The Tavern, Nashville, Tennessee

I went to Nashville to eat barbecue and listen to country music, and I ended up the first day at The Tavern, a place a food site describes as “Nashville’s cool-casual gastro-pub.” How did that happen?

After breakfast at the Loveless Cafe, and lunch at Ramey’s BBQ in Parsons, Tennessee, my dinner plan was to head downtown to check out the honky tonks on Lower Broadway, listen to some music, and eat at the Martin’s Bar-B-Que downtown.

You make a plan and God laughs.

Nashville was awash in bachelorette parties and party buses, more of each than I ever imagined possible. And what an assortment of both! The bachelorette always included a veil or sash to identify the bride, but outfits beyond that ranged from pretty bad to neon Jazzercize outfits. There were party buses made from fire engines, wagons pulled by trucks and tractors and front end loaders, military trucks, pedal buses, and (drum roll) a hot tub. The idea of squeezing into a jammed party version of a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life was a bit much.

Nancy and I beat a hasty retreat, or as hasty as the thicket of party buses permitted, and returned to our midtown hotel and regrouped. I looked into nearby restaurants and settled on the The Tavern, based on some great menu items. And what a good choice.

The Tavern is indeed a cool-casual gastropub, very stylish, but they let me in anyway. You’ll have to take my word for it, or go their website. The tables were full of young Vanderbilt women, usually with someone’s parent to pick up the tab, and I have been cautious of taking photographs that include young women since Nancy raised one eyebrow ever so slightly about an anodyne photograph in my review of XO Bistro.

We sat at the bar and I ordered a 1927 IPA by Tennessee Brew Works, which was very good, hazy with a nice citrus touch.

We studied the menu, and the bad news was that they were operating with a limited menu, and some of the things that drew us to The Tavern weren’t available. We persevered, however, and ordered.

I ordered another 1927 IPA and a burger, rare. Well, not just a burger, a nine-ounce hunk of wagyu and strip steak cooked over a wood fire, and topped with blue cheese.  The burger came with fries dusted with parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, and aioli. (Also ketchup and mustard.)  It was dressed with good pickles, red onion, and lettuce and tomato.

The fries were very good, as was the aioli, and the burger was even better. It was a lot of food after six or so biscuits, a big hunk of country ham, and a calorie-laden hash brown casserole at the Loveless Cafe, followed by a ton of barbecue and a thick slab of smoked bologna at Ramey’s. I wasn’t quite up to a nine-ounce burger and fries. After a few bites I decided to jettison the bun and ease up on the fries. Nancy got the tomato, and I addressed the burger itself.

Nancy ordered the Junk Salad, a mixture of just about everything you can imagine from almonds to artichoke hearts.

I was excited because it had lots of kalamata olives and Genoa salami, which I knew were headed my way. (Note to the Tavern: The salami came in chunks. You really want thin strips of cured meats.) Nancy had ordered the salmon cooked medium. She likes it cooked through — salmon is notoriously hard to order cooked precisely — and this came more medium rare than medium. The salmon was so fresh and well-cooked, however, that Nancy didn’t mind, and went ahead and ate it happily.

It was a great meal. The food was top notch and very reasonably priced. It’s hard to get a burger in a nice place in DC for under $20, but the wagyu-strip steak burger was only $12.50. What with that, the one dollar parking charge near Edley’s, and similar incredibly low prices soon to be recounted, I might move to Nashville, if it weren’t for Ella and Lily and, of course, their parents. The service at the Tavern was good and the setting was very pleasant.

All in all, the experience was very good, and it’s on my list for future Nashville trips. And it should be on yours, too.


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