It’s going to be hard to top 2018 when it comes to great developments in the Music City culinary community. From new restaurants and bars opening all over town and chefs continuing to do amazing work in their kitchens, it’s a great time to be hungry and thirsty in Nashville. The good news? 2019 looks like another banner year for the city when it comes to food and drink. Here’s what’s got us amped for the coming 12 months.
While Nashville is already full of amazing steakhouses, apparently the city’s appetite for beef is not quite sated yet. Rumors have been circulating that STK was planning to bring their brand of upscale dining to town to fill the gorgeous empty space on the ground floor of the Terrazo that once was the home to Prima. Now that the chain of more than 20 steakhouses has begun to advertise for future employees, you can bet that they’ll be serving up some fine filets sometime in the new year.
Colorado-based restaurant group E3 Chophouse is currently building out a 12,000-square-foot space in the Village 21 at Regions Park development on the edge of Hillsboro Village. E3 is owned by three brothers who are all former baseball players, Jeff, Adam and Andy LaRoche, and the investment group also boasts connections to country music stars Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan as well as Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame. The group has plans for a two-story restaurant that will serve a classic chophouse menu plus a rooftop bar with a view of the Village.
Chef Bryan Lee Weaver has earned legions of fans for his work at Butcher & Bee, a Mediterranean-inspired eatery in East Nashville. However, the chef has a secret passion for the cuisine of the American Southwest, born from years working in kitchens in Colorado and California. In particular, Weaver is a big fan of a proper breakfast taco, and he has designed his next restaurant and bar project around that humble Southwestern classic dish as well as some fine smoked beef brisket and a green chile cheeseburger. Named Red Headed Stranger after one of his musical heroes, Willie Nelson, Weaver is proud to have been granted permission to use the name by Willie’s granddaughter Raelyn Nelson. She also promised to be a regular customer at the Meridian St. restaurant when it opens early in the spring of 2019.
Another highly-anticipated restaurant project is actually three different concepts in one building north of downtown near the Cumberland River. Courtesy of acclaimed Atlanta chef/restaurateur Ford Fry, sometime in the summer of 2019 Nashvillians can look forward to visiting the second outpost of the chef’s fish camp-inspired Atlanta spot The Optimist. While it won’t be an exact replica of the original, Fry promises the same sort of wood-fired seafood, cozy fireplaces and oyster bar as at the Atlanta Optimist. An adjacent cocktail lounge called Le Loup will feature properly-mixed drinks served in appropriately luxurious leather seats for a clubby vibe. Next door to the main dining room at The Optimist will be Fry’s take on the Nashville honky tonk experience with Star Rover. The listening room will feature live music and a casual menu of taqueria cuisine, cold beers and what Fry brags will be the best margarita in town. We’ll be the judge of that, and we can’t wait to find out.
After the usual series of construction delays and hiccups that characterize many Nashville restaurant projects, Liberty Common is finally about ready to open in SoBro on the ground floor of the 222 2nd Ave. Building. The latest project from the culinary mind behind Butchertown Hall and Pharmacy Burger Parlor, Terry Raley and Executive Chef-Partner Jeffrey Rhodes, Liberty Common describes itself as “a modern Southern Brasserie.” What is that exactly? We don’t know either, but we’re excited to discover what’s happening in the opulent urbane space.
Husband/wife team Nick and Audra Guidry are already beloved around town for their work at Slow Hand Coffee + Bakeshop where they produce delectable pastries and sandwiches. Their next project, Pelican & Pig, should allow them to stretch their wings even more as they concentrate on open-fire cooking of meats and vegetables presented in shareable plate portions along with a menu of cocktails, beer and wine. Plans are for dinner six nights a week plus brunch on the weekends.
The next development isn’t a new restaurant, but a new team of chefs as The Catbird Seat has recently announced the fourth edition of kitchen staff in their exclusive experimental restaurant which offers a multi-course dining experience for just a couple dozen diners a night. The Catbird Seat has served as an incubator for chefs since opening seven years ago. The latest chef duo will be Head Chef Will Aghajanian and Pastry Chef Liz Johnson, two acclaimed culinarians with experience working in some of the best restaurants in the world. The pair met while cooking at Noma, considered a world-class restaurant in Copenhagen, so it’s exciting to imagine what they might bring to town. The Catbird Seat will be closed during the month of January while the kitchen and menu change over, with a target opening date of early February.
There’s big beer news across town, too, with Yazoo Brewing Company making progress on their new brewery complex north of downtown in Madison. Situated near the Cumberland River, Yazoo should become a popular destination for beer lovers from across the region, and the expansion will make it easier for them to produce even more of their delicious beers and grow their reputation further. Although we’ll miss their warm and cozy taproom in the Gulch after the move sometime later in the year, they’ll just be a short Uber or Lyft ride away from downtown.
If you think that beer festivals are all about the brews and that the only food you can expect might be a few pretzels, then you haven’t experienced Nuit Belge, one of Nashville’s premier culinary experiences. This celebration of rare Belgian and sour beers features cuisine from many of the city’s best restaurants, including Black Rabbit, Bastion, The Green Pheasant, Lockeland Table, Butcher & Bee and Marsh House. Each chef is assigned two different beers to come up with the perfect plates to match the complex flavors of these exotic malty treats. This year’s Nuit Belge will be held on March 8 at Marathon Music Works, and tickets are on sale now for this highlight of the beer and food festival season.
On the spirits front, after years of trading on the popularity of their Belle Meade Bourbon, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery will finally release a new flagship product in July when the Tennessee whiskey that they have been aging in barrels for four years will finally be mature enough to share with their fans. Made with a recipe that includes corn and malted barley, plus wheat instead of the traditional rye, this should be a remarkable new whiskey in the market, and Nashville will get it first!