Cheat Meal of the Week: Midtown Cafe in Nashville

07/14/2016
Joe Doino

[continued from Amari bar review] …Thomas and I finish our drinks and head over to Midtown Cafe, Nashville.  He definitely has a more refined palate than I do, and this is where I leave my comfort zone.  We end up having 5 courses, 3 of which were foods I’ve never had before.

We start off with their Shrimp and Grits appetizer, for which they’re revered.  I have to admit though, as a native New Yorker I can’t look at a plate a grits without thinking of the breakfast scene from “My Cousin Vinny.”  The plate comes, looks and smells amazing and I can’t wait to dig in.

midtown cafe nashville

Literally the first words out of my shrimp and grits fill mouth were “holy shit.”  It was absolutely hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

vinny grits

Next came a very odd experience, foie gras.  I’ve never eaten it and have never understood why it was so sought after.  I’ve always thought of liver as one of the last parts of an animal that anyone would want to eat.  It processes toxins after all.

midtown cafe nashville

Thomas made sure the waiter brought a little bowl of coarse sea salt to sprinkle on top of the apricot glazed goose liver, which was definitely the right call.  I could only describe foie gras as “butter meat.”  It’s basically pure fat, which yum, but that texture mixed with the sweet and salty was fascinating.  I get it.  I’ve been enlightened.

After that came a rather underwhelming lobster brie mac and cheese.  It was good but I’ve definitely had much better.  After adding some of that sea salt meant for the foie gras, it became much more acceptable.

midtown cafe nashville

The roasted garlic polenta cakes were another thing I’ve never eaten before.  They were definitely good and I get why people like them but I can do without it.

midtown cafe nashville

I needed a protein to go with it, and that’s where the best part of the meal came…

The pan seared duck with cheesy scalloped potatoes.  I’ve always kind of veered away from duck for reasons I don’t really know myself.  What caught me off guard was that it was served rather rare.  I’ve always been of the understanding that poultry was either “done” or “not done”.  Apparently this duck was so high quality and fresh that simply searing it, leaving it tender, juicy and pink was not only medically OK, but culinarily preferred.  Again, comfort zone was long left behind.  I was honestly a little worried but as soon as I took a bite, my worries were gone.  That duck went down smooth, man.  I couldn’t believe it.  I could tell that if it were cooked any longer, the meat wouldn’t break down and would become difficult to swallow.  Luckily, the chef knew exactly what he was doing.  The potatoes were great, the asparagus was “bleh” but I couldn’t care less.  This dish completely changed my view of duck forever.

midtown cafe nashville

The waiter came back asking for dessert orders, and I don’t think I could’ve eaten another bite.  I was done.

If you’re ever around midtown and the line for Hattie B’s looks like they’re selling the cure for cancer, wander over to Midtown Cafe.  It’s unassuming yet so classy, in the best of ways.  They know their food and truly care about what they put on your plate.

Until next week….

MY BACKGROUND

I’m Joey, a New York drummer living in Nashville, playing with the band, Arc & Stones.

I LOVE FOOD! Right after college, I gained a lot of weight and hit a whopping 267 lbs. Terrified that I could hit 300 lbs before I hit 30 years, I decided to take control of the foods I was eating and started taking the fitness thing more seriously. I keep a very strict diet, making sure I hit my macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbs) each day. I hit the gym six days a week.

But once a week I cheat and treat myself. Food is one of my favorite things in life. This regime allows me to have my cheese-stuffed, deep-fried cake and eat it too. My column will focus on these indulgent treats.