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Chago’s Cantina

April 17, 2011

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I wrote this review for Nashvillest, where it first appeared. 

Chago’s Cantina (Formerly La Fiesta)
2015 Belmont Blvd
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 386-0106

Rating: 
$15-20 per person

Our Picks:
– Grilled Sweet Plantain, pulled pork, beans and Spanish rice
– Grilled Mahi Mahi with salsa, beans and Spanish rice

When Chago’s Catina first opened up, I was a bit skeptical that it could be any good. If any of you have ever had the traumatic opportunity to eat at the old La Fiesta, you know what bottom-of-the-barrel Mexican food tastes like, and I was worried I was in for a repeat. Oh, how I was wrong. The first sign that this was going to be good was the St. Patrick’s Day Special, Drunken Tacos. This regular menu item consists of two tacos, a can of Tecate and a shot of Tequila for only $10. If ever there was a dish that’s custom made for a Friday night, this is it.
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The second sign was that the new owners had gone all out redecorating the place with bright paint and I’m pretty sure some new TVs. The menu is a mix of the normal Mexican fare and some more eclectic dishes from Latin America. They also clearly label their vegetarian and vegan dishes, so alt eaters, dig in! Unfortunately, most of the vegan dishes are sides, so options are limited.

Since it was only Thursday, I controlled myself and ordered a dish consisting of grilled sweet plantain, pulled pork, rice and beans. The sweet and savory flavors of the plantain and pork were a bit jarring at first, but I quickly got used to the traditional Latin American pairing. My companion had grilled Mahi Mahi with a spicy salsa on top. It was perfectly cooked with just enough kick in the salsa to make it interesting, but still palatable to most taste buds.

The service was a bit overbearing with the waitstaff checking up on us every five minutes or so, but I suspect that it’s only because they’re brand new. Hopefully they’ll tone things down just enough to be attentive, but not annoying.

Overall, Chago’s Cantina is HUGE step up from the disappointing La Fiesta. They successfully brought the bold flavors and freshness of Latin American cuisine to Belmont Boulevard at a reasonable price. Our dinner trip to Chago’s cost us 26.22 for food alone, before we tipped our omnipresent waiter. (Don’t worry, we still tipped him well!)

This definitely won’t be my last trip to Chago’s; after all, I still have to try the Drunken Tacos and the liver-killing 30 ounce “Chupacabra” margarita.

Chago's Cantina on Urbanspoon

LB’s Market House

March 2, 2011

Note: Please keep in mind that LB’s is only 2-weeks old as of publication, and as such, menu items and prices could change.

LB’s Market House
2905 12th Ave S # 104
(same building as Burger Up)
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 383-1611

My Picks:
Grilled Chicken Salad sandwich on Multigrain bread and Zapp’s Voodoo Chips (I also took home some Christmas Lima Bean Hummus and Marathon Burgers)
For Breakfast, try the local Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwich on Rye with a cup of their hot coffee from sister shop Frothy Monkey.

 

It was a rainy Monday afternoon when I finally poked my head into LB’s Market House, but I was excited to try it after several friends reported back that it was worth checking out. As soon as I got inside, I could see the resemblance to the old Greenlight Deli. Just like it’s predecessor, LB’s is hindered by its small size, narrow storefront, and lack of extensive seating (five seats total), but don’ t think that affects the food. The shotgun style interior leads you back to a small salad bar and a cooler stocked with local goodies like milk from Hatcher Family Dairy, eggs from Willow Farms and Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, in addition to pre-packed items like hummus and chicken salad. The biggest surprise here was the take-home two-pack of marathon burgers from sister shop Burger Up for only $8.

After perusing the cooler, I settled on the menu board high above the main counter. LB’s serves breakfast all day, in addition to soup, sandwiches and daily specials in the afternoon and evening. At the staffs’ suggestion, I tried the chicken salad sandwich, and was not disappointed. The chicken salad was made from scratch with local chicken and in-house mayo (made with Willow Farms eggs) and the sandwich was toasted to perfection.  If chicken salad isn’t your scene, they also have a beef and cheddar melt along with several other hearty sandwiches.

In addition to fresh food, LB’s also offers a small selection of grocery items like chips, crackers and cookies, and even some cleaning and personal care items like toothpaste, laundry detergent, band-aids and ibuprofen.

The lack of seating is the real killer here, so be prepared to eat outside during regular mealtimes or just take it to the park across the street and have a picnic. I have a feeling this could be a deal-breaker come the August heat waves, but as long as the food is good, people will brave the elements.

If you’re looking for a locally sourced soup or sandwich, this is the place for you. It’s an upscale sandwich shop, so don’t come expecting a three-course meal. The prices are reasonable; $6 for the breakfast sandwich and $8 for the chicken salad , and the care and attention that goes into the ingredients makes it worth the price in my book. The breakfast sandwiches are, so far, my favorite thing on the menu, but I’m sure I’ll discover some new favorites as I stop in more often.

LB's Market House on Urbanspoon

Copper Kettle -Fake Dates with Jessica and Kevin

February 27, 2011
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Originally Appearing in the Belmont Vision

Copper Kettle
4004 Granny White Pike
(across from Lipscomb University)
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 383-7242

Our Picks:
Kevin: Vegetarian Wrap with Mac & Cheese, Cheesecake and Mango Iced Tea
Jessica: Seared Ahi Tuna Wrap with Cooked Vegetables and Carrot Cake

Kevin: Jessica picked me up this time, and I was surprised at how progressive she was. A girl OK with picking up a guy for a date?!?  I almost expected her to whip out the wallet when we had to pay for dinner, but I wasn’t going to take that. When I got in the car, I asserted my manliness and said, “We’re going to Copper Kettle.”

Jessica: I was not impressed with his choice. Copper Kettle?! Isn’t that a meat-and-three? He should have known by now that I don’t like Southern food, but I didn’t want to argue and hurt his pride. However, after walking in, I was pleasantly surprised with the refined atmosphere and diverse menu.

Kevin: As soon as we walked in, I could tell by the look on Jessica’s face that she was already enjoying the place. The walls were covered in old Hatch Show Prints and the rest of the place looked like a well cared for Southern kitchen. Once I saw the menu and the meat-and- three selection, the choices just overwhelmed me. I hoped that Jessica didn’t take my silence as a feeling of awkwardness; there were just too many good choices on the menu.

Jessica: I made Kevin order first because I was way too indecisive. I felt good about the Ahi Tuna Wrap. After ordering at the counter, they had baskets of delicious cornbread and white rolls to hold visitors over until their meals arrived. So we grabbed a table and covered those usual conversation topics like how classes were going, the beautiful weather, creepy stalkers on likealittle.com, etc. I guess you could say that we are feeling a little more comfortable around each other.

Kevin: I definitely sensed that Jessica and I were “clicking” a whole lot better then we were on the last date, and I’m glad we didn’t fall into the second date slump where the person just seems a whole lot less cool than they did on the first date. Our date seemed so fresh and vibrant, like the spring weather we’ve been having. Speaking of fresh and vibrant, the veggie wrap was amazing. It was so good that I thought the produce had to have been locally grown, even though February is clearly not tomato season.

Jessica: I highly doubt my tuna was locally raised, but it still tasted amazing served with wasabi mayo and miso dressing. The wrap was sliced into five small pieces, which made eating a little less messy. The wrap was so wonderful but the vegetables were a bit of a letdown. I am pretty sure they were the same vegetables I used to eat in the caf. Overall, I had a great meal and great company. He even offered to buy me dessert. Such a gentleman.

Kevin: Dessert was fantastic, the perfect end to the perfect date. Even though we were stuffed, we forced ourselves to eat bite after bite of carrot cake and cheesecake. It was that good. Satisfied, we left Copper Kettle and headed back to Belmont. With the food coma I was in, I was glad Jessica was driving.

Overall, we really liked this place. The food was fresh and tasty, except for the cooked veggies, and the atmosphere was really relaxed and welcoming. It’s the perfect place to go on a date; it’s nice, but not too nice. The worst thing about this place is that it’s right across the street from Lipscomb, and we’re pretty sure we spotted a Lipscomb basketball poster hanging in the window. But for food this good, we’re willing to overlook such a major flaw.

Copper Kettle Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Wild Cow -Fake Dates with Jessica and Kevin

February 27, 2011

Originally Appearing in the Belmont Vision

The Wild Cow
1896 Eastland Ave.
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 262-2717

Our Picks:
Kevin: Chips & Queso, Sweet Potato Tacos and a Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownie
Jessica: California Style Veggie Burger with Garlic-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Kevin:
After spending winter break agonizing over my decision of who to pick as my new fake date, I finally settled on this girl who sang me a song of foodie devotion; her name is Jessica Wardwell.

Jessica: My plan worked. I knew Kevin would fall for my song and I was thrilled. I was a little nervous about our first date though. He picked me up at 7 p.m. and told me we were going to a vegan restaurant.

Kevin: I hoped that she wouldn’t be offended by my choice of restaurants, but after Cassidy broke my heart, I felt I needed a fresh start. That meant changing my whole diet to cut out animal products. After all, vegetables never broke my heart. When we got to the Wild Cow, we were greeted by lots of tables and pictures of happy animals on the walls.

Jessica: We chose our spot in the corner and grabbed a menu. I didn’t know Kevin too well, but the indie house music filled the silence of our awkward first-date conversations. The menu was also a good talking point. Kevin wanted to order the queso, but I was a little frightened of “vegan cheese.”

Kevin: I was little nervous to order the vegan queso, but I was craving cheese anyway, so I had to have it. Jessica kept giving me weird looks as I got ready to take my first bite, and she blurted out “How is it?” as soon as the chip entered my mouth. Surprisingly, it tasted like the real thing. This is just one more piece of evidence that God is real.

Jessica: The appetizer was small, but it was enough to hold us over until our meals arrived. I was starving, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of Kevin. The veggie burger was pretty big, so I took off the top bun and cut it up to avoid a messy face. But Kevin still thought I was weird. I slowly ate and tried to get a conversation going while he scarfed down his tacos. Boys will be boys.

Kevin:
As I was devouring some of the most delicious tacos I had ever had, Jessica was sitting there slowly eating her burger. She seemed to be enjoying it, but it was just weird how slow she was eating. I think she might have been nervous, so we just talked about the different vegan hipsters that were in this joint. On a side note, they sell a four-song EP on vinyl for $1 to benefit some animal related charity. Sadly though, neither one of us has a record player, so we skipped buying it.

Jessica:
I just eat really slowly, OK? I really did love the burger, topped with sprouts and avocado. You could see all of the vegetables inside, which makes me think it is actually healthy for you. I definitely branched out by ordering a side of brussels sprouts, but as soon as I took a bite, I knew I had made the right decision. Then I realized my little side dish could win Kevin over during this date. So I offered him a bite.

Kevin: I HATE brussels sprouts. First of all, they’re named after the capital of a country known for their chocolate; it makes no sense. Second, they just look gross; like green orbs of death just waiting to kill me with their gross taste. After I tasted the ones here however, I’ll have to give the little demons a second chance. They were surprisingly good.

Jessica: He loved them. I knew it! I just hoped he was as impressed with me as he was with the brussels sprouts.

Kevin: Turns out, the brussels sprouts weren’t the only thing I ended up liking that I didn’t think I would. Hopefully, she’ll be willing to go somewhere else with me next month, and we can do this whole thing all over again.

Overall, we think The Wild Cow is a tasty and cheap way to eat vegan or vegetarian, but meat-eaters will enjoy the place too; it’s a good change of pace. The ambiance is laid back enough that it doesn’t seem presumptuous about romance, but instead makes you feel at home. It’s also an easy way to say to that special someone “Hey, I don’t eat meat because I really care about animals.”

The Wild Cow on Urbanspoon

Amerigo -Fake Dates with Cassidy and Kevin

February 27, 2011

Originally Appearing in the Belmont Vision

Amerigo
1920 West End Ave.
Nashville, TN 37203
615- 320-1740


Our Picks:
Cassidy: Cannelloni Al Forno — the pasta’s stuffed with chicken, ricotta cheese and spinach and served in tomato and cream sauces.
Kevin: Three-Cheese Tortellini with jumbo lump crabmeat and Parmesan cream sauce.

Cassidy: When Kevin got in the car, I could tell something about us had changed, matured if you will. I knew he was waiting for that moment.

Kevin: You see, two of my friends had gotten engaged a couple of days before, and it made me realize what was important in life. It wasn’t the flashy car, free tuition or any of the other perks of being a member of the Belmont Vision staff that mattered to me; it was Cassidy. I knew she was the one, and tonight was going to be special.

Cassidy: I was full of so much emotion and was excited to have a moment to really talk to Kevin about our future. But once seated, I realized an intimate conversation would hardly be private in the open dining room at Amerigo.

Kevin: The dining room was practically empty on our Monday night visit, but that was perfect. I knew she would think I had booked the entire restaurant just for her; it would make this evening that much more memorable. I fumbled with the ring in my pocket as we were seated next to a window overlooking West End.

Cassidy: Kevin seemed odd, guarded if you will. I never saw his hands the whole meal. He just sat there, hands filling his pockets while I tried to determine the best moment to really lay out my feelings. Nothing particularly stuck out on the menu, but with graduation on my mind, my appetite has been a bit lacking.

Kevin: Cassidy and I started off our meal with some Caesar salads and serious conversation about the future. She talked about her job plans after graduation in December and I discussed the possibility of graduating a semester early next year. Things really seemed to be going well, but I was still waiting for that perfect moment to pop the question.

Cassidy: I cavalierly ordered cannelloni and bided my time by dipping warm bread into the olive oil that Kevin and I shared. He grabbed my hand as I was going in for another dip, and when I looked into his eyes I saw a stare that clashed with my own.

Kevin: Suddenly, everything that I was feeling didn’t seem to add up. I was so excited for the future that I saw Cassidy and I having, but once I looked into her eyes over the olive oil, I could tell that uncertainty was brewing deep within her soul.

Cassidy: It was when our entrees arrived that I knew it was now or never. I took a deep breath, filled my mouth with cannelloni and crafted our demise. There were so many feelings to be shared, but I knew I must be delicate — he hadn’t even seen this moment coming.

Kevin: Luckily for me, I had just swallowed the first delicious bite of my cheese tortellini with crabmeat, because if I hadn’t I surely would have spit it out all over the table. I was shocked. Here she was, the girl I had been dating for three months, telling me she couldn’t go on like this. I took another bite, but that only dulled the pain for a little while; food could only do so much.

Cassidy: As I mulled my thoughts over my meal, I knew our relationship was just as bland as my cannelloni. Sure, it was fun for awhile, but now I’m moving away, becoming an adult, and Kevin won’t be able to move on with me. I can’t imagine flying in for Mistletoe Ball or Battle of the Boulevard, but there are college things he will want to do. I just can’t rob him of his youth.

Kevin: She said she was doing this so both of us could experience life, but all I wanted to do was experience it with her. How could she be so selfish! I stuffed my mouth with a lump of crabmeat to give myself some time to think over my response. So much was going on in my head. Sure, I wanted to experience all that Belmont has to offer, but I also wanted to be with Cassidy. In the end though, it wasn’t my call; it was hers, and she decided it was time to move on. Heartbroken, I lifted my fork to my mouth for another cheesy bite of tortellini.

Cassidy: There was a sobering silence signaling he had conceded. I wanted to tell him how I felt about him, but I knew that would make the separation even harder. There were so many things I loved about Kevin, but telling him would only hurt more. So I stifled words with another bite of chicken-filled pasta, knowing that I still had half a plate of food if I still couldn’t resist the urge to take it all back and give into forever with Kevin.

Kevin: As much as I wanted to somehow convince Cassidy to stay with me, I knew there was no going back after the words had left her mouth. Like our meal, we were finished, but there are no leftovers in a relationship. It was all or none with us, and we ended up with none.

Cassidy: And what started three months ago vanished. I knew that was the last time I’d ever hold his hand over a fine meal. And although it was best for us to part ways, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it. Only time will tell.

Amerigo is a great Italian restaurant that can either cover your love in a delicious sauce or drown your sorrows in a savory reduction. Either way you’ll come out a winner, with leftovers to boot. It’s truly a versatile restaurant; great for new, old and dying flames. It’s the most date worthy of any of the restaurants we’ve reviewed, and the surprisingly affordable prices make it doable for college students on a romantic liaison.

Amerigo on Urbanspoon

Martins BBQ -Fake Dates with Cassidy and Kevin

February 27, 2011

Originally Appearing in the Belmont Vision

Martin’s BBQ Joint
7238 Nolensville Road
Nolensville, Tenn.
615-776-1856

Our Picks
Cassidy: Whole Hog Pulled Pork meal with coleslaw and baked beans
Kevin: Redneck Taco with whole hog pulled pork, a side of coleslaw and Cheerwine.

Kevin: So I picked up Cassidy for our date. I had gone all out this time; my car was clean, I had a loaf of bread in the back seat and I looked pretty presentable.

Cassidy: He got points for picking me up; last time I had to drive. At the time, I didn’t know why he had a whole loaf of bread in his back seat, but as we started driving, I was beginning to think we would need it.

Kevin: Although Cassidy first thought I was crazy for bringing some bread along for our date, she soon realized why. This place was forever and a day away. When I picked her up for our date, it was bright outside, though the sun was setting. When we arrived it was as dark as an Al-Qaeda cave in Afghanistan.

Cassidy: As we were traveling through desolate fields and darkness–there it was. Nestled between a Sonic Drive-In and a Dollar General sat Martin’s. Now from everything I had heard about Nolensville, I anticipated we would eat dinner in a shabby brick building attached to Jiffy Lube. Martin’s was anything but.

Kevin: It was brightly lit and filled with televisions showing Monday Night Football (Jets vs. Vikings – and the Jets won.) The place looked like a cross between Five Guys and Joe’s Crab Shack, but with barbecue. The menu was pretty expansive, and luckily for us they were serving whole hog pulled pork that night.

Cassidy: The big pig is only served on Sunday and Monday, so we got the best of the barbecue. I was in the mood to impress Kevin and decided to order the specialty of the house, the pulled pork platter. Ever since I ordered chicken at Burger Up, Kevin has held it against me.

Kevin: It’s true, I totally have. Every time I see her, I sarcastically ask her if she’s “too chicken” to go on another date with me; obviously, she stepped up her game this time. I really wanted to order the ribs, but sadly, they were out of them, so I settled on the Redneck Taco, which is pulled pork on a pancake-sized piece of cornbread.

Cassidy: Despite Kevin’s less-than-manly taco, I decided that tonight could be special. We sat down, amidst the colored Christmas lights and Monday Night Football, with stolen glances that extinguished the need for words.

Kevin: The Christmas lights on the porch were so romantic that we couldn’t keep ourselves from holding hands. The way Cassidy’s face looked through the smoke from the barbecue pit. It was so heartwarming. As soon as we got the meal, however, our attention was focused on the food. And let’s just say it was a bit of a Debbie Downer.

Cassidy: As much as the waitress raved about the whole hog, I just didn’t feel the same. The pork was practically naked, with spotty bits of BBQ laced among the meat. Now I’d like to be quite honest–I like my meat smothered–just a little meat, and a lot of sauce. So Martin’s approach to BBQ was not quite my style, leaving me free to gaze at Kevin and his redneck meal.

Kevin: In my case, there was the perfect proportion of barbecue sauce to actual barbecue, but sadly the meat itself had an odd taste, sweet even. I don’t know how to explain it, but something about it being “whole hog” just gave it an interesting dimension. We left Martin’s soon after we finished eating because we had to make it back in time for class in the morning.

Cassidy: While I don’t particularly love sweet meat, the rest of the drive home was nothing but sweet nothings from Kevin. The half -hour drive seemed to last for only minutes. And then Kevin became irrational.

Kevin: Irrational or wise? I think wise. I spotted a Dairy Queen and we pulled in faster than you can say “low-fat frozen yogurt.”

Cassidy: He yelled something about ice cream and swerved into the center lane like a driver at 1 a.m. on New Year’s.

Kevin: Two things: one, I yelled out “Blizzards,” and two, I safely entered the too-wide turn lane. I was not being a reckless driver. As soon as we got into the drive-thru, we got some mini blizzards and were back on the road to Belmont. (If this were a review of DQ, we’d give it 1 Miss Tonya and 2 hearts).

Overall, we think Martin’s BBQ is a little bit too far and too mediocre to be worth the drive. It’s not outstanding, but it is better than anything you’d get from the caf.
The ambience isn’t conducive to a date, and let’s face it, barbecue breath is not what you want when going in for a kiss. We’d recommend the Sonic as a more romantic place than Martin’s; at least at Sonic, you can spend quality alone time in the car.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint on Urbanspoon

Burger Up -Fake Dates with Cassidy and Kevin

February 26, 2011

Originally Appearing in the Belmont Vision

Burger Up
2901 12th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204
(615)  279-3767

Our Picks:
Cassidy: Chicken Breast Burger with fries
Kevin: Mushroom Swiss Burger with truffled fries

When we first saw the signs for Burger Up in the new building on 12 South, we expected something reminiscent of Buffalo Wild Wings but with burgers, flat screens with ESPN on every wall. But what we ended up finding was an upscale burger joint with an appreciation for local ingredients.

Kevin:
It was time to test the place out. Cassidy and I had arranged for a lunchtime rendezvous. She was waiting for me as soon as I got out of class, and we dashed off-campus for a lunch with only each other for company.

Cassidy:
We noticed a crowd of young professionals, as Kevin and I were seated at a long bench of “community seating” as the hostess called it. I immediately thought that this might not be the best place for a get-to-know you first date.

Kevin:
And boy, was Cassidy right. After getting our drinks, we began to hear snippets of our neighbor’s conversations, and worst of all some friends of ours were seated next to us, making my goal of seducing Cassidy nearly impossible.

Cassidy:
It’s a good thing Kevin and I weren’t engaged in our typical dreamy discussions, or our friends next to us might have felt a bit uncomfortable..

Kevin:
Sadly, I had to resort to just holding Cassidy’s hand as I gave her longing looks from across the table as we waited for our food. What’s more unfortunate is that our neighbors had to endure this punishment for more than 20 minutes while our burgers were being made.

Cassidy:
Although it is “Burger” Up, I took a chance and ordered a chicken sandwich. My chicken choice reminded me of the first day I met Kevin–my little free range Chicken McNugget.

Kevin:
Frankly, Cassidy’s burger choice upset me. If I’m going to date someone, I want them to be a red meat eater, not some pansy chickentarian. Although this was definitely a notch against her, I figured I wouldn’t storm out just yet; after all, I still had my mushroom swiss burger coming.

Cassidy:
While Kevin was a little hot-tempered about the chicken sandwich, he settled down when our food finally showed up. I started into my fries and quickly found that the cup they came in seemed like a bottomless pit of potatoes–just like my love for Kevin, endless.

Kevin:
The fries. Oh, the fries! They were beautiful, crispy and delicious, something that I strive for every day in Cassidy’s and my relationship. My grandmother always told me to find a beautiful, crispy and delicious girl, and I found her. But just as soon as I had fallen in love with the fries, I tasted the mushroom swiss burger. Now I’m not usually a bun guy, but man were these amazing. They were soft and moist, while still staying firm and shapely in my hands.

Cassidy:
Now my favorite moment was my first bite of pickle on my sandwich. It was hand-cut, crunchy and was perfectly proportionate to the size of the sandwich.

Kevin:
While Cassidy was in love with the house-made pickle on her burger, I was falling for the tasty trifecta of Gruyere cheese, crimini mushrooms and a balsamic barbecue sauce.

Cassidy:
And just like that, our 12 o’clock tryst was winding down.

All in all, Burger Up is a fantastic restaurant. Is it date worthy? Sure, but we think the best way to experience it is “just as friends.” The loud and casual atmosphere isn’t preseumptous and after such a fantastic meal, that special someone might look at you in a different light.

Burger Up on Urbanspoon

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