June 2018 update: Salt & Vine is now closed

Nashville native Mattie Jackson grew up in a beer and bourbon town but while studying abroad during college, she discovered wine and started a journey that, eventually — to her surprise — brought her home again. A post-college job at Sullivan’s Steak House in Austin, Texas, introduced her to Hannah Schneider, a co-worker who became her close friend and future partner. Hannah — originally from San Diego, California — moved on from Austin to Manhattan while Mattie went west, took an internship at Joseph Phelps Vineyard in Napa Valley, then trained under a sommelier and worked for a wine importer.

Mattie and Hannah

Mattie Jackson and Hannah Schneider, co-owners of Salt & Vine

In 2014, Mattie came back to a vastly different Nashville than she had left six years before, one she felt would be receptive to her emerging plan for a wine bar/restaurant/market/gathering place. She reached out to Hannah and, together, they did some reconnaissance at places like Eataly, Dean & DeLuca and Chelsea Market; in Nashville she checked out possible locations. Mattie‘s new address in Sylvan Park delivered a bit of unexpected kismet. “I grew up in Franklin and could count on one hand how many times I had driven down Charlotte Pike,” she said. “But living in Sylvan Park, I was on Charlotte and I noticed there were lots of new things popping up — and there were lots of cars on Charlotte.”

One of the things that popped up — between an Auto Zone and the boarded-up Madison Mill — was the future home of Hill Center Sylvan Heights, a mixed-use development of residential in the rear and retail on the street.

There may have been tequila cocktails involved in persuading Hannah to leave NYC, move to Music City and join the party. “We were the first tenants to sign their lease, in October 2015,” Hannah says.  “When I got here, the space was 2-by-4s and gravel.”

The partners were hands-on every step of the way; photos from the Salt & Vine Facebook page documenting the transformation gave periodic updates, complete with hard hats.

Jackson, Schneider and Culinary Director Molly Martin are in the building!

Mattie Jackson, Hannah Schneider and Culinary Director Molly Martin are in the building! Image: Facebook

The big reveal came on July 1, 2016 — an open space that flows seamlessly from the beautifully stocked market immediately inside the front doors and the inviting community table in the center of the room, to the minimalist bar and lushly upholstered banquettes along two side walls.

The thoughtfully stocked market area just steps from the door welcomes guests and sets the epicurean tone. Baguettes and loaves of Pugliese are from Village Bakery's bread whisperer Sam Tucker.

The thoughtfully stocked market area just steps from the door welcomes guests and sets the epicurean tone. Baguettes and loaves of Pugliese are from Village Bakery’s bread whisperer, Sam Tucker. Image: Josh Gilmore

Shelves are stocked with fancy fixin's for a cocktail party or dinner.

Shelves are stocked with fancy fixins for a cocktail party or dinner.

Light pours through large windows onto white walls, ceilings, shelves and table tops. Strokes of color come from cheerful yellow chairs and stools, greenery-filled wall-mounted boxes and chic charcoal gray fabric on the plush banquettes.

Light pours through large windows onto white walls, ceilings, shelves and table tops. Strokes of color come from cheerful yellow chairs and stools, greenery-filled wall-mounted boxes and chic charcoal gray fabric on the plush banquettes. Image: Josh Gilmore

I spied the Soggy Pesos from ten feet away and told the bartender 'I'll have what she's having — tequila, lime, honey, blackberries over crushed ice with a sprig of fresh mint.

I spied the Soggy Pesos from 10 feet away and told the bartender, “I’ll have what she’s having” … tequila, lime, honey and blackberries over crushed ice with a sprig of fresh mint.

This Rosemary Beach is closer than 30A and winner of our cocktail taste test ---gin, red grapefruit juice and rosemary.

This Rosemary Beach — gin, grapefruit juice and rosemary — is closer than 30A and winner of our cocktail taste test.

The succinct wine list, composed by Mattie, is broken down into Crushed (white and bubbles) or Pressed (red and rose). With just 11 choices in each category — all available by the glass or the bottle — and Mattie’s enthusiastic personal attention, each visit can be a mini class. We love the sophisticated glassware and admire the attention to detail, like the pretty water carafes.

Form and function

Form and function

“Go Big or Go Home” is how Salt & Vine touts their cocktail punches, a specialty Hannah insisted upon. “They’re fun with a group. Two of the three have bubbles. I think we bought up every vintage punch bowl in town!” No straws or communal slurping are required; your server will genteelly ladle the drink into glasses for you at the bar or your table.

When a friend asked Mattie a year or so ago if she would pair wines with a multi-course private dinner that chef/caterer Molly Martin was preparing for a client, the two clicked personally and professionally. “Molly did the menu then sent it to me for the wines. We started working together on other private dinners. When it came time to create the menu here, it was just the natural thing.”

Salt & Vine opens at 10 a.m., serving coffee drinks and breakfast breads and pastries. 

Salt & Vine opens at 10 a.m., serving coffee drinks and breakfast breads and pastries.

Parker Knight is ready to make you a curry chicken salad wrap and scoop a side of purple potato salad.

Parker Knight is ready to make you a curry chicken salad wrap and scoop a side of purple potato salad.

The lunch crowd begins to trickle in around 11 a.m., ordering sandwiches, salads and sides from the front counter. If you have a breezy afternoon ahead of you, order a daily market board — a changing selection of cheeses, meats, bread and accoutrements — and throw caution to the wind with a glass or bottle of crushed or pressed. Nothing would please Mattie more. “In Europe, wine is treated like tea in the South. It’s always on the table, available to drink any time.”

Mattie’s mission to “take the pretension out of wine” pairs well with Molly’s culinary profile: no fussiness, thoughtful creativity, simple presentations and distinct flavors.

Salt & Vine doesn’t take reservations, so we made the most of our short wait at the bar with cocktails and a bowl of salty fried chickpeas, which I would immediately like to lobby the Belcourt Theatre to add to their smart new concession stand.

Better than popcorn!  Fried chickpeas with sumac and herbs.

Better than popcorn! Fried chickpeas with sumac and herbs.

The radish toast is a sublime assembly of lightly toasted bread with a smear of rich double crème cheese, topped with thinly sliced watermelon radish sprinkled with diced chives, lemon zest and smoked sea salt.

A simple starter, this is perfection on a plate.

A simple starter, this is perfection on a plate.

The “Share” section of the menu has just eight choices — a relief for diners more inclined to spend time together chatting than studying a long menu. If you are craving fall as much as I am, the charred carrots offer an autumnal preview in orange, yellow and purple.

Charred carrots are lightly tossed with honey brown butter and strewn with chopped hazelnuts.

Charred carrots are lightly tossed with honey brown butter and strewn with chopped hazelnuts.

Molly’s Thai take on the classic mussel dish subs lemongrass, coconut milk and green curry paste for shallots, garlic and white wine; slices of grilled bread are key for sopping up the broth.

Green curry mussels kicked up with red pepper, cooled down with cilantro and mint.

Green curry mussels are kicked up with red pepper, cooled down with cilantro and mint.

Chicken thighs are the funky soul to soft-rock chicken breasts. Molly — a musician in addition to chef — presents pan-crisped thighs on a bed of farro with salsa verde, blistered red and yellow cherry tomatoes and crumbled cotija.

Pickled onion is as pretty as a rose.

Pickled onion is as pretty as a rose.

Molly classes up the low-brow slider with caramelized shallots, melted gruyere and thyme aioli on buttery brioche buns.

 It's all about that beef—and that bun.

It’s all about that beef — and that bun.

Many years ago a local food writer criticized a young chef’s lamb cassoulet as being “too lamb-y,” a descriptor we laugh about to this day. If you love lamb like I do, though not so much a pricey rack, I strongly recommend this trio of meatballs — all the lamb-y goodness minus the sticker shock.

Tender and juicy lamb meatballs, sliced cucumbers, leafy greens with Israeli couscous, a dollop of tangy tzatziki on Israeli cous cous makes a one-bowl meal.

Tender and juicy lamb meatballs, sliced cucumbers, leafy greens with Israeli couscous and a dollop of tangy tzatziki makes a one-bowl meal.

The Tasting Room can seat up to 30 for dinner, more for a stand-and-mingle cocktail party in the Tasting Room at the rear of the restaurant. A floor-to-ceiling drape is pulled for privacy.

The Tasting Room at the rear of the restaurant can seat up to 30 for dinner, more for a stand-and-mingle cocktail party. A floor-to-ceiling drape is pulled for privacy.

As if market, restaurant and wine bar weren’t enough, Mattie and Hannah opened the adjacent Salt & Vine Bottle Store this week — 130 wines and 25 beers to take home with your bag of pasta, jar of sauce, loaf of bread and block of cheese.

Areas all over Nashville are changing as fast as the population. But wherever they’re from and however long they’ve lived here, people seek places to come together in community. Salt & Vine — in an old neighborhood making itself new — is just such a place, welcoming one and all.

Salt & Vine is located at 4001 Charlotte Ave., Nashville, TN 37209. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Learn more here.

Thanks to Ashley Hylbert for today’s beautiful photographs.

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