Thursday, January 19, 2012

Merchants Restaurant - Nashville, TN

During our Nash-vegas Vacation, Jeff and I had lunch at Merchants, and it was quite possibly one of the best meals I've ever had in this fine city!

We didn't set out to eat here. In fact, in all my time visiting here and living here (and having friends living here) I had never heard of it, or at least didn't remember it if I did. In all honesty, even if I did know about it I probably would have been hard pressed to actually eat there because it was downtown and I loathed going downtown unless someone else was driving and I KNEW I had parking covered. However, now that I have the privilege of simply being a tourist and I do know about it, I'm going to have to put it on the regular rotation!

We went in about 1 pm on Saturday. Not only was it a holiday weekend, but there was a big hockey game going on as evidenced by all the people in town wearing jerseys for both the Predators and the Philadelphia Flyers. (And for the record, I not only recognized the Flyers stuff but I was the one to inform my husband about what it was. I hope you are imporessed!) There were about three couples in front of us in line, and the hostess informed each of us that she had places at the bar or on the patio, or there would be about a 20 minute wait. Nobody bothered to wait, ourselves included. We happily took a table on the patio. It was actually in the alley so it wasn't right out in the middle of everything but you could still do some people watching. Plus, it was enclosed with plastic and there were heaters going. At first I thought I was actually going to be TOO warm, but it ended up being quite nice with the breeze that was provided when people came and went.

The atmosphere was a combination of elegant and fun. I feel like a horrible person for not remembering our server's name, but she was great. Instead of a bread basket we got a little can of popcorn! I tried my darndest to figure out what exactly was seasoning that popcorn, but couldn't do it. Obviously there was an herb (I'm guessing parsley) and I'm thinking maybe some parmesan. Perhaps if I had a chance to savor and study it a bit more I could have figured it out, but it was exceptionally yummy and my loving husband was eating it by the fist-full so I joined in the gobbling!

We started our meal with the fried green tomatoes, which were served with a spicy tomato jam and pimento cheese. I'm not a fried green tomato fan, but that pimento cheese was fantastic. It was not overly-mayonaised and had just the right amount of kick. The cornmeal breading on the tomatoes came off quite easily and basically made the perfect little cracker for me to enjoy the pimento cheese. Jeff happily ate all the tomatoes and said they were some of the best he has had.

For lunch, I ordered the "Soup and Sammy". It's a grilled cheese sandwich made with cheddar, smoked gouda, and bacon and a bowl of tomato bisque. It's supposed to also come with freshly made potato chips, but since they also do sweet potato fries I substituted those. They were served with a fabulous smokey barbeque sauce. I honestly felt like there was some sort of little gremlin inside of my head who knew exactly what all my favorite flavors and textures were and was giving them all to me on one fantastic plate! I have to say, I love grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and never have I had one made so perfectly! The soup was also delicious and creamy and not too rich. I definitely did the whole "dip the sandwich in the soup" thing and it was just wonderful! And the sweet potato fries? One was on the edge of my plate and I bumped it into the floor before I could move it to safety. I really almost cried at its loss, they were that good!

Jeff ordered a Cobb Salad with ranch rather than the vinaigrette described on the menu. Although my husband is not especially picky about many things, he is picky about his ranch. He is a sucker for good, homemade ranch dressing and that is one area that I have yet to be able to achieve his seal of approval because I can't get it exactly the way he wants it (and, bless his heart, he can't tell me WHY!) However, he really loved this ranch and was very happy with his salad. I also let him try a bite of my soup, and for someone who claims to not like tomato soup, he was very eager to get as much as he could!

Although we thought about it, we decided to forgo dessert on this trip. Although it wasn't an extremely huge, leftovers for days, sized meal it was more than enough to satisfy us and had I gotten dessert, I don't think I would have been able to enjoy it. I think a chocolate truffle was probably the only thing keeping this from being ALL my favorite things at once!

During these colder days of perfect "tomato soup and grilled cheese" weather, I have a feeling I will be longing for this lunch frequently. I know I'll be re-creating it at home and it'll be nowhere near as good, but I will eagerly anticipate a return trip. If I make it back in the summer, I'm thinking a burger with that pimento cheese on it. Who wants to join me?

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