McDougal’s Chicken (Nashville)

May 12th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Caro Griffin is a Nashville native who moved across the midwest before settling in Chicago. In addition to guest blogging for Chicago Noms, she writes for Creative Kin and In the Meantime. Follow her on Twitter.

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Covering the walls of a restaurant with nicknacks and memorabilia is a risky bet. It’s quick and cheap decor but you risk looking like an overly kitsch Applebee’s. And if the house speciality is chicken, fries, and beer, you run the added risk of being overlooked as generic bar food.

Decorated to look like a backwoods shack (but located in Nashville’s swanky Hillsboro-West End neighborhood), McDougal’s Chicken easily clears both hurdles. The menu is as basic as it gets but includes enough staples (salads, grilled cheese) to add variety. Nothing on the menu is going to blow your mind but what they lack in creativity, they more than make up for with fresh ingredients.

I stopped in on a recent visit to Nashville with my mom, who works across the street. The patio is right out front so it’s easy to spot the joint’s popularity and varied clientele from the approach. It’s located in one of Nashville’s only pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods so people are just as likely to walk as they are to drive. The suit-clad came and went with their carry out, and the patio was a nice mix of professionals on their lunch hour and college students from a nearby campus. (Belmont and Vanderbilt are both within spitting distance.)

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Both order types are placed at the counter inside and taken by a young, friendly staff. The joint has a half dozen beers on tap, but we opted for Diet Cokes. I was surprised to watch the employee fill our cups with pellet ice from a large tub by his register before handing them over. It was kind of random but who doesn’t love Sonic-style ice? (No one. That’s who.)

We settled in on the patio, where the tables are covered by large umbrellas and the tables are clearly intended to be semi-communal. We didn’t have to wait long for a waiter to bring us our food in bright red baskets.

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I ordered their most popular item, a small Chicken Strip Basket. The entree comes with three strips, handcut fries, and ‘Tennessee Toast.’ The combination is standard for any chicken joint but the quality of the food was anything but. The skinny fries were consistently cooked and salted (no random combination of soggy/crunchy here) and the buttered toast (which is easy to do but hard to do well) was cooked perfectly on a stovetop rather than a toaster.

After just one bite of my chicken, I realized why they had banked so much on it. It’s that good. Every brand touts fresh ingredients these days, but McDougal’s claim of ‘truly fresh and never frozen’ rings true in every bite. The chicken is perfectly tender with a soft homemade breading. It comes with a choice of house sauces made for “dipping, dunking, spinning, and licking.” The variety includes a custom ‘McDougal’s Sauce’ as well as honey mustard, buffalo, ranch, and blue cheese. (I opted for my usual ranch and was satisfied, if not underwhelmed.)

By the time we finished lunch, I had mentally added McDougal’s to the list of restaurants I visit every time I’m in town. Then my mom let me in on possibly the best part: Every customer gets a free cup of soft serve ice cream on their way out. Yes, please!

four_noms The Cultural Studies Major:  These grass-fed people-watchers love food that’s good for you, and with a major with no guaranteed paycheck, they don’t want to break the bank, though they’ll sometimes go a little high for something special.

Mappamondo: 11 Abingdon Square, New York, NY

January 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

mappamondo

Image by Balso via Flickr

Strange theme, awesome restaurant.

I thought it was only me who’s fascinated with old-fasioned light-up globes of the world. Wrong. There’s a restaurant devoted to them (and maps in general, but the light-up ones are harder to miss).

Mappamondo in NYC is a hella cute, overly-cozy Italian restaurant that’ll win your heart.

One a sticky summer night, myself and a few friends (with a Living Social voucher in hand) went to sample the cuisine.

I indulged in the, Frutti di Mar, a sampling of delicious seafood in a tomato sauce. The serving size was just right for the price. Definitely not too much, but I was happy with that- Americans are a little too eager for overly-hefty portions.

Service was a touch slow, but it was a crazy busy night. It was also really warm- they only had two window unit air conditioners that were working away to no avail.

I’d definitely recommend this place for a third date- it’s kitschy in the loveliest of ways. However, for us college kids, it might be sage advice to wait for a Groupon or Living Social deal to abound again before dropping a ton of money.

One of those places you'd take a friend to when he was in town, just to show how cool your town was.

The Price Rating: The Advertising Major- Kids who know they’ll get filthy rich soon enough- is the moderate category. Picture a kid with a briefcase and a blazer jacket.

Bar 6 (502 6th Ave.)

July 14th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Spiced Pear Cobbler. Heaven.

One late evening, my friends and I developed pangs of hunger. Not knowing where to go, we hit the streets.

To our (kind of) rescue, came Bar 6.

Their decor rocked, that’s for sure. Warm lighting with an industrial flair made it very comfortable for me. It did, however, have the strange smell of sewage. Perhaps this was just a one-off affair, as I sure hope it doesn’t always smell like that.

“It’s fine. Kinda pricey,” said Brandon. “The side of fries was surprisingly large. And they had an equally large price tag of $6.”

Lemonade. Made it way.

I ordered the Spiced Pear Cobbler and a mixed drink called the Bar6 Lemonade. They came at just over $20 together, but they were pretty well-worth the price. The cobbler came with a healthy scoop of ice cream, and it was absolutely delightful. I love crunchy hot sweet things, and this certainly delivered.

The lemonade, albeit it quick tart, was great. The alcohol was entirely masked, so I have no idea how much was in it, but I left feeling a bit fuzzy.

A few friends got burgers, and they seemed pretty content, though they did complain a bit about the price.

Our server was nice and pretty attentive, but it was clear they were near closing and wanted us to GTFO.

We were literally scootched out of the place, but it’s understandable as the place was hella ready to close.

In sum, it was great, albeit out of our price range by a bit.

Nommy. Not super nommy, but nommy nonetheless.

The Price Rating: Poorgeoisie- Rich hipsters who pay a lot to look poor- is the most expensive category. Imagine a snooty kid with a trust fund.

Amorino (60 University Place)

July 9th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Amorino

Amornio's always have beautiful interiors | Image by shurraycmu via Flickr

As an avid dessert-lover, gelato has a special place in my heart. So rich, so sweet, it’s perfect for my pallet.

I spent all of last semester in London, and a delicious authentic Italian gelato place was a frequent stop for me. Amornio featured an excellent variety and a super-quaint and real feel. It probably helped that the server always spoke in a delightful and hard-to-place European accent.

An Amorino recently opened in New York, to my absolute delight. They’re so new, in fact, that the all-knowing Google Maps doesn’t even have them entered into their system.

The location, for me, is like a slice of London, and brings back tons of calorie-filled memories. For anyone who hasn’t had them before, it’s a must-have. They’re placed by a bunch of restaurants, making them the perfect place to stroll over on a nice hot summer night.

Perfecto!

The Price Rating: The Advertising Major- Kids who know they’ll get filthy rich soon enough- is the moderate category. Picture a kid with a briefcase and a blazer jacket.

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Land (East Side, 1565 Second Ave.)

July 7th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

My main course- veggies with tofu and rice.

A two course lunch for $9 is just one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with Land.

Their minimalist decor and extremely attentive staff (seriously, they filled my water glass every time I took a sip) make it awesome.

I ordered a Land Salad as my starter with tofu and vegetables as my main course. The Land Salad was easily the most delicious starter I’ve had in ages. Crisp greens, fresh beet, hard-boiled egg and crunchy tofu croutons made it. There were a ton of flavors going on in my mouth.

My friend's food- looked a bit tastier.

Honestly, after this ridiculously good salad, the main entree was a bit of a let-down. Sure, the vegetables and tofu were good, but the sauce was too watery and the flavor seemed to be perpetually dripping off of the food.

For $9, though, it was still well-worth it. In the future I think a different main dish would leave me ridiculously happy.

They also have a dessert menu, but as it was lunch I was afraid of looking at it- knowing that I’d likely be required to get a dessert item if I saw one that was tempting.

Worth a return visit!

The Price Rating: The Photo Major- The true “starving artists”- is the cheapest category. Photo majors spend what little money they don’t use on chemicals and film to buy Ramen. Imagine a cute kid trying to struggle to survive, all in the name of art!