I visited a Nashville that contained as many new condos as it did cowboy boots, and so the presence of restaurants like The Catbird Seat was not out of place. But that doesn’t mean that comfy, regional cuisine has been pushed to the wayside. Nashville-style hot chicken is still very much on everyone’s lips. Brooklyn is getting in on the game, so expect it to start appearing on everyone-everyone’s lips. Memphis gets more props for its barbecue, but I read about a number of places worth a visit in Nashville. I just didn’t go to any. A 90-minute line at Hattie B’s prevented me from getting chicken one day, a hangover prevented me from trying Martin’s Bar-B-Que the next. All I had time for, then, was a traditional Tennessee meat-and-three lunch at the place, Arnold’s Country Kitchen.
Arnold’s is only open Monday through Friday for lunch, and I knew I would be facing a long line. Thankfully, it didn’t snake out the door when I arrived around 12:30 pm, meaning I could get in out of the heat and into the A/C. Regardless, the cafeteria-style service keeps the line clipping along at a good pace, and lunch hour means that few customers linger in their seats after eating. A small L-shaped dining room packs you in tightly, but as it’s the South, talking to your neighbour is more the norm than practicing the fine art of eavesdropping as it is here. When you get to the front, the day’s menu will offer your choice of a few proteins and maybe twice as many sides, with dessert and bread on plates for you to grab yourself.
Although most plates I saw featured the fried chicken, I only had eyes for the roast beef. Especially when I knew I was getting mashed potatoes and gravy. Unfortunately, I think they saw me as an easy target for getting rid of some well-done meat; most of the beef plates I saw around me on tables were definitely more rare. No matter really because the thin slices kept it tender enough. Both the turnip greens and green beans had an unexpected, but welcome, spicy kick. The green beans were cooked down until they were soft and buttery, happily getting mixed up with the creamy mashed potatoes. Bread options were white rolls, baked cornbread muffins, or fried cornmeal pancakes. The fried cakes seemed like the best option for full indulgence. One of my aunts makes a summer pie I love with sliced peaches floating in a bed of peach Jell-O. Arnold’s peach pie was similar but much heavier on the amount of peaches, somewhat hiding the fact that there’s gelatin involved. It’s covered in essentially Cool Whip, an industrial product beyond reproach.