The menu is deliberate and charming, like a frog prince on a mission to save FernGully. Pop in for a quick lunchtime bite. The midday menu features an array of salads, sandwiches, and easy entrees. Grab a warm trout salad (over spinach with beluga lentils and a walnut vinaigrette, $11), raspberry pork loin ($9) or char-grilled burger ($8). Upon meal completion, turn to your lunching mates and give them a heartfelt fist pound in celebration of your dinner-quality lunch.
Owner Judy Griswold's passion is infectious as she praises Chef Oscar Valenzuela's modern American concept at Nero's Grill. "He's just amazing," she says. "He can take any ingredient and transform into something you'd never expect. And it will be delicious!" His creative touch is present throughout the menu in such dishes as the crispy firecracker shrimp lightly breaded with Frosted Flakes to contrast the spice of red-chili sauce, and the chicken-stuffed avocados with panko and melted pepper-jack cheese. Valenzuela puts together specials using heirloom tomatoes and other local ingredients, and he updates classic American dishes, such as meatloaf towers stacked with hand-battered onion rings.
Live music draws in energetic crowds throughout the week, as do the two happy hours per day. From 4 to 7 p.m. and 9 to 10 p.m. daily, crowds buzz over drink specials in the lounge, adding to what Judy describes as an already wonderful atmosphere. "We have a long-term relationship with bartenders and kitchen staff––many more than five years. It's warm. Our customers feel that warmth as well." In Nero's interior, creme- and cinnamon-hued walls glow like a warm latte in the shine of drum lights, with decor from local artist Mark Fleming. His portraiture and scenic oil paintings cover the stone walls, which add a rustic touch to dinners that take place in their three private rooms. Each room is outfitted with AV equipment, as dedicated staff helps with events such as monthly luncheons, rehearsal dinners, alumni reunions, and cocktail receptions.
When Sean "Sully" Sullivan was a kid, he loved eating hot dogs with his mom at the Woolworth's lunch counter. He loved franks so much, in fact, that even as a small-bellied 7-year-old, he'd routinely put away two. In opening Cori's Dog House in 2009 and naming it for his daughter, Sully resurrects the culinary component of his favorite childhood memories—complete with the butter-grilled, New England–style bun. A staggering 35 different toppings provide practically endless combinations, meaning diners will never have to eat the same sausage twice and can easily update their wardrobes with new mustard stains.
To help customers narrow down their cravings, Sully's grouped 35 different hot-dog combinations by region. The East menu, for example, is home to the maple-baked-bean-smothered Boston Nor'Easter, while the Midwest/Central menu includes the sauerkraut-and-swiss-laden Kansas City. Hand-cut french fries, hand-breaded onion rings, and high-fived fried pickles form a few of the sides, while overloaded sandwiches offer non-dog options. Business is going so well, says Sully, that Cori has "only fired me four times, but hires me back two minutes later when she realizes she has to do the work."
Authenticity is the focus at this Middle Eastern restaurant, which was named Best Persian Food in Nashville Scene's Best of Nashville 2011. Owner and Iraq native Hikmat Gazi adorns the space with traditional decor, from the deep-red color of the walls to glass boxes displaying traditional Kurdish clothing. Diners looking for the full experience can sit on a cushion on the floor and dine on a traditional, low table. Then, of course, there is the food itself, from the titular shish kabob to lamb shanks seared and flavored with regional-specialty spices.
Nashville Scene also chronicles Hikmat’s absorbing journey from an adolescence spent in a Turkish refugee camp during the Gulf War to his triplicate success in the restaurant business. After working with the U.S. military in Iraq, Hikmat returned stateside to continue serving savory Middle Eastern fare at the original Nolensville Rd. location, and has recently opened a new downtown location.
Jeanne Giguere knows that there's more than one way to make a meatball. She makes five of her own varieties daily, plus another that she invents monthly. Whether she's working with beef, turkey, or vegetables, she starts with the same basic recipe passed down by her mother, Concetta. She even adds her own secret ingredient to make the meatballs even more delicious, but her lips are sealed on that matter. While guests speculate on what this ingredient might be—Jeanne swears that it would surprise them—they can dig into a sandwich, salad, or plate of pasta.
Cuisine Type: Italian-American
Reservations: Not necessary
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 5–10
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Classic Italian All Beef Meatball
Delivery / Take-out: Parking garage
Outdoor Seating: Yes
As a child, CeCe looked forward to her family’s summertime trips to North Carolina, where she could reconnect with faraway relatives over cookouts. One of her fondest memories from this time is making homemade blackberry ice cream with her Grandma Ruby. Years later, CeCe would look back on these days with nostalgia; she dreamt of opening a business that would bring families together over a tasty summertime treat.
In 2008, her dream became a reality with the opening of Sweet CeCe’s. Like wig salesmen to the Constitutional Convention, families flocked to the self-serve frozen-yogurt shoppe, where they could create their own desserts from dozens of yogurt flavors and toppings. The small shoppe got so popular that CeCe franchised the business. Today, families in 11 states can create sweet memories within the sherbet-colored walls of a Sweet CeCe’s.