Monday, June 30, 2014

When is Funky…

way too funky? When it doesn’t appear to be clean, that’s when.

I had pinpointed a restaurant in downtown Nashville that seemed to break a number of rules regarding restaurant ambience. But when we walked in and I took a look around, I turned to Chuck and said “I don’t think so.” I can’t say that it looked dirty—it was too dark to tell—but it certainly looked grungy or—to use one of my favorite descriptors—skeevy.

Fortunately, I had looked through the windows of another restaurant about a block or so down the street that had large windows, marble topped tables, and a huge central bar. While knowing nothing about this place, it seemed to be a better alternative. So we headed back down the street to Merchant’s Restaurant.
“Housed in the former Merchants Hotel, dating back to 1892, the restaurant retains many of the hotel's original fireplaces, wainscoting, and custom sconces. On the first floor, there's a casual bar–grill atmosphere and menu on the first floor, while the second floor features formal dining in a room with hardwood floors, brick walls, and ceiling fans. The upstairs menu includes traditional meats: roasted chicken and pork loin, blackened tilefish, steak and short ribs” (

“Merchant’s Restaurant opened in 1988…. The original structure was a three-story building built circa 1870 which housed a pharmacy on the 1st floor, a hardware manufacturing company on the 2nd floor, and a wholesale drug company on the 3rd floor that was famous for producing the alcohol and opium based ‘Blood Medicine’ which can still be seen advertised on the brick walls today. The Merchant’s Hotel in 1892 offered the European Plan which was 25 cents a day for lodging and another 25 cents for a meal. Each room had a bed and a fireplace, and privacy was not guaranteed” (merchantsrestaurant. com).
“…Over the years with its close proximity to the Ryman Auditorium and the honkytonks up and down Broadway, the Merchants Hotel became the place for country music's elite to stay when they were in town. Once the Grand Ole Opry moved out to Opryland in the 70's, the area…became rather seedy with strip bars replacing the old honky tonks. The Merchants Hotel became just as seedy, becoming a flop house hotel and a front for downtown prostitution. When the city of Nashville moved to shut down the adult clubs and take back Broadway as a tourist destination in the mid-80's, Merchants reopened as a restaurant. As Nashville began to grow again in the 90's and professional sports began to come to town, more upscale restaurants came into town pushing Merchants into the afterthought category for fine dining in town. After floundering for nearly a decade, two brothers who grew up in Nashville, Max and Ben Goldberg, bought the Merchants Restaurant in April of 2010 and gave it a clear vision path of what it is today.
A few outdoor dining tables

“…The first floor of Merchants Restaurant is more of a bistro with black and white tiled floors, waiters in bow-ties and suspenders (Ed. Note: Like our server Tom shown here with some unknown woman.)
and sort of a quasi-art deco theme to the place…. It's a little more rowdy and loud in the main floor part…sort of like the people that are walking by… The second floor is the fine dining area where there's dark green wall paper, dark wood paneling, subdued lighting and the waiters are all in suspenders and long ties. The downstairs menu is different from the upstairs menu. Downstairs in the bistro, Merchants features sandwiches, burgers, appetizers, salads and basic entrees…. Upstairs, it gets more eclectic with sockeye salmon, a low country shrimp platter, a rack of pork and various types of aged steaks” (
The restaurant was rather busy when we arrived, and there was a short wait that we spent studying the menu. Of particular interest to me was the list of interesting appetizers that included duck fat tater tots, deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes with spicy pepper jam and house pimento cheese, baked cheese (“ooey gooey cheesey yumminess”), salmon spread with duck fat crostini, and the Southern Fry.

And it was from this list that I constructed my meal, starting with a half-order of the Duck Fat Tater Tots that came with chipotle mayo, béarnaise sauce, and ketchup.
“There are a few black and white, cut and dry, universal cooking truths. You must salt your pasta water. Yeasted doughs need warm, still places to rise. Duck fat loves potatoes…. If your fries aren't quite crispy enough, your breakfast potatoes a little pale and limp, your roasted potatoes oily or dry, it's probably because they're missing one thing—duck fat. We know it sounds kind of crazy, and incredibly indulgent, but once you taste your first duck fat fry, you will become a believer. What makes duck fat so special? It has a high smoke point, so it's perfect for high-heat cooking techniques like frying and roasting. Its texture is very smooth and its flavor is very mild, which means that it enhances, rather than overwhelms whatever it touches” (
I don’t know if these tasty little nuggets came into the kitchen frozen and in a bag, but I can attest that using the duck fat produced a crispy goodness that frying in mere oil could never accomplish.

To go with the tots, I ordered the Southern Fry—a giant plate of fried catfish, fried shrimp, fried okra, and fried dill pickles.
Eying the size of this plate, along with the tots, I knew that I would never be able to eat this in one sitting. And I knew that our day in downtown Nashville would continue after lunch. So I concluded that the tots, okra, and pickles would better survive—without poisoning me—the delay in refrigeration and directed most of my eating attention on the shrimp and fish.

The shrimp were a little small and were rather overcooked. But then I have been spoiled by the shrimp we ate while in Lafayette (LA) and then on the Gulf Coast. On the other hand, the fish were moist and flakey. The okra still retained a bit of crunch, and I suspect that these were unfrozen and coated in-house. And the pickles were interesting, but I do have a limited appetite for fried pickles.

Chuck had a craving for deviled eggs so ordered the appetizer portion to go with his meal.
I had one and must admit that they were almost—I repeat almost—as good as mine. My concern was that the yolk mixture would contain vinegar, but using Southern cole slaw as an example, vinegar is not the essential ingredient that it is in the Midwest.

And now for his main course. I wish you could have seen the expression on his face when this plate was set before him. The best I can describe it was a mix of awe and glee.
The base was a large portion of smashed Yukon Gold potatoes. On top of the potatoes was a layer of garlic studded spinach. (If you look closely you will see a couple of slivers of garlic.) And sitting on top like a crown was a huge piece of chicken fried chicken.

The boneless breast had been flattened to about one-third of an inch thick to speed cooking and was encased in a beautifully crisp coating. Did he manage to eat all of this? What do you think?
What’s that old saying about life giving you lemons and your making lemonade? Well, our (OK, my) first choice was a lemon, but we ended up with 5.0 Addie lemonade.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.


adham said...

شركة تنظيف بالطائف شركة الهدي افضل شركة نقل عفش بالطائف كذلك هى افضل شركة رش مبيدات بالطائف
شركه الهدى
شركة رش بالطائف
خدمات الطائف
شركة تنظيف بالطائف
شركة تنظيف فلل بالطائف
نظافه عامه بالطائف
شركة تنظيف منازل بالطائف

adham said...

شركة تنظيف شقق بالطائف
نقل عفش بالطائف
بالطائف شفط بيارات
تسليك مجارى بالطائف
تنظيف خزنات بالطائف
رش مبيدات بالطائف
نقل عفش بخميس مشيط
شركة عزل اسطح بالطائف

adham said...

ان اردت نقل عفش منزلك بالدمام ابيات الشرقية من اهم شركات نقل العفش بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والقطيف والاحساء
شركة المتحدة
شركة نقل عفش بنجران
شركة نقل عفش بخميس مشيط
شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
شركة نقل عفش بمكة
شركة نقل عفش بينبع
شركة نقل عفش بابها

adham said...

شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بجدة
شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
شركة نقل عفش ببريدة
شركة نقل عفش بالقصيم
شركة نقل عفش بتبوك