Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mambu Restaurant and Bar

   Mambu is set off of West End Avenue in a small house that can be spotted easily because of the valet stand out front and huge front patio section. As we walked up the ramp into the restaurant, we were both pleasantly surprised at how quaint and quirky it was decorated and our excitement for this new experience began to grow. The décor is one of my favorites in Nashville, right up their with Firefly in Green Hills, and definitely sets the tone for the meal to come.

   The Happy Hour specials change but our waiter told us it was $6 Wines and $6 well drinks. I have also seen them run $5 frink specials for Mojitos, Margaritas, and more so maybe call ahead to find out what they are offering that night. I sat this one out on the alcohol front and Cole had a glass of the house Cabernet. Our waiter had our mouths watering while thoroughly explaining the many featured specials and the menu was full of appetizing choices. The menu also features small plates which invokes a Tapas style feel and is perfect for sharing and trying more than one option.

 We started off with the Corn Fritters ($7) that were the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, with an unexpected surprise of black beans and green chiles inside. The fritters came on top of a sweet chili sauce that was great for dipping but not enough if you are sharing and both love the sauce as much as we did.

 We were in the mood for a steak but with our $50 budget in mind, opted to share the Flat Iron Steak ($21) in a red wine demi glace with sautéed Zucchini on top of hickory-bacon Gruyere macaroni and cheese. The waiter kindly separated the steak into two meals without us having to ask and even with splitting, I wasn’t able to eat all of it. The steak was cooked to perfection and the zucchini was grilled with just the right texture to compliment the steak. The star of the show however was no doubt the bacon macaroni and cheese The macaroni and cheese is as good as any I’ve had but the bacon hints, while not overpowering, are definitely present and catapult this dish to legendary status. It is worth a trip to Mambu just to try a bowl of this heavenly sent concoction.

  Mambu is a combination of delicious food in a fun setting and is perfect for taking out of town guests, hosting a small to medium size dinner party, or practically any occasion you can think of. Mambu also jumped out to me as being a great fit for a first date, not only providing conversation topics but also making you look like a Nashville Insider with amazing taste. Either way, grab a friend and try out this hidden gem just off of the beaten path.

Ratings for Mambu: (Scale 1-10)
Happy Hour - 5.5 (Based on the specials the night we went)
Taste - 8
Ambiance - 10
Overall - 8


MAmbu on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 25, 2011

Morton's The Steakhouse (Bar 12·21)

   Morton’s is infamous for being a top quality and top price steakhouse but many people don’t realize there are ways to do dinner there on a budget. Cole and I ventured to Morton’s to get the most out of our $50 budget and definitely did just that by taking advantage of their Bar Bites options.

  The Bar Bites are available in the bar Sunday - Friday from open until 6:30 pm and then 9 pm to close and feature high end appetizer like variations of their normal dinner menu for a fraction of the price. The servings are generous even though they are called Bites so we decided to share a few.

  We went with the Crab Cake BLT ($6 HH), Petite Filet Sandwiches ($6 HH), and Blue Cheese Steak Fries ($5 HH). While the Crab Cake BLT had a little too much crab for my taste (a good problem to have), Cole loved it, specifically the quality and crispiness of the bacon. One tip if you try the BLT, order extra mayo, as the combination of the bread, crab, and bacon, can be a little on the dry side. The Filet Mignon sandwiches come on a soft sesame bun with a pile of perfectly cooked filet mignon and are as delicious as they sound and a steal for the $6 price. The steak fries are crispy on the outside with a velvety texture in the middle and rival any fries I’ve tasted.

    To compliment the food, I went for a glass of Kung Fu Girl Riesling ($10.75) and Cole opted for the High Gravity Dogfish Head Pale Ale ($8.25). While the drinks are a little pricey and not part of the Happy Hour specials, with the money saved on the food, its worth it. All in all, with tip included, we spent $50 exactly and could have easily done it for less had we skipped the alcoholic drinks.
 Morton’s has a classy Mad Men type atmosphere and the bar is full of people talking, laughing, and enjoying good food. The service is also one of the best in Nashville and our waitress in particular was amazing, so when you go try Morton‘s, ask for Lauren.
Ratings for Morton‘s: (1-10 scale)
Ambiance – 8
HH Specials – 6.5 (Only due to lack of drink specials)
Flavor – 9
Overall – 8.5


Morton's - the Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Patterson House

  As we walked through the first set of doors of Patterson House, we were immediately transported to a time where alcohol was prohibited and speak easy bars were the norm. Once behind the red curtains though, the true journey began.

  Our first move once inside was to grab a seat at the bar. The show that the 1920s clad bartenders put on was as much a part of the experience as the rustic drink menu full of classic cocktails and ingredients. As we perused through the lofty choices, we decided to try something we’ve never tried before, as they feature drinks you can't find on any regular menus around town.

  The drinks are made strong and with fresh ingredients and most come with a large ice sphere. Made from molds designed specifically for Patterson House, these spheres take 5 minutes each to create and keep drinks the perfect temperature while not watering down. Cole went with one of their most popular drinks, the Bacon infused whiskey. This drink could please even non whiskey drinkers as it is smooth yet strong, with a subtle amount of bacon hints. I went with the champagne cocktail that may sound normal and plain, but The Patterson House put a vintage twist on this classic by adding a touch of bitters.  

 We also decided to try desserts instead of our normal appetizers, even though they have plenty of food options available. We started out with the S’mores which are made with Nutella chocolate and include strawberries and marshmallows and were the perfect mixture of sweet without feeling heavy. We then moved on to the homemade Cinnamon Sugar doughnuts. I can’t explain these any better than the name already does except to say they are a must try.

A few tips to make The Patterson House a more enjoyable experience:

1. Go early! This is the most important tip as even on a weeknight, past 7:00 you will wait    
    for a table, and I mean a long wait. Friday and Saturday night, forget about it. PH stays
    busy and is quite small.

2. Don’t plan on getting drunk. This is an upscale crowd and noise carries well here. This  
    is the perfect place for pre-dinner cocktails or after work drinks with friends.

3. Expect to spend money. With no HH, the drinks are pricey ($11) but worth it. Revert back to
    tip 2 and just stop in for a quick snack and a few drinks.

With so much to offer, it would take months or a very high tolerance to make it through all of the choices here but if you are looking for a swanky locale and a delicious alcoholic concoction, this is the place to go.  

Ratings for Patterson House: (1-10 scale)
Ambiance – 10
HH Specials – 0
Flavor – 8
Overall – 8


Patterson House on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 15, 2011

Suzy Wongs House of Yum

Suzy Wong's House of Yum is easily one of my top 5 restaurants in Nashville so when I heard they were starting a new $5 Happy Hour on their Patio, I was as good as there. The weather was perfect as 13 of my friends and I gathered last night in the posh outdoor dining area to see what this new HH had to offer.

We started off with cocktails, specifically the featured HH drinks which were White or Red Sangria and a Sake Mimosa ($5 each). The drinks were delicious, beautiful, and most importantly potent. While these were the only HH specials, they were the perfect compliment to the setting and menu and worth the drive down Church Street.

We ordered a few small plates for the table to share including the Chicken Katsu Bites with a peanut and hot sauce ($9 and my personal fave), Vegetable Spring Rolls ($5), and the Crunchy Shrimp & Avocado Maki ($9). We also ordered a few Yum bowls, which are generous, made to share size portions of inspired Asian fare, and like everything else here, they did not disappoint. Between the small plates and Yum Bowls, Peanut Sauce Chicken Penang ($10) and Sweet & Sour Chicken w/ Crispy Noodles ($10), no one (except my beautiful dieting friend, Michelle) left hungry.

As we were leaving after the 5+ hour experience (our choice to stay so long, not a reflection on the speed of the service) we caught a glimpse of the conceptual genius, owner, and Top Chef contestant, Arnold Myint, sitting at the bar. As a fan of the show and all of his restaurant endeavors in Nashville (ChaChah and PM), it took a great amount of restraint not to run up and hug him, while squealing like a schoolgirl about how much I adore all of his work! Arnold has become a local celebrity but it is refreshing to know that he is still so involved with his local restaurants.

Suzy Wong's became a routine stop in my Nashville dining experience after just one visit. This is where I take the people I love when they come to town because while the flavor may not be what you associate with tourist Nashville, everything about Suzy's represents the true Nashville that makes me proud to live here.

Ratings for Suzy Wong's House of Yum: (1-10 scale)
Ambiance - 9       (Inside or Out)
HH Specials - 6   
Flavor - 10
Overall - 9.5


Suzy Wong's House of Yum on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Pied Piper Creamery

  If you were in Nashville yesterday, you know it was hot! So we decided it was the perfect day for some homemade Ice Cream from one of our favorites, Pied Piper Creamery.

 For those who haven't experienced Pied Piper, this is a must on one of our humid Nashville days. They have at least 24 flavors at either one of their two locations, along with a steady stream of specialty flavors routinely added into the rotation. Don't let the funny names throw you off though, they are serious about their ice cream.

  One flavor isn't always enough and yesterday we decided to try a few. I stuck with the classic, which in my opinion is hard to beat, Chocolate Duh (actual name). We also tried the Na Na Nu Nu (Banana, Vanilla Wafers, Marshmallow), and Trailer Trash (Vanilla with Oreo, Twix, Butterfinger, Nestle Crunch, M & Ms, Snickers and Reese's Pieces). The Trailer Trash was so good, we even ordered a quart to go.

  One thing you cannot miss out on at Pied Piper is the homemade Waffle Cones. If you are lucky enough to walk in while they are being made, you will immediately be blown away by the amazing smell. The crunchy, freshly baked waffle cones are the "cherry on top" for this creamery.

  A one scoop order on a waffle cone will run you $3.75 and is more than enough ice cream to satisfy a sweet tooth. If you need more though, you can get a huge double scoop for only $4.50 (tax included). The to go quart is only $9 with tax and is plenty to last you between trips. The Berry Hill location is closed on Mondays but the East Nashville location is open 7 days a week.

 The Pied Piper has separated itself from the other well known ice cream chains with amazing ice cream at a great price and an atmosphere that let's you feel like a kid again.  

Ratings for Pied Piper Creamery: (1-10 scale)
Ambiance - 8       (Top 3 for playful date)
HH Specials - 9   (No HH but great prices all the time)
Flavor - 9
Overall - 9



Pied Piper Creamery on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Cole, Brent, and I set out last night for a few after work drinks but didn't want to spend much money. I immediately thought of Sambuca, one of the best Happy Hours in Nashville. Brent had never been and since this wasn't officially date night, we decided it would be ok to have a repeat visit.

The first thing to know about Sambuca is to bring cash for valet. It's free, right out front, and with no available self parking close by, it is worth the $5 tip. Since it is getting warmer out, Sambuca has an amazing upstairs patio that overlooks the Gulch. Even when it's cold outside, the decor of Sambuca is also gorgeous and perfect for an intimate date or private party.

 Brent had two beautiful 1/2 price cocktails: Skinny Bi*%# Pink Lemonade (HH $5) and the Effen Sangria (HH $5.50). I order the house Riesling (HH $4.75) which was so dry and bitter, that I couldn't finish and gave the rest to Cole. The bartender offered to make me a specialty drink to my taste (he said all bartenders there will) so I had a pineapple margarita without sweet and sour mix (HH $5). This is probably my new go to drink and was a hit with all 3 of us! Cole had my leftover dry Riesling and a glass of the house Merlot ($4), which is always a sure bet.

Food -
 We sprung for 2 orders of the Garlic Bread ($2.25 HH and perfect to share), Margherita Pizza ($5.50), and the Chicken and Beef Satay ($4.75). The bar food and appetizers are good, especially for the price, but definitely aren't the main attraction at Sambuca. That being said, if you go for a sit down meal and are not worried about a budget, they have amazing filet and chicken along with plenty of other options that are very impressive.

Happy Hour specials are available 4:30-6:30 M-F at the bar (up or downstairs) and consist of half price appetizers, pizzas, wines, and mixed drinks. Our waiter gave us the inside scoop that this may be changing soon though, so get to Sambuca quick.

Here are our ratings for Sambuca: (1-10 scale)
Ambiance - 9
HH Specials - 10 (Top 3 in Nashville)
Flavor - 7.5
Overall - 8.5


My Pineapple Margarita

Margherita Pizza           

Sambuca Balcony

Sambuca on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cooper's on Porter

Last night, we tried out a new restaurant addition in East Nashville. Cooper's on Porter is a gastropub and restaurant with an amazing balcony and even better specials. The inside of Cooper's seems to be unfinished, with canvas paintings thoughtlessly thrown on the walls, but the building is great and there is a ton of potential. It isn't exactly the most romantic date night spot but it would be great for after work drinks with friends or just a casual night out.

We started off with the Zucchini Crisps Appetizer ($5 during Happy Hour) which was more than plenty to share and came with two great, house made dipping sauces. I had a generous glass of the house red to drink ($4 during HH) and Cole had the French Broad Rye Hopper Beer ($2.75 for pint night) which he thoroughly enjoyed.

We then split the Tomato Braised Chicken ($15.50) which came with zucchini and squash, a little bit of feta cheese, and pita bread. We both enjoyed the entree but the chicken was a little dry, even with the tomato sauce and olive tapenade topping.

We finished off with an order of the Almond Tree Cake Lollipops ($6.50) that are made by the bakery next door. They came with a chocolate with chocolate icing, vanilla with chocolate icing, and carrot cake with vanilla icing, some powdered sugar and two large strawberry slices. They were a great end to the meal but were very heavy and would be perfectly split between 3-4 people.

All in all, we left full and satisfied and had a great time trying out this new local option for under $40. While we wouldn't go back for dinner, we will definitely go back for drinks and apps but only during HH (Tues-Fri 4-6 pm). (*Note: They also sell CAO cigars on the menu)

Here are our ratings for Cooper's on Porter: (1-10 scale)
Ambiance - 6
HH Specials - 8
Flavor - 6
Overall - 6


Cooper's on Porter on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How we got started

My husband Cole and I decided to start a weekly date night but after a few weeks we realized we always ended up at our same go to spots around town. We came up with the idea to make a list of places we had heard/read about and make it a weekly goal to try somewhere new.

 After 35 weeks of faithfully exploring what Nashville restaurants have to offer, we decided to share it with others out there like us. Each week is somewhere new and we typically visit during "happy hour" to try out an appetizer, a few drinks, a split entree, and sometimes a dessert. We budget for $50 per week but most weeks come well under.

So far we have had a blast with this experiment and we hope you will have as much fun on this journey with us. I would love to hear your feedback and any suggestions of places for us to try will definitely be added to our list.

 Here goes...