Five Things To Look For in a Local Restaurant

October 2011

In July, Hotel Indigo in downtown Nashville played host to Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone as he kicked off the hotel’s “Locals Know Best — Dish on the Dish” contest. Chef Stone was the host of the most recent season of Top Chef Masters on Bravo and is a judge for NBC’s America’s Next Great Restaurant, so he clearly knows good local food when he sees it. The fact that he was also named as one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive probably didn’t hurt the turnout as Nashville diners assembled to participate in the contest by sharing what makes their favorite local dish the best in their neighborhood.

Even if you didn’t get a chance to meet Chef Stone in person and fill him in on your dining secrets, you can still enter the contest online at the Hotel Indigo’s Facebook site at until  October 15, 2011. Lucky winners will receive $1,000 cash and a trip for three days and two nights to New York City.

Chef Stone is a fervent believer in the value of local restaurants. “Local food is a huge passion of mine,” he told the crowd. “But the most important thing is the person that is going to eat it.” We asked Curtis what the top attributes he searches for when considering a local restaurant:

“It has to be unique and an expression of the owner. I always believe that you cook the food you love to eat better.”

City House • 122 4th Avenue North
(615) 736-5838 •

Chef Tandy Wilson prides himself of the fact that he creates rustic Italian meals using only five imported ingredients. Everything else on his fabulous menu comes from regional suppliers or is made in-house by Chef Wilson and his talented staff. Drop in on a Sunday evening for Sunday Supper, where the chef experiments with lots of fun, off-menu offerings as diners enjoy sharing small plates of inventive entrees and some of the best pizza in town.

“The restaurant should work with great ingredients and great talent.”

Cha Chah • 2013 Belmont Boulevard
(615) 298-1430  •

Former Top Chef competitor Arnold Myint has created a hip tapas bar which attracts a clientele in search of fine food and stylish cocktails. Some of the more exotic Asian ingredients that Chef Myint uses in his eclectic menu come straight from the backyard garden of Patti Myint, his mother and owner of the International Market right across the street. Daily inspirations for special dishes also come from fresh produce from morning trips to the Nashville Farmers’ Market, where Chef Myint recently opened AM@FM, bringing his culinary creations to downtown diners.

“The chef should have a direct relationship with the farmers locally that he gets his ingredients from.”

tayst Restaurant and Wine Bar
2100 21st Avenue S.
(615) 383-1953 •

Not only has Chef Jeremy Barlow created Nashville’s first Green Restaurant Association-certified restaurant at tayst, he also has crafted relationships with local farmers that provide all of his produce and meats. Chef Barlow believes that it is important for a chef to be able to give diners the name of the farmer who grew everything on the plate. Visitors to tayst will see the names of the purveyors of their evening’s repast posted prominently on a chalkboard inside the restaurant. The food is consistently excellent thanks to Chef Barlow’s attention to detail and his playful attitude toward menu creation.

“A great local restaurant uses those ingredients to create a unique local experience.”

Monell’s Restaurant • 1235 6th Avenue North
(615) 248-4747 •

Since 1995, Nashville diners have depended on Monell’s Restaurant in Germantown to provide them with the kind of comfort food that grandma used to make. Diners sit down at tables of 10-12 seats with total strangers who are soon to be friends. Plate after plate of Southern staples are brought out from the kitchen to be shared family-style along with bottomless glasses of tea. The offerings rotate daily, but there are only two rules at Monell’s: fried chicken is always on the menu, and please pass to the left.

“A local favorite doesn’t have to serve the local cuisine. You can have a great local Italian restaurant in Nashville if it knows what makes a restaurant succeed: great food, location, ambiance and service.”

Caffe Nonna • 4427 Murphy Road
(615) 463-0133 •

It sounds like Chef Stone was describing Caffe Nonna, a favorite Italian hideaway tucked in the curve of the road in Sylvan Park. Chef Dan Maggipinto fills this tiny, romantic eatery with the heady aromas of home-style Italian fare cooked from the recipes of his grandmother, Nonna. Diners sit intimately close together so that they can share kisses and bites off of each other’s plates, including creamy Seafood Angelina or spicy Capellini Arrabiata. Caffe Nonna also offers a selection of lighter fare including delicious specialty salads and a fabulous Margherita pizza.


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