As Nashville continues to climb the ranks as the “It” city, there are bound to be growing pains along the way. Case in point? Losing our favorite neighborhood restaurants due to leasing issues, rising real estate costs or being bought by big corporations. If you have been in Nashville long enough, then you have a keen sense of what that means. As three longtime Nashville staples have been rumored to be making a comeback in the near future, we were antsy to figure out just exactly when we can welcome back the Green Hills Grille, Bread & Company in Green Hills and Sam’s Sports Grill (Hillsboro Village location). Here’s the latest, straight from the each of the owners.
Green Hills Grille
The original Green Hills Grille was in operation for 18 years in the heart of Green Hills. If you lived in the area during its heyday, you probably have a few stories of family brunches, your favorite bartender or the tortilla soup and smoked chicken enchiladas. Now, after seven years, the restaurant will reopen under new ownership.
Steven Smithing, who had much experience at the original Green Hills Grille and who also owns and operates Mere Bulles in Brentwood, is reopening the establishment Monday, September 21, at its new location, 2002 Richard Jones Road.
When asked why he wanted to bring back Green Hills Grille, Steven says, “I worked at the Grille for 11 1/2 years, and it was a great place to be. It was part of the Green Hills community life.” And that’s very true, considering past regular customers’ reactions. Steven has received plenty of letters, emails and phone calls applauding his efforts and asking for old Green Hills Grille favorites.
There are even a few Facebook pages dedicated to the restaurant. One particular group of past staffers is where Steven got much inspiration. “The Grille has always been in my soul and brain, and the other Grille people feel the same way.” He has alumni flying in for the opening, and Doug Livingston, who was with the original Grille for the entire time it was open, is returning to train the new staff.
Steven says while it may not be a part of the new trend of Nashville “creative” restaurants, the Grille will be “fun, high personality and comfortable … a family place.” Admittedly, the Green Hills area has lacked a locally-owned casual family spot since the Grille’s departure. Steven doesn’t mind that they might not be in the foodie set. “We use quality ingredients, there is a wide variety of options on the menu and you’ll never have to worry about making a bad decision on what you order.”
Past regulars will see a nod to the old Grille’s Southwestern theme with plenty of natural light and a bar facing the main entrance. One can tell Steven and his team put their expertise for details and restaurant know-how into the location, layout and menu. Plenty of booths, intimate tables, spacious windows and warm wood touches will give customers a comfortable experience. And the location has plenty of parking and a shaded patio. The restaurant will also feature a late night menu, “The Last and Happiest Hour,” with 20 percent off every order an hour before closing.
When the Green Hills Grille opens next week in the Greenbriar Village Shopping Center, there will be a lot of initial fanfare. However, Steven knows the Grille has to live up to old expectations and the new Nashville. “There are a lot of new people in Nashville. They may try the Grille because they have heard about it, but they’ll have to experience what’s so special about it for themselves.” Knowing Steven and his crew, they will not be disappointed.
Hours starting Monday are:
Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Get a sneak peek at what’s in store at ghgrille.com.
Bread & Company
When First Watch purchased Bread & Company in December 2014, Nashvillians were wary of this changing of the guard. And rightfully so, as First Watch is the nation’s largest breakfast and lunch restaurant company with 267 restaurants. Many feared the buyout could result in too much change for the restaurant and the potential for customers to lose their favorite lunch and to-go spot.
After speaking with Chris Tomasso, chief marketing officer of First Watch, we are relieved to report that Bread & Company is in good hands. As a past Nashvillian, Chris enjoyed Bread & Company, and he and his team have the right intentions for the brand. “We understand the affinity for Bread & Company. People love it. It’s such an iconic local brand, and we jumped at the opportunity to purchase it.” And we really have to give First Watch credit for doing their homework. They have spent time conducting research with local focus groups to fully understand the expectations and frustrations customers had with their Bread & Company visits. “It was great and refreshing for us to hear what was expected from customers, which validated our strategy moving forward and our plans for the two Bread & Company locations.”
As for the question on everyone’s mind? Yes, the menu will remain essentially untouched. “In the West End location after the purchase, people would come up to us and ask if we were the new owners, and tell us adamantly that we had to keep the pimento cheese, the fruit tea, the chicken salad and so on.” What will be updated is the atmosphere to create a more welcoming, warm vibe with soft lighting and comfortable seating, and better customer flow and experience. Chris says, “First Watch’s expertise in breakfast will influence the menu, with new omelets and healthy options.” There will be fresh juice offerings and an upgrade in the coffees and teas.
When asked if First Watch has plans to expand Bread & Company, Chris replied, “We are learning a lot about the fast casual concept from Bread & Company as our other restaurants are full service. As of now, we plan to apply this learning to the two locations and get them renovated and opened on time, and done well.”
For the 2525 West End Ave. location near Vanderbilt’s campus, First Watch has signed a long-term lease and plans to renovate the restaurant this December when Vanderbilt will be on winter break. So be sure to plan ahead if your holiday menu includes Bread & Company’s cranberry crostini or tomato basil soup, as the location will be closed in December.
Renovations will begin soon at the 4105 Hillsboro Pike location, with plans to open spring or summer 2016. Chris emphasized that they are anxious to have the location reopen and have signed a long-term lease. First Watch will renovate the interior and redesign the ordering process for a better customer experience.
Get a look at the current menu that’s available at the West End location at breadandcompany.com.
Sam’s Sports Grill
Vanderbilt’s Thursday night football season opener was a somber night for Sam Sanchez, owner of Sam’s Sports Grill in Hillsboro Village and five other Sam’s locations. He recently told a past staffer that he just couldn’t get excited about football this year, with the freak accident this past June that severely burned Sam’s Hillsboro Village location. Sam’s in the village was the original and was open 15 years prior to this fire. It was the spot to watch sports on the west side, and it was always busy at lunch, happy hour and with the Sunday football crowd. Many Sam’s devotees are left wondering if Sam’s will reopen at this location.
Sam says his team is waiting on insurance and code approvals to move forward with reopening at the Hillsboro Village location. “Getting Sam’s back open is the goal,” he states. However, with insurance questions and a possible real estate sale in the mix, reopening may not be feasible and that has been hard for the neighborhood to take. Sam says he has heard countless stories from the glory days, from spouses meeting, birthday parties and memorable sports moments. “When I tell people Sam’s may not reopen, they ask, ‘What are you going to do?’ I tell them I’m open for suggestions,” he says.
One can tell Sam has plenty of ideas of what’s next. His five other Sam’s locations are doing quite well and will continue on with the original Hillsboro Village location’s legacy. Also, he’s building a new concept, called Sam’s Place in Belle Meade at the Westgate Shopping Center. Sam’s Place will open in four to five weeks, and it will be a step up as a family sports restaurant with multiple TVs, less bar signage, dark wood and quality food. “The neighborhood is excited about us opening, and we are, too. It does take the sting out of the Hillsboro location a little.”
Sam’s Place is scheduled to open Monday, October 12. And with Sam’s ingenuity, we are hopeful that Sam’s in Hillsboro Village will reopen and be better than ever.
So, that’s the latest on Green Hills Grille, Bread & Co and Sam’s. It’s inspiring to see a new Nashville evolve, but like a favorite pair of old jeans, it’s comforting to have a bit of our history to welcome back. We thank our local entrepreneurs who also love this “It” city!