and I was sure that I felt a few rain drops. What do we do to get out of the rain? Chuck suggested lunch, but it was only 11:30, and I thought it was a bit too early, but as Chuck said, “It’s never too early.” And it wasn’t. In fact, we weren’t any too soon. Not because the heavens opened and a deluge ensued, but because when we arrived at Puckett’s Grocery we snagged one of the last two empty tables.
As Chuck mentioned yesterday, Franklin (TN) is a popular tourist destination, and many such tourists arrive on bus tours. How did we know? Because they are walking around town with badges in plastic pouches hung around their necks. Always a dead give-away. But the crowd at Puckett’s seemed to be a mix of locals and tourists. This is indeed a popular restaurant.
“As a young man, Andy Marshall felt his future involved following in his father’s footsteps, never imagining he’d be among the most successful restaurateurs in Nashville. ‘I was raised in the grocery business,’ Marshall says. ‘I started working in the back room at 14; by 16, I was in produce; by the time I went to college, it was all I knew.’ Today Puckett’s, with five locations, a food trolley, two event venues, and a high-end restaurant concept, Gray’s On Main in Franklin, thrives….”
While the interior—what we could see through the crowd—evokes the spirit of a grocery, I suspect that the shelf displays are really visible storage for items used in the kitchen.
Now let’s take a long walk down memory lane. Growing up, it was Chuck’s task every Saturday to run into the local grocery store (Park’s Brothers, which, alas, no longer exists) to obtain a pound of bologna for his and his brother and sister’s school lunches. Chuck carried his lunch to school in a blue lunch box (mine was plaid and thank heaven that these were the days before The Little Pony), and we both remember frequently dropping our thermoses and breaking the glass lining which made a musical sound when shaken.
But to this day, Chuck still retains a fondness for bologna—one that I don’t totally share—so he couldn’t resist the lure of what the menu called “poor man’s steak”—the Smoked Bologna sandwich.
With his sandwich came a side of really good shoestring fries, and he added a side of good skin-on potato salad.
Puckett’s still offers daily plate lunches (or “meat and threes”), and the day’s offerings were chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and BBQ pulled pork. But the minute I saw the menu I knew what I wanted—the Music City Hot Chicken Sandwich.
“Eating hot chicken in Nashville isn’t just food to fill the belly. It’s entertainment. An event. An ordeal. It overtakes the senses like a Hank song—all tears, fire, and passion. And that might be part of why it has a home in Music City—and until recently, almost no place else. Let Buffalo have its vinegary wing and Philadelphia its greasy cheese steak. In Nashville, no dish better embodies the city’s mix of high and low culture, the global reach of its booming economy and the down home nooks where the people behind it gather, than searingly-hot, flame-colored fried chicken.
“…In its most traditional form, hot chicken is fried in an iron skillet and caked in a cayenne paste until reddish-rust in color, resembling nothing so much as a rock from the surface of Hell. It arrives glowing atop white bread turned orange from those spicy drippings, with pickle rounds on the side.
I am not sure that Puckett’s was prepared as described above, and from the vinegar tang, I suspect hot sauce played a part somewhere. And I also suspect that on a scale of hotness the chicken on my sandwich would fall somewhere from mild to medium, but it was certainly hot enough for me. In fact, I did find myself frequently taking a “spoonful of cooling slaw” to tamp down the spice. The chicken was crisp and moist, and I am glad that I had the chance to try it. But I am not sure that I would order it again.
Well, the rain never did appear, so we set forth, following a really good 4.5 Addie lunch, to continue our tour of Historic Franklin, Tennessee.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.