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.

Maggiano’s Little Italy (Nashville)

May 28th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I recently traveled to Tennessee with a friend to visit her family. While there we ate out an

Can't get much cuter.

immense amount, and I’m certain I gained 5 pounds. Alas, it was enjoyable and I hit up some absolutely delicious places.

One of which was Maggiano’s Little Italy in Nashville. I’m a big fan of ambience, and this place had it going on. Antique photos lined the walls, warm lighting welcomed you in and little signs of Italian culture were everywhere.

Unfortunately, we decided to visit during the local prom night (yikes), which led to some waiting (starting with our 9 p.m. reservation). Our waiter wasn’t seen very often, but it was obvious that he was quite busy, and not off in the back napping.

We started with an order of garlic bread, and it was absolute nom. Anything garlic is usually win with me, but this stuff was particularly good.

Nom.

My friend’s mom, Shirleen, was pleased. “It’s toasted to perfection, crispy outside yet still soft inside,” she said.

They also had the typical complimentary fair of bread and olive oil if you were in need of a more economical carb fix.

The menu had everything you could want in the Italian food genre. Meals were offered at half and full portions. Note: do not get the full portion. It should be retitled the “feed a small country portion,” as I couldn’t even finish my half-portion.

I ordered the linguini and clams in a white sauce. While it was good, there wasn’t tons of flavor and I was thinking (perhaps erroneously) that a white sauce equated to a white cream sauce. I got a garlic butter sauce, which was a little too light tasting, I think it could have been a tad heartier.

Makes a pretty picture, but needed a little more excitement.

I sampled with jealousy my accompaniment’s food- which was all tots delicious.

Shirleen got Chicken Spinach Manicotti and was very pleased.

“I liked how the chicken was finely shredded and the subtle taste of the ricotta cheese,” she said.

Her husband, Toe, wasn’t quite feeling his Lobster fettucini.

“It’s a little bit dry to me. The artichoke heart wasn’t really good with it, but the hame was awesome,” he said.

None of us were able to finish our meals, showing how massive these “half-sized” portions were.

The bill wasn’t cheap- over $100, but that includes three huge entrees, two martinis, a sangria and a soft drink. It’s a little pricy, but it’s the perfect place to go for a fancy night out (just make sure it’s not prom night!)

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

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