Do the words “what’s for dinner” strike terror in your heart? Dinner means lots of work—a trip to the grocery store, prep work, serving and cleaning, not to mention cold, hard rejection when you don’t get it right. The more we cater to our families’ particular (persnickety, even) palates, the harder it is to please them, it seems.
With this dilemma in mind, armed to conquer, we set out to discover 5 solid restaurants that offer a casual, family-friendly atmosphere, plentiful, easy-to-score tables and menus that accommodate the majority of the discriminating palates of said family members.
If you like a crispy thin crust, then you can’t go wrong with Desano’s. Located in Midtown, a half a block away from the naked statue roundabout and across the street from Off Broadway shoes, Desano’s is located slightly off the street in an unassuming yellow building.
We ordered our pizza and a glass of vino, only to find that we could have brought in our own wine with no corking fee. (Darn it. Next time!)
Once seated, we were surprised to find the open kitchen, where we were treated to a stellar performance by the pizza chefs. Glancing at my kiddos as the pizza crew threw the dough back and forth in sync, I thought to myself, ”How clever; free entertainment!”
Our pizza arrived in snap and was absolutely delicious. We ordered the lasagna pizza and the Margherita for the vegetarians. Both were divine. Desano is the real McCoy when it comes to pizza. They toss up Neapolitan-inspired pies using mozzarella di bufala and imported tomatoes.
I quizzed Tom Lazzaro of Lazorolli’s in Germantown, certainly someone who gets a vote when it comes to good Italian offerings. He gave Desano’s a thumbs up and commented, “Yeah, they get the pizza right.”
The salads are pre-packaged and not terribly appealing or tasty either. An environmentalist at heart, I have to weigh in and declare that I don’t want my salad in a plastic container. At $6 a salad, they can do better.
Their cannoli, biscotti and gelato, however, are made fresh daily, and delicious!
Desano’s can get busy quickly, but with long family style tables, it is easy to grab a seat at the end of a table, even if you join another patron. I noticed quite few people dining alone who were reading or working on their iPhones.
Our bill came to about $50 for 5 of us.
For more information about Desano Pizza, visit the website: desanopizza.it.
If you live in the Sylvan Park/West End area, you may consider McCabe Pub a throw back from Cheers. Since both debuted the exact same year in 1982, it’s fitting that McCabe is a favorite neighborhood watering hole. You’ll find the familiar faces of Sam Malone and Dianne Chambers in Ken, the bartender, and Mary, our favorite waitress, both of whom have been at McCabe forever.
If you’re attempting to satisfy all the food categories–pasta-farians, vegetarians and carnivores–then McCabe is your ticket. Their burgers are some of the best in town, as is their spaghetti plate for kids. I always order their vegetarian plate and get a baked potato, squash casserole, and green salad. What most don’t realize about McCabe is how extensive their menu is on any given night. They always have 3-4 appetizer specials, more entree specials and great desserts. Consistently good and affordable at about $7-$10 per entree, you can’t go wrong here.
If you ever need a quick dessert or casserole to go, check out McCabe’s bulk menu. You’ll find the best bargain in town with their coconut cake prices at $32 and their Jack Daniel’s chocolate pecan pie at $21.
Former McCabe Pub’s owner John Dean left his legacy to his wife Jo and their daughters. They currently run the restaurant.
Siam Cafe-Nolensville Road
Siam Caffe on McCall street–right off Nolensville Road–was opened by the Silpacharns, one of a few families responsible for the evolution of Thai food in Nashville. What is so appealing about this location is its authenticity. Unlike many other Thai places in town, Siam has an understated charm. You won’t find white tablecloths and fancy glasses, but instead, you’ll feel like you’re a tucked away in a bistro on some avenue in Bangkok.
Siam’s delicacies include traditional items such as Namsod (minced pork with onions, fresh ginger, peanuts, seasoned with chili peppers, and lime juice on a bed of lettuce), Tom Ka Kai (a chicken coconut soup with lemon grass, galangal, mushrooms, lime juice and chili paste) and Duck Curry (a crispy duck sauteed in red curry with pineapples and tomatoes).
And for a special treat, ask about their Pla Lard Prig, a deep fried whole red snapper served sizzling in their special house sauce.
When my daughter was younger, the owner would happily take her off our hands so we could enjoy our meal. To this day, I have a fondness for the Siam Cafe.
For more information about Siam Cafe visit sites.google.com/site/siamcafenashville.
Rotiers is a Nashville landmark since 1945 and, happily, has survived the development around it. The building was originally a carriage house for the Elliston mansion and started as a beer joint with cheese burgers and gambling machines.
What to say about Rotier’s? First the atmosphere: from the authentic soda fountain and leather booths, to the neon signs in the window, Rotier’s is the antithesis of the saying, “all cattle and no hat.” It is so darn real that I’m shocked the producers of Nashville haven’t discovered it yet. When it comes to the food and drink, they have the coldest beer (presented in icy glasses) in town, dreamy milkshakes, and the juiciest burgers served on French bread.
For those of you who may have imbibed too much on a Friday night, Saturday lunch at Rotier’s with a patty melt, ice cold Coca-Cola and fries provides the perfect rescue remedy.
An interesting side bar is that Rotier’s does have a pretty good vegetable plate. I’m not talking farm-to-table, but in keeping with their hole-in-the-wall tradition, they serve them up Southern style–green beans with ham, mac n’ cheese, greens and mashed potatoes. Toss a coin when it comes to choosing between their burger or veggie plates. And either way, leave the calorie count at the front door.
If chicken livers make you salivate (ok, if we can eat gourmet chicken skin at chic eateries like Husk, then we can down some livers, can’t we?), Rotiers’ are gourmet. Served with a blue cheese dipping sauce, they’re my favorite menu item.
For more information, visit Rotiers’ website: www.rotiersrestaurant.com.
Taqueria del Sol
We wrote about Taqueria del Sol last year shortly after it opened in Nashville, but my first visit was on a trip to Atlanta. As I walked up and saw a line snaking out the front door, it occurred to me that I’d landed upon one of Atlanta’s local hang outs. Little did I know that I had found a restaurant with a hometown connection. Taqueria del Sol was the brainchild of Michael Klank, the brother of my high school buddy Delia. At our Taqueria del Sol, you’ll find a long line, too, but the food arrives in record time.
I popped by the Nashville location a couple of weeks ago and found the process of ordering and then finding your table quite efficient. It fits with the casual atmosphere and moves the line quickly.
Taqueria del Sol offers a Southwestern fare with a nod to the owners’ Southern roots. On the menu you’ll find some signature dishes like the Memphis taco with smoked shredded BBQ, jalapeno coleslaw and tequila BBQ sauce, shrimp corn chowder with a hint of sweetness and turnip greens in a savory broth.
As 12 South gets more and more congested, Taqueria del Sol will benefit from the homeowners who enjoy a stroll to dinner. But for now, their shared parking lot with Trim has plenty of spaces. Also, if the stars align, you may be able to grab a cone from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream across the street with little or no wait. (Timing is everything there, too, as the lines have been out the door and around the building since it opened last month.)
For the foodies out there, Taqueria del Sol was selected as one of the “100 Southern Foods You Absolutely Must Try Before You Die.” by Garden & Gun. So go, take your family. You’ll all be happy.
For more information about Taqueria del Sol, visit the website: www.taqueriadelsol.com.
With lots of new places opening and more on the horizon, we want you to know that our 5 Finds for Casual Dining have stood the test of time. If you like no frills dining, then keep these fine restaurants on your radar screen.