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Posts tagged ‘Big Star’

If You Build It…

…They Will Come.

We know that it takes time for cities to grow and develop. We love Nashville and have been thrilled to see so many great changes in the last 5 years. Here are some examples that we have found in our travels that we feel could help make Nashville even better.

Type of Spot: High Quality Taqueria and Dive Bar

Example: Big Star, Chicago, IL

Why: This spot in Wicker Park in Chicago was created by one of the country’s top chefs, Paul Kahan, as a cash-only place to come and grab a beer/whiskey/cocktail and a few high quality tacos. It has great outdoor seating and updated garage-type feel to the inside. Old Country music plays on a record player and the vibe is laid-back and hip. The food, though, is fantastic and despite its simple menu you want more of their chips/guac, tacos al pastor and fish tacos. Truly one of the coolest places we’ve been to in our recent travels and affordable to everyone. We know of a perfect spot for it in 12South…hint hint…the corner of Kirkwood and 12th.

Who Could Do It: Teresa Mason, mas tacos por favor with Alexis Stoler, No. 308

Type of Spot: Killer Boutique Hotel

Example: Ace Hotel, Portland and Hotel San Jose, Austin

Why: When we asked ourselves the question, “Where would we want to stay if we didn’t live here and came to visit?” and we honestly couldn’t answer. Staying Downtown is where most folks go when they visit, but really, how much do locals really go down there on a nightly basis? Even so, where would you stay? It would be a chain hotel. Hutton Hotel seems cool but its location seems neither here nor there, not really close enough to be able to navigate on foot. Two places that would be primed for a boutique hotel would be the 12South neighborhood or 5 Points in East Nashville. Somewhere where you could come if you were just visiting or if you were a hip musician and wanted a unique stay with interesting decor to hang around a cool neighborhood to get a real taste of Nashville.  It could even have a great outside bar and pool like Hotel San Jose. There is nothing here like that and both of the places listed above are hot spots that are cool and add a lot of character to their cities. It would be perfect here, especially with the number of musicians that visit our city for extended periods of time to record.

Who Could Do It: Liz Lambert, Hotel San Jose, Austin

Type of Spot: A Great Place to Run By the Water

Example: Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Seattle, Portland, Tampa…basically most every other city

Why: A place where people can run/walk/bike by the water would be one of the things highest on this list. In our city you can run at Percy Warner or Edwin Warner Park (very nice but hilly), Centennial Park (pretty during the day but only a 1 mile loop), Vandy Loop (mostly traffic lights and cars), Shelby Bottoms Park (a bit isolated and honestly doesn’t feel the safest), or with East Nastys (fantastic but it involves running through East Nashville neighborhoods/streets). If you go to any of those cities listed above the water is a focal point for their cities and the water is where there is so much beauty and where locals run on their paths and trails. We have the Cumberland River, which nothing Downtown actually faces, and which is basically used for nothing. It could be used for a trail like this – somewhere where you could explore the city whether you lived here or were visiting. It would make a huge difference in our city.

Who Could Do It: The Mayor

Type of Spot: Great NY Style Pizza and Hot Spot

Example: Home Slice Pizza, Austin, TX

Why: Nashville has several restaurants with great pizzas – City House and Margot Cafe – but these are gourmet wood fired pizzas rather than thin crust NY style. We really do not have great NY style pizza here in our opinion. Mafiaoza’s is more of a 2 for 1 Tuesday bar scene. Pizza Perfect is fine but not spectacular. Five Points Pizza is closer to the right idea but the pizza is not quite there. In Austin, on South Congress, Home Slice Pizza sits with a fun, funky vibe, fantastic NY style pizza, local beer on tap and is a great hot spot for foodies, hipsters and families. The restaurant even closes briefly each year so the staff can go to NYC to sample the pizzas there.

Who Could Do It: Chef Tandy Wilson, City House and we hear rumors of the delicious Antico Pizza from Atlanta expanding to Nashville

Type of Spot: The Modern Diner

Example: 24 Diner, Austin, TX

Why: A growing dining trend in larger cities is the concept of the “Modern Diner”. These places are using local and sustainable ingredients in a farm-to-table approach and making chef inspired creative comfort food. We have legendary greasy spoons and Meat-and-Threes but these places can certainly be supplemented with something more updated and eclectic/unique. A place where you could get a roasted banana and brown sugar milkshake or a well prepared Sazerac or a Brooklyn Lager on tap.

Who Could Do It: Chef John Stephenson, Fido

Type of Spot: Upper Echelon Bakery

Example: Huckleberry Cafe, Santa Monica, CA and Tartine Bakery, San Francisco, CA

Why: These spots make amazing pastries and breads for local restaurants as well at their cafes. They also brew high quality local coffee and serve fantastic breakfasts and brunches. They have lines out of the door and national attention. We have nothing even close to this.

Who Could Do It: Chef Margot McCormack, Margot Cafe and Marche or Silke’s Old World Breads

Type of Spot: Casual Counter Restaurant featuring High Quality Local Ingredients

Example: Evoe, Portland, OR

Why: This counter cafe is located within a fantastic gourmet small grocery called Pastaworks. It features a wonderful chef, Kevin Gibson, using the freshest seasonal local ingredients. His menu is written on a large chalkboard wall and changes frequently. The key here is that he lets the quality ingredients shine and keeps his dishes simple. Pristine Deviled Eggs, salads and sandwiches that aren’t over or under done. A deft touch and great ingredients is all that he needs. We love the Silly Goose but we feel that a spot where “less is more” with a simpler approach to dishes would be fantastic.

Who Could Do It: Chef Margot McCormack, Margot Cafe and Marche or Chef John Stephenson, Fido

Type of Spot: Excellent New Tavern or Gastropub

Example: The Publican, Chicago or Brave Horse Tavern, Seattle

Why: In Nashville there aren’t that many places to go to get a really good beer on tap. 12South Taproom has a good selection of predominantly Southern microbrews but its vibe is definitely casual and more of a place to get a beer outside than a place to find high quality chef driven food. Flying Saucer is a chain and until recently was a smokestack. Yazoo Brewery is a fantastic spot for a Yazoo, but naturally, that is all that they have.  We have Whiskey Kitchen, which is more of a whiskey lounge with pub food and not the easiest place to get in and out of in the Gulch and Tavern which has a more creative menu but a very limited beer selection. The Publican is a European style pub with an amazing list of European beers – mostly Belgian – and a wonderful menu with mussels, frites and creative uses of pig. The Brave Horse Tavern in Seattle is a more laid back and casual spot and has a great list of local Northwest beers on tap, unreal pretzels and great quality pub food from one of the top chefs in Seattle, Tom Douglas. It also is a great spot to throw darts or play shuffleboard and has ample seating. A spot where folks who love a great selection of some of the world’s best beers and can also have even better quality food would do great here.

Who Could Do It: The Goldberg Brothers, The Patterson House and The Catbird Seat

Chicago 2.0

We like to think of this site as our hobby . We also like to think it is our ‘duty’ to try the some of the best restaurants wherever we are, so that we can pass along that knowledge to others. 🙂 Steve does a great job researching each city months before we even get there. He meticulously looks through articles, reads reviews and listens to what the locals have to say. He puts pressure on himself to come up with an All-Star line up, but we never know how it will end up until we try it for ourselves. This trip, he knocked it out of the park! Here is a day-to-day recap of our findings!


Checked in at The James Hotel

Lunch at RL Restaurant: we met up with a friend here for classic traditional American fare in a cozy spot just off of the Magnificent Mile.

Dinner at The Purple Pig:  “Cheese, Swine, and Wine” is their slogan and they nail all 3 of these in this new fantastic restaurant along Michigan Avenue.  We loved everything we sampled from their menu which consists of variations on rustic Mediterranean small plates.  Extensive and excellent wine list – including a few of our favorite wines – Juan Gil and Clio from Spain.  The Fried Deviled Egg with Arugula and Caper Berries, Charred Cauliflower with Toasted Breadcrumbs, Cornichons and Parsley as well as their Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes were some of the best dishes we’ve had in Chicago.  Voted one of the Best New Restaurants in the America by Bon Appetit in 2010. Press: Bon Appetit


Breakfast at Bongo Room: Our return to The Bongo Room was as good, if not better, than our first visit.  After a 4 mile jog from Downtown to Wicker Park our stomachs were ready for its creative takes on breakfast fare.  After downing a liter of water and 4 cups of their special Bongo Room coffee blend from Intelligentsia we were sufficiently hydrated, caffeinated, and ready to eat.  We chose a combo of savory and sweet with their Veggie Croissant Sandwich and the Red Velvet Chocolatey Cocoa Hotcakes topped with warm vanilla creme and toasted walnuts.  Yes, you read that right.  The pancakes were decadently delicious!

Lunch at Big Star: this Taqueria/Dive Bar in Wicker Park from the same team of Blackbird/Avec/The Publican instantly became one of our favorite spots in Chicago.  Their outside patio has a casual and eclectic vibe with bright yellow metal chairs surrounding reflective silver tables while the inside bar/restaurant area is like the inside of a large car garage.  Pull a seat up to the bar and enjoy some honky tonk music played on an old record player and try some of their fantastic guac, salsa, tacos, beer, and one of their rotating $3 whiskeys of the day. Cash only.

Drinks at The Publican: We wanted to make a return to The Publican a priority this trip – both to get some interior photos of this unique gastropub and to try some of their hard to find Belgian and European beers.  We were successful on both goals and loved the Bellegems Bruin – a Flanders style ale from Belgium (similar to our favorite Monk’s Cafe) and the Weihenstephaner Vitus from Germany – a Hefeweizen-Bock beer.

Dinner at Blackbird: this contemporary restaurant in the West Loop area from chef Paul Kahan has been a destination spot for foodies since it opened in 1998 and has maintained it’s creativity, reputation and high quality.  The space is surprisingly small with a clean white minimalist aesthetic that is intimate yet not cramped.  The aged pekin duck breast with green garbanzos, tequila braised radish, watermelon and white sesame as well as the duck fat poached elk strip loin with whole wheat knefla, crispy broccoli, strawberries and bergamot cream were perfectly prepared and easily among two of the top dishes we have tasted anywhere.


Coffee at Intelligentsia: We dropped in for a cup of their artisanal coffee after another 4 mile run.  Blessed with a beautiful morning, this run went down the picturesque Lake Shore Drive on Lake Michigan around the Aquarium and up through Grant and Millenium Parks – culminating in an overheated Steve jumping in front of several kids to get doused with cold water from the Crown Fountain.

Lunch at Grahamwich: re-invented classic soda and sandwich shop by Graham Elliot.  He has created tasty and affordable takes on classic sandwiches in a fun, clean, vibrant site.  Stop in for a french press coffee and pastry in the morning or stop by for one of their gourmet sandwiches from a rotating menu and some of their homemade potato chips for lunch!  We loved their Grilled Cheese and Pastrami Reuben.

Snacks at Fox & Obel: gourmet market, cafe, and bistro with a  great selection of beers, wine, cheese, breads and pastries.  The Lemon Blueberry Shortbread Bites were a yummy treat.

Dinner at Gilt Bar: well prepared classic cocktails and upscale affordable gastropub fare in this River North hotspot.  We enjoyed their Le Bar St. Germain Cocktail and Housemade Bolognese with bucatini, charred tomato and parmesan.


Breakfast at XOCO: casual Mexican “street food” from Top Chef Master Rick Bayless.  The Wood Oven Chicken Chilaquiles and Torreja (Wood Oven French toast with Bacon-Pecan Sprinkles) and Cafe con Leche were all fantastic and a better value than the food next door at Frontera Grill.  Open for breakfast and lunch.

Lunch at GT Fish and Oyster: highly anticipated newly opened seafood restaurant Downtown with absolutely gorgeous interior and wonderful food.  Clean modern interior with a wooden boomerang-shaped standing-bar in the bar area and beautifully designed chalk art on the wall in the main dining room.  The lobster roll was fantastic and the key lime pie – deconstructed in layers in a jar with crumbled ginger snaps and toasted marshmallow topping was the best dessert we have had in a long time.

Dinner at Girl and the Goat: this West Loop gem from Top Chef Season 4 Winner and James Beard Nominee Stephanie Izard is certainly one of the hardest seats in town to get –  and we can see why.  Rustic and lofty interior, friendly/knowledgeable waitstaff, and unique/delicious small plates were all top notch.  The menu is broken down into equal parts of Veggie, Fish, and Meat dishes – the latter of which not surprisingly incorporates goat into many dishes.  If you don’t have a reservation enjoy a drink (or two) while you wait and enjoy the fun ambiance.  Press: Food and Wine


Lunch at Frontera Grill: we stopped into the Frontera Grill for a quick lunch prior to heading to the airport.  Their Pork Tacos Al Carbon were fantastic and the Duck Carnitas Quesadillas were very good.

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