As soon as the airplane’s wheels hit the tarmac, I heard founder Steve Mangano’s voice rumble through my head, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, Taylor.” I repeated the words, knowing that at some point they would stick. Surely I would be able to practice long distance eating and drinking during my Nashville food adventure, unlike my failed attempts at food festivals (may the good Lord forgive me for my inability to pace myself or gluttony).
I had a game plan in my mind for weeks. To be honest, I had a game plan for Nashville food since we added our Nashville CurEaters over a year ago. My friend, singer/songwriter James Davy, scooped me up from the airport, and unbeknownst to him, I was about to test his appetite’s boundaries. He buckled up. It was go time.
It’s true when they say make plans and watch the universe laugh at you. I had my CurEat list ready to knock out until the king of Nashville and my dear friend, Thomas Williams, took the wheel and started steering for me. And, I’ve learned to trust everything Thomas Williams says.
Pizza and Biscuits with the Worley’s
He insisted that we try Karl and Sarah Worley’s, of Biscuit Love, new pizza joint: ‘Za Wood Fired Pizza. Standing by the oven at ‘Za, Sarah Worley greeted us with a warm smile. “Pizza is on me,” she said. I was blown away. We ordered the Thoroughbred Hillbilly, the Shroom Pie, and the Ricotta Dip with Honey and Wood-Fired Pizza Dough. I’m pretty sure I said, “Have mercy,” when I took the first bite of the ricotta dip that I slathered onto the pizza dough. The dough was warm with a crisp, pillowy texture. The type of dough that everyone dreams of biting into.
We couldn’t go to ‘Za without going to the Worley’s first child, Biscuit Love. Out of the restaurant’s three locations, we went to the one in Hillsboro Village, which is conveniently next door to ‘Za. (Full disclosure: I didn’t notice it because I was too busy staring in the window of The Grilled Cheeserie.) David Wingo, the Editor-in-Chief of Tennessee Craft Beer Magazine, met us for a bite.
I’ll forever be grateful to David for helping us narrow down our choices. Get the Princess. It’s a buttermilk biscuit topped with Nashville-style boneless spicy “Hot Chicken” thigh, pickles, mustard, and honey. Ask for the Nasty Princess if you want to add sausage gravy.
A Day Filled with Chocolate and Tacos
Day two in Nashville was reserved for chocolate and tacos. We drove to Olive and Sinclair after our biscuit breakfast to meet founder Scott Witherow and take a quick tour of the factory. Our “quick tour” turned into an hour and half conversation with Scott. James and I were mesmerized by his energy and stories (more on Scott later). He sent us home with their Smoked Nib Brittle and their Salt & Pepper Chocolate Bar. The chocolate bar didn’t make it back to the house.
After our chocolate adventure, we realized we hadn’t eaten since Biscuit Love. We passed by a hole-in-the-wall taqueria on our way to meet Jennifer Justus at The Nashville Food Project and decided to swing in. We looked at each other, shrugged, and said, “Let’s do it!” In that moment, I was thankful to have friends who are willing to adventure with me.
Inside of La Juquilita, three young girls sat around a round, plastic table pretending to do homework while their father cooked in the back. The menu was written on a little white board. Cash only. I ordered pollo and carne asada tacos. James ordered lengua de vaca (cow tongue). Some folks would probably dismiss the taqueria based on aesthetic. But like I never judge a book by its cover, I never judge a restaurant based on its interior, especially mom-and-pop shops. Later we told Thomas Williams about our pit stop, and he gave La Juquilita his stamp of approval.
And, Then There was Arnold’s
I was running the food marathon quite well, knowing that we would eat at Arnold’s Country Kitchen at some point during the week. Before leaving for Nashville, Steve said, “Be prepared to eat when you go to Arnold’s, Taylor.” Thomas Williams said the same thing. So, I felt as though I prepped well. That is until they filled my plate with chicken livers and rice, green beans, collards, and brussel sprouts. Kahlil Arnold brought out an extra plate filled with roast beef, creamed corn, and fried green tomatoes. I had one bite of my banana pudding. James ate the rest (plus his bread pudding).
One of the coolest thing about Arnold’s is the line. Thomas Williams said, “The line is an equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bus driver or a record exec. You stand in the line and wait your turn.” I did meet a new friend, Will, who has been bussing tables at Arnold’s for more than 30 years. When you visit Arnold’s, be sure to carry cash so you can slip Will a $10 or two.
The Last Bites
I couldn’t leave Nashville without trying pastry chef Lisa Marie White’s cinnamon roll. Multiple sources told me that it would change my life. And change my life, it did. The icing on the cinnamon roll was that Lisa chatted with James and me for a bit about life. James and I felt honored to be in her light.
We ended our Nashville food adventure at Margot McCormack’s Margot Café and Bar, a French-inspired restaurant with southern influences. I world recommend what we ate, but the menu changes daily. I’d say just close your eyes and put your finger on the menu. Whatever dish you land on, I guarantee it will be incredible.
We obviously weren’t able to fit in 13 restaurants and bars. But between Steve Mangano and me, we’ve tried every restaurant on our “13 Spots for a Nashville Food Adventure” list. Download CurEat (iOS or Android) to start creating your own CurEat 13 lists.