EAT THIS CITY takes us to the far corners of a different city each week, led by an inspirational chef. This week, we explore Nashville, Tenn., with Chef Maneet Chauhan!
Sometimes worlds collide in the most mellifluous way. You know Nashville for the country music, honky-tonks, and Grand Ole Opry. You know Celebrity Chef Maneet Chauhan as a judge from Food Network’s hit show, Chopped, or maybe from her adventurous cookbook, Flavors of My World; her appearance on Iron Chef, or because of her James Beard award for Excellence. But, do you know she has a restaurant in Nashville? And, do you wonder just how she ended up in the Music City, of all places?
Four years back, after the birth of her daughter, Maneet knew she wanted to start something she could put her signature on. A restaurant of her own. She and her husband started to research the best location to realize this dream, and of course, considered places such as Los Angeles or Dubai. When a colleague suggested Nashville, her first reaction was: Who goes to Nashville?
Turns out a lot of people do, as it was just named the Reader’s Choice Destination of the year by Travel and Leisure. And, she says, when they first visited Nashville, it was love at first landing. The people are charming and the culinary fraternity is strong and invigorating. She could see Nashville becoming a food destination before her eyes, with chefs who are not afraid to push the envelope and an audience that is accepting and encouraging of creativity.
On the day that Chauhan Masala & Ale House opened, Chef Maneet had a very special surprise: her newborn son decided he wanted out to join the party too. Three months early! She likes to call it the day she “had twins.”
Chef Maneet’s perspective on the Nashville food scene is unique. She’s not homegrown, but she has collided with and embraced all the city has to offer, while also putting her own stamp on the culinary landscape. This is music to our ears. We can’t wait to try her restaurant and all her favorite spots in Nashville.
This is a casual pizzeria serving thin-crust Neapolitan pies made with imported ingredients. The place is charming and other than the amazing ingredients, the fact that they are making pizza in front of you in the big wood burning ovens makes the whole experience… Tip, the hot chili oil is actually HOT… Delicious but hot!! The San Gennaro is my favorite…..
I love the freshness. The salsas are sensational. The corn side dish is my favorite – grilled corn, cotija cheese, lime….OMG! It is an explosion of flavor. You have to roll your sleeves and eat it…it’s a messy wonderful experience. The tacos are unique… the duck and pork belly are the best in my opinion. Other interesting taco options are the fried oyster and a curry shrimp taco.
This place has some of the most hearty and delicious “home cooked” Asian food in town.
The interesting thing is that International Market is also an Asian specialty grocery store. The restaurant is as unpretentious as it gets. My favorite is the aspect of freshness that one gets — especially in the noodle soup with vegetables or lemongrass or chicken soups.
This street food truck is flavorful, fun, and offers its own unique twist to Thai classics. The one thing that I love about the food is that they get everything correct. From the delicious green curry to the massaman curry — everything is flavorful and fresh.
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Chef Bethany Costello makes and sells baked goods under the name Eat Like Kings and can be found at a couple neighborhood farmers’ markets like West End on Saturdays (also online). Her cookies are absolutely amazing. Baked goods have never been so creatively transformed into dishes that are easily addictive.
Her recent creation of the “Pastry Pizza Party Parcels” filled with favorites like her spectacular milk chocolate with salted caramel and pecans, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip cookies is one of the best parcels of happiness one can receive.
Love the creativity and execution. The menu is ever evolving, incorporating the best of seasonal and local products. And of course the star of the show, and always a show stopper, is the handmade pasta. The menu is always changing, always scrumptious. The atmosphere is fun and not stuffy.
And the drinks…am I gushing? Yes…well good…because that’s exactly what I am doing…
Here the most comforting iconic food has been taken to another level. The menu consists of an assortment of grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soups, and salads. Grilled cheese options run the gamut from build-your-own to ‘fancy’ to “grilled cheese donuts” (yes you read that right!) such as the Bananarama (caramelized bananas and Gouda) and Blueberry Blue (blueberry compote, blue cheese, and lemon mascarpone).
People have the perception that Vegetarian food is boring. At Sunflower Cafe that is a perception that can be thrown out the window…curried chickpea wrap, vegan barbecue burger, and the incredible spinach kale wrap — sesame kale with rice or quinoa, red onions, tomato & garlic aioli.
It’s absolutely delicious!!
Chauhan Ale & Masala House – of course!!
(I love all our menus but find myself partial to our brunch menu)
The Indian twist on classic brunch favorites makes this a delicious option. We have waffles with hot chicken pakoras, shrimp and grits, chicken tikka deviled eggs, curried biscuits and ham… just to name a few favorites!
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
This is as iconic as it gets. It is definitely off the beaten path but the drive is worth the absolutely mouthwatering, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits…they are loaded with butter and the best way to have them is warm, with MORE butter and the famous peach preserves.
ODD (UNIQUE) CULINARY EXPERIENCE
I will not call it an “Odd” Culinary Experience, more a “unique dining experience.” I love the service of the place. It is all-you-can-eat Southern comfort food served family-style at communal tables in a Victorian house. You sit at tables with other diners, serve yourself, and pass the dishes around the table.
I love the sense of community that this evokes (and, of course, the classic Southern favorites with no frills needed)!
Las Paletas always brings out the child in me! Who doesn’t love a good popsicle?! They have taken the ordinary popsicle and elevated it to a completely new, gourmet level. Don’t let the minimalist space with just a freezer and a chalkboard fool you. The freezer is no ordinary freezer but more of a treasure chest. Las Paletas Popsicles contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives, and they come in dozens of flavors, depending on the availability of the fruit.
Some unique and amazing flavors I LOVE are hibiscus, lime, tamarind, watermelon, strawberry, and the distinctive chili-cucumber.
(actually, anytime favorite food)
It’s absolutely delicious! Just succulent…Spicy (if you want it)! Crunchy on the outside, juicy in the inside. They have figured out the magic formula of the iconic “Hot Chicken.” This is one dish that I actually crave. I get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t get it! Of course, the sweet, sweet, sweet tea is a quintessential accompaniment.
This spot is a warm, comfortable bistro serving a rotating menu of creative, seasonal French & Italian fare. It is absolutely charming with quaint and cozy corners and the most delicious simple food served in an intimate setting.
I absolutely love the amazing food that Chef Margot whips up in the kitchen.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
Etch by Deb Paquette
All I can say about Deb is that she is one of my favorite people in Nashville. Her quirky sense of humor, her vivacious presence, and her constant fountain of energy sums up her personality as well as her food. She has created an amazing restaurant with a creative menu that is innovative and absolutely mouthwatering-ly delicious.
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier-level chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Revisit the past here: New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston or Detroit.
See you next week for Brooklyn, N.Y.!