memorabilia lined walls are called the “Wall of Fame”. Tootsie was known to slip $5s and $10s into the pockets of luckless writers and pickers. It was said that she had a cigar box behind the counter full of IOU’s from where she had given drinks and food to hungry pickers and writers. Supposedly, at each years end, a bunch of Opry Performers would take all the IOUs and pay Tootsie so she wouldn’t lose the money. At her funeral were Tom T. Hall, Roy Acuff and Faron Young. She was buried in an orchid gown, with an orchid placed in the orchid-colored casket, so she could take her favorite flower with her to heaven. Connie Smith sang some of Tootsie’s favorite hymns at the funeral.”

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.

One drink will set you back about $10 USD. It is worth it, if only so that you can tell people you’ve been to Tootsie’s.

The restaurants I have listed in this blog are my favorite in Nashville, but there are others out there, waiting, undiscovered. Find a place with fried chicken served just the way you like it. Become a mashed potato connoisseur. Listen to a group of men playing Mandolins on a Sunday afternoon, while you sigh over the exquisite decadence of yet another, unavoidable, buttermilk biscuit. The beauty of being in Tennessee is that Southern Fried Everything is all around you.

Bangkok: With Money To Burn

Bangkok is one of those wonderfully versatile cities that you can have a good time in no matter what your financial situation. Tuk-tuks will take you around the city for less than 100 Baht. Youth hostels and street food are incredibly cheap as well. But the other end of the spectrum, the dark side of the moon, if you will, is more fun. If you find yourself in Bangkok with money to burn, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Sky Bar at Sirocco | The Dome at Lebua, 63rd floor, 1055/42 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand +66 2624 9999
Opening Hours: Daily, 6 pm – 1 am.

Oh, Sky Bar. It is always so difficult to get a table here, even when you have a reservation for a table. Here is a typical exchange between myself and the hostess at Sky Bar. “I have a reservation for a table,” I say with a smile, stepping off the bottom step of the sweeping staircase that leads to this incredibly popular open-air bar. “No, you don’t,” she responds coolly, looking in her reservation book, snapping it closed when I attempt a peak. We always come to an understanding. Sky Bar is the only place I frequent each and every trip to Bangkok. If I am in Bangkok, I have recently gone or will soon be going to Sky Bar. I’ve been coming here since 2009, since before it was famous, before it was crowded. This is the place in Bangkok to bring a date, to smoke a cigar with friends, or to wow out-of-town guests/your parents. Dress up.

It isn’t that the food is exquisite, or that the drinks are incredibly well-mixed. No. People find themselves at Sky Bar for 3 reasons. Firstly, Hangover 2, the ubiquitous Bradley Cooper movie in which Sky Bar features prominently. Fame by association. Secondly, it is rated number 2 of all the attractions in Bangkok, so if you are a first-time tourist in Bangkok, with no idea what is going on, it is likely that Trip Advisor, or your hotel’s concierge, will lead you to Sky Bar. Thirdly, and most importantly, it has the best view in Bangkok. Sweeping panoramas of the city on 3 sides, with the massive Dome looming behind you.

The Dome at Sky Bar, as taken from a table on the right side.

The Dome at Sky Bar, as taken from a table on the right side.

Trivia: when you are walking up or down the staircase from Lebua Hotel to Sky Bar, are you allowed to take a picture? Are you allowed to even linger for 4 seconds, to stare pensively down at the mass of humanity in front of you or up at the attention commanding Dome? NON! Sky Bar’s staff will spoil your plans. Congratulations, Sky Bar, on having thought up the most idiotic photography policy I have ever come across. You are allowed to take pictures of the Dome from every other angle, but may God be with you if you pull out your iPhone on the stairs.

At Sky Bar, you can have a drink at the bar, which is in the center of the open-air area, or you can have dinner at one of the tables on either side of the bar, down a few steps and strictly forbidden to guests that only want to buy one drink. I have had both dinner and simply a few cocktails while seated at one of the tables, but if you try to get a table reservation for just a cocktail or two with friends, forget it. Having never set foot in the bar area, I cannot give you any feedback except that the people I see milling about there don’t tend to stay for more than 30 minutes and that the guys that hit on random girls in that area tend to be shot down. I’m not a bar frequenter, in general, and Sky Bar’s actual bar area is always teeming with tourists. Upscale meat market would be an applicable term.

Sky Bar

Sky Bar at Sirocco

The Lebua’s website describes Sky Bar at Sirocco as follows: “Suspended in the sky on the 63rd floor of The Dome at Lebua, the Sky Bar is the world’s highest open air bar, overlooking a panoramic view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. With such an enthralling ambience coupled with a seductive selection of the finest vintages, beverages and cocktails in Bangkok, the Sky Bar soars as one of the prized destinations in the city. No wonder, the rooftop bar is unanimously accepted as the coolest bar in Bangkok.”

One drink will set you back $12-15 USD, but you won’t be having it at a table. You’ll be crammed into the glass-sided bar area, or, The Fishbowl, as I like to call it.  Dinner for two, with a medium range wine, at a proper table, will set you back roughly $400 USD. Sky Bar at Sirocco is not to be missed.

Café Mozu at Lebua | 1055/42 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand +66 2624 9999
Opening Hours: Daily, 6 am – 1 am.

The bread basket

The bread basket

Gai Pad Med Mumuang (are you really surprised I would order that?)

Gai Pad Med Mumuang

After a few drinks at Sky Bar, it is incredibly easy to take the elevator down a few floors and have dinner by Lebua’s enormous pool. A bit like Baboo’s weird cafe across the street from Jerry’s apartment in Seinfeld that served dishes from an odd assortment of countries that you wouldn’t usually think about grouping together on the same menu, Café Mozu specializes in Lebanese. And Sardinian. And Thai. And Indian!

Lebua’s website describes Café Mozu as follows: “Offering the best of Indian, Lebanese, Thai, Pizza from wood fired oven and international cuisine in a vibrant ambiance, Café Mozu at Lebua reinvents the staid cafe culture in Bangkok. While you are here make sure you sample the eclectic spread of breakfast buffet at the Café’s poolside. Breakfast in Beirut. Lunch in Mumbai. Supper in Sardinia. All at the hottest new bar in Bangkok. Café Mozu blends the finest Lebanese, Indian, Thai and Western cuisine. Creating a truly global menu that reflects today’s eclectic tastes. Café Mozu features World music and an unrivalled drinks menu. Welcome to Mozu, a place which will be your guide to the cultures of the world.”

What I sat next to at Café Mozu

What I sat next to at Café Mozu

Le Normandie at Mandarin Oriental | 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500, Thailand +66 2659 9000 ext. 7670
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, Lunch: Noon – 2:30pm | Dinner: 7 pm – 10:30 pm. Closed Sunday.

Probably the best French restaurant in town, the hostess will rip you apart if you are not dressed correctly. As in, when I walked in, carrying a very expensive purse and wearing very expensive shoes, she looked me up and down repeatedly, and shook her head, “No.” Why? I was wearing a white Lacoste shirt and a Thai silk skirt. After a few choice words with my new enemy, she let me in. I was so enraged, however, that I merely ordered one $50 glass of champagne, gulped it down bitterly while staring out at the skyline, and left.

Inside of Le Normandie

Inside of Le Normandie

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s website describes Le Normandie as follows: “One of the best-loved French restaurants in Asia, Le Normandie offers a delicious fine-dining menu and an exceptional wine cellar. Situated in the Garden Wing of the hotel, the restaurant frequently entertains the highest echelons of Thai society, from celebrities and politicians to members of the Royal Family. Offering stunning views of the river through floor-to-ceiling windows, the restaurant enjoys and elegant feel with large chandeliers, round tables and stunning flower arrangements. Diners are offered the choice of a set or a la carte menu specializing in exemplary seafood and exquisite meat dishes. Ladies are kindly requested to wear elegant attire and footwear. Gentlemen are kindly asked to wear smart shirts, long trousers and closed shoes. A jacket is compulsory for men during dinner (can be provided upon request).” Based on my interaction with the hostess, Louis Vuitton princess heels are not elegant footwear.

One glass of champagne with set you back $50 USD. You have been warned.

You better dress impeccably.

You better dress impeccably.

The Verandah at Mandarin Oriental | 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500, Thailand +66 2659 9000 ext. 7610
Opening Hours: Daily, 6 am – 12:30 am

After fleeing Le Normandie, my mouth still burning with champagne, I wandered desolately through the Mandarin Oriental, hungry and slightly miffed. My roaming led me to Le Verandah, a much more relaxed restaurant on the lobby level, with both indoor and outdoor seating. I chose to sit outdoors, on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, where I watched brightly lit boats glide quietly through the night. All of the tables around me were full of couples, chattering away happily to each other. It was a lively, positive environment. Mosquitos descended on me in a gluttonous fury, but when I complained, my waiter quickly remedied the situation by putting a mosquito coil under my table. I had the best pumpkin soup of my life here. This is a nice place to come for a casual meal or a drink with a friend.

The Verandah

The Verandah

The Mandarin Oriental’s website describes Le Verandah as follows: “Featuring a wide variety of Asian and Western dishes, The Verandah elevates all-day dining to a new level. Served either indoors or outdoors overlooking the river, our à la carte menu offers fabulous dishes for any time of the day from breakfast through to late evening snacks. In addition, we also offer a wide selection of freshly baked pastries and homemade ice cream.”

A nice view at dinner

A nice view at dinner

Dinner for one, without wine, costs approximately $60 USD.

Gianni Ristorante | 34/1 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Bangkok 10330, Thailand +66 2252 1619
Opening Hours: Daily, Lunch: 11:30 am – 2 pm | Dinner: 6 pm – 10:30 pm

Gianni’s is my favorite Italian restaurant in Bangkok. It is the place to reserve on the morning when you wake up, think about eating Thai food for the 5th day in a row, and shudder. No one knows about it, so it is never too full. The quality of food is mind-blowing, the wine menu is well thought out and the desserts are all gorgeous. I once dropped a piece of squid ink ravioli on the lap of my white dress, while eating dinner here, and they had a Tide Bleach Pen on me in under 30 seconds. I have eaten here multiple times and have never had a bad experience. Their focaccia has to be one of the best that I have had.

Deliciousness in a basket

Deliciousness in a basket

Gianni’s website describes itself as follows: “Gianni is situated in a quiet courtyard, yet conveniently located within walking distance of Bangkok´s major shopping district. The décor is sophisticated, elegant, yet not formidable, with use of mediterranean blues and a mural covering one wall of the restaurant. Bright and airy, it fits any occasion. Chef/Patron Gianni has earned an enviable reputation in Bangkok´s culinary circles for providing warm and personal service combined with first class Italian cuisine. Gianni´s philosophy is to oversee all aspects of the restaurant, paying meticulous attention to the ordering on the freshest ingredients available. We like to think of our restaurant as a theatre in which we are able to perform every day. The dishes, the wines, the setting, even the music we play…everything is geared to be pleasurable. The actors are the people who help us to contribute to this production, and who have learned to love it as much as we do: from the cooks to the sommeliers, the maitres d’hotel to the vegetable growers, the cleaners to the gardeners. They know that their roles are as important as ours in giving our guests an unforgettable experience.”

Gianni's

Gianni’s

Dinner for 2, with a mid-range wine, costs roughly $250 USD. Highly recommended. Don’t wear white.

Biscotti at Four Seasons | 155 Rajadamri Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand +66 2126 8866 ext.1229-30
Opening Hours: Daily, Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm | Dinner: 6 pm – 10:30 pm

I recently went to Biscotti for the first time a few nights ago. For being in the Four Seasons, it wasn’t stuffy at all. The service was quick and efficient. The tables were well spaced out. It was a pleasant experience. While the cold cuts and lasagna I had were tasty, the standout dish was the mascarpone black truffle paste focaccia I ordered as an appetizer. Have you ever eaten something so good, when out with other people, that you’ve felt compelled to turn to them and whisper, “Please give me a moment alone with this dish?” This was one of those times. It was delectable. I savored it. I had to resist the urge to order more of it. Oh, mascarpone black truffle paste focaccia, one fleeting dinner with you was not enough. I want you again.

A quiet table at Biscotti

A quiet table at Biscotti

The Four Seasons website describes Biscotti as follows: “Biscotti is a fun, contemporary Italian restaurant in Bangkok. With its open kitchen, Biscotti offers an intimate fine dining experience in Bangkok where guests can watch the chefs and enjoy the aroma of home-cooked food. The restaurant’s kitchen-to-table dining concept is reflective in the eight-seat chef’s table (visible from the entrance). Simple, home-style Italian food served for lunch and dinner. The business set lunch menu changes every Monday. On weekdays, Biscotti offers a business set lunch menu for busy executives. The lunch includes a choice of two or three courses and comes with the popular antipasti buffet. The à la carte dinner menu offers popular Italian fare, including pizza, pasta and seafood; wines are available by the glass.”

Dinner for 2, with a mid-range wine, costs roughly $200 USD.

Humidor Cigar Bar at Intercontinental 973 Ploenchit Road, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand +66 2656 0444Opening Hours: Daily, 11 am – Midnight. Live music every Monday – Friday from 9 pm until Midnight.

The most beautiful cigar bar I have ever had the honor of smoking inside of, Humidor is the perfect place to smoke a nice Montecristo no. 2 after a long day in Bangkok. The staff is attentive, the clientele is interesting and the decor is tasteful.

Humidor at Intercontinental

Humidor at Intercontinental

Intercontinental’s website describes Humidor as follows: “The Humidor enables cigar aficionados to savour a refined selection of the world’s best cigars. Music lovers can order wine by the glass, elegant cocktails and a range of fine single malt whiskies while cigar aficionados can retreat into The Humidor to savour the world’s best cigars. “

One Montecristo No. 2 cigar costs $40 USD.

Whenever I go to any of the places I’ve detailed in this blog, a sentence from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray echoes in my mind over and over again. “There was an exquisite poison in the air.” Two hundred-dollar dinners, fifty dollar glasses of champagne and forty dollar cigars are all well and good, but in moderation. Life is lived elsewhere.