Avo has one BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal): to be the best restaurant in all of Nashville. Not the best vegan restaurant or the best raw restaurant or the best gluten-free restaurant, but to the BEST. Period.
Jess Rice and Susannah Herring, the owners of Avo, are delighting omnivores and vegans alike with this new restaurant concept for Nashville. And yes, it is all raw, vegan and gluten-free. But, the plants are manipulated to taste like food you are familiar with, like lasagna, pesto pasta and pad thai. Their goal is to give patrons all the pleasure without any of the guilt. Jess is the Chef de Cuisine and trained in Los Angeles, CA, under Matthew Kenny, well-known for his innovative raw, organic, plant-based cuisine. Susannah is also the owner of Hot Yoga Plus with locations in Nashville, Memphis and Oxford, MS. They met when Jess was starting out and bartered food for yoga classes with Susannah. While Jess keeps up a raw diet, Susannah is quick to say that she does eat meat, although none is offered at Avo.
All this health may have you wondering if they serve alcohol. Yes they do! They have a bar, and their cocktails are prize-worthy. Susannah says, with a laugh, “We’re all about balance. Around here you’ll hear us say ‘We have to detox to retox!’ You wouldn’t believe the amount of preservatives and artificial ingredients in so many liquors, wines and cocktails. At Avo, our cocktails are gluten-free (unless noted), preservative-free and made with fresh cold-pressed juices.”
After hearing praises, I met up with two friends to try out Avo for dinner. They still had their limited menu with which they opened, but it’s expanding any day to be far more encompassing. The only thing I knew was a must-order when I entered was the avocado margarita, and I’ll suggest it to everyone reading—it’s fabulous! It’s so good that I can’t stop thinking about it. I want it as a super-sized smoothie next to the pool as my meal, cocktail and dessert in one. Of course, then the pool chair would be become my bed … but, it’s that good.
Let me back up for a moment. You need to picture the setting of Avo as we talk through it. It’s located off of Charlotte Avenue at the 3000 block as part of OneC1TY, an urban community for healthy living that is being built on 30 acres and seeking LEED Neighborhood Development certification. Avo is part of OneC1TY’s container village, and the restaurant really is inside a container. Crossfit Nashville has a container next door, and Nashville Sports Leagues has another container office there. In the green space behind these businesses are sand volleyball courts set up for both open play and teams. What this means is that you can sit on the patio and watch people play beach volleyball, which is a different view than anyone else sipping on cocktails in Nashville has, guaranteed!
When you walk into Avo, the space is open and welcoming. The large art behind the bar is a wall of living plants, which immediately sets the stage for this healthy place. The restaurant is already attracting a wide range of people. When we were there, we spotted several families with children and infants as well as a large business group standing at the far side who had met up for cocktails after work. The age range was as wide as the tattoo quotient. By this I mean young and old, hipsters and prepsters, omnivores and vegans … all will feel at home.
By the time we were on our second cocktail, we finally ordered four entrées and one salad as we were curious and wanted lots of options to taste. We also couldn’t make up our minds, so ordering every entrée on the limited menu was just easier! We did not come close to finishing, but three hungry guys would likely have polished it all off. The food was fresh and tasty, and much of it had a kick of either garlic or spicy heat. My favorites were the pad thai, lasagna and the retreat salad, but all were ones that I’d order again and enjoy.
For dessert, we tried the mango sorbet dusted with dried tomato and the paleo-friendly chocolate almond butter cups. Then, the amazing paleo-vegan-raw snickers bar was presented (by none other than the lovely Jess) as a sneak peek to their upcoming menu; we all indulged and had a moment to let the flavor sink in. It’s hard to believe such a treat could be made raw. Anyone with a sweet tooth who is paleo needs to head to Avo A.S.A.P. for everything, but the desserts will have you believing that maybe you can do the paleo thing after all!
And, just so you know, two days after dinner, I called in a to-go order for lunch. I needed to have the pad thai again. I’m a big fan.
First impressions are that Avo is running smoothly and we should all celebrate having it as part of the culinary scene here in Nashville. It’s delicious and there is a reason the city is embracing it as fully as it has. When you leave, you’ll want to go back. It’s only been open since June 30, but we’re impressed with how quickly they have found their rhythm. That said, this place is new, so be kind if you have to wait a couple minutes longer for a cocktail or food item, okay?
Avo plans to add a grab-n-go cooler to their marketplace along with more books, resources and tools that make the raw lifestyle more accessible. They have even more exciting plans upcoming, so it’s worth following them on Instagram and Facebook to stay in the know.
SB TIP: The restrooms are located outside of Avo. Bring an umbrella if the weather looks unpredictable!
Avo is located in ONEC1TY: 3001 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37209. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. They’re closed Mondays. They offer a full bar as well as lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Seating capacity is 100, including the patio. Learn more at eatavo.com or (615) 329-2377.