Embracing the Tennessee tradition of barbecue, Firehouse BBQ & Wings brings the enjoyment of eating it to the indoors—and adds beer to the equation. Sidle up to tall tables and order whole racks of ribs, barbecue pork sandwiches, and wings tossed in spicy sauce. Meanwhile, sip on pitchers of draft beer, glasses of strawberry lemonade, or boots of tea while digging into barbecue nachos and hamburgers.
When visitors walk between the 1853 Greek-revival mansion’s six solid-cut stone pillars, onto the portico, and through the heavy wood door, they might tour the rooms or learn to cook in its original kitchen. Originally founded by John Harding in 1807 for thoroughbred-horse breeding, the rolling grounds of Belle Meade Plantation now welcome seasonal tours and events ranging from book signings to art shows. Knowledgeable guides in period costumes lead tour groups through the building’s parlors and bedrooms and down a long central hallway to ascend the three floors via a circular cherry-wood staircase.
As groups wander the mansion and cross the grounds, guides divulge facts about famous visitors, such as President Cleveland and General Ulysses S. Grant, including the fact that they probably got scared of the dark just like normal people. During special tours, the staff demonstrates Southern cooking techniques and walks visitors through an herb garden or serves them lemonade or hot wassail with desserts. In an on-grounds winery, winemakers hold tastings of red and white varietals made from Tennessee grapes. Visitors can also clink wineglasses over Southern-style cuisine at the Harding House restaurant, located on the plantation grounds.
The chefs at Terra Nostra Tapas and Wine mix European, American, Asian, and Caribbean cuisines on a small-plates menu that changes daily, ensuring consistently fresh tastes. Within the bustling kitchen, they can be found architecting shareable servings of tender meats, fresh vegetables, and market fresh seafood. Servers keep diners hydrated as they pour out 80 wines by the glass and 90 wines by the bottle, offering palate-tickling quaffs that both sate grape thirsts and wash away tablemates' memories of conversational gaffes.
Terra Nostra's space comes to life with international art and nautical murals depicting schools of fish. Outdoor seating is available in a festive patio area, and indoor diners are arranged at spacious dining bars designed to foster sharing of food, conversation, and bootlegged films. Along with bringing the local community together over shared meals, Terra Nostra's staffers remain committed to serving the global community via work with charitable organizations. In 2010 and 2011, they took part in medical-relief mission trips to Ecuador.
Century Farm orchestrates a bright spectrum of dry wines, semisweet wines, and fruit wines in a charming country shop surrounded by acres of shady arbors and southern grape vines. Only 4.5 years old, the blossoming winery proved its mettle at the 2011 Wines of the South Competition by collecting three awards—the Best of Tennessee Fruit–William O. Beach Award for its 2009 vintage traminette; a silver medal for its 2009 Norton; and a bronze for its 2009 red muscadine. While guests peruse bottles, a complimentary tasting introduces palates to the subtle notes and intricacies of varieties such as the dry, oaked 2010 Norton ($12.95) or the semisweet 2008 traminette ($12), with fruity layers and a spicy finish. Century Farm also hosts musical performances on select Saturdays from late April to September, during which visitors may enjoy wine tastings, picnics, and slow dances with graceful vines.
Jill and Spencer Pittman were captivated by the ingenuity of intelligent wine dispensers, eventually building a business around the idea at the corner of East Main Street and 2nd Avenue in downtown Franklin. The concept combines the relaxation of an informal wine tasting with the novelty of having a robot as a dinner guest as patrons serve themselves from the mechanized dispensers while a smart card tab keeps track of purchases. The helpful automatons even display information about selected vintages at the drink stations, allowing guests to learn about their favorite beverages and perfectly pair wines with soups, salads, or tapas plates of cheese, charcuterie, and seared seafood.
In an ironic twist, the wine bar hosts parties in the one-time home of a Prohibition-era bootlegger. The National Register of Historic Places house charms visitors with tucked-away wine rooms decked out with leather furniture and a bar adorned with paintings from local artists. As they unwind with glasses of rotating featured wines such as Cakebread Chardonnay and Opus One red blend and succulent morsels of chocolate desserts or cheese, patrons watch the street scenes and take in the open air from the lavish wraparound porch or sway to the strains of jazz amid the dark woods and overstuffed sofas of the wine rooms.
On any given day, visitors to the tasting room at Blue Ridge Cellars can explore the world through their taste buds. Here, oenophiles pour glasses and curated flights of wines crafted locally on the North Georgia Wine Trail or internationally in Europe, South America, or South Africa. Meanwhile, a simple menu of artisanal small plates helps guests discover their own perfect pairings for the wine.
And yet the selection doesn't end there: an adjacent boutique houses shelves of local reds and whites, including organic and sulfite-free vintages, as well as a deli counter stocked with Boar's Head cheeses and Columbus cured meats. Because they know that tasting wine should be a true experience, Blue Ridge Cellars also hosts live music and organizes its own tours of the North Georgia Wine Trail. These tours may include visits to several wineries, stops for taking pictures and eating a picnic lunch, and the chance to spend the night in an old wine barrel.