Eat Fresh, Eat Local in Tennessee
You don’t have to blow your healthy lifestyle changes during a night out on the town. Regional, local, homemade and healthy food choices are being offered more and more in restaurants around the country. Tennessee restaurants, in particular, have embraced this epicurean evolution and have taken it to a new level, fusing traditional Southern dishes with wholesome ingredients where the end result is nothing short of being diabolically delicious. If you’re looking for all-natural nosh, stop in at the following places:
West Tennessee is settled in the Mississippi Delta that exudes blues, rockabilly, barbecue and authentic Southern cooking:
If you’ve been hiking, boating and adventuring along Reelfoot Lake, you won’t have to travel far from the Reelfoot State Park Visitor Center as Boyette’s Dining Room in Tiptonville is right across the street. The restaurant’s been around since 1921, serving up regional cuisine like Southern fried catfish, their own country ham, homemade hushpuppies and country vegetables. People from all over the world have come to this country kitchen for some good grub and you should, too.
Farm-fresh, “elevated” comfort food is what you’ll find at The Elegant Farmer in Memphis. The menu changes with what’s harvested daily, weekly and seasonally from sustainable farms. There’s nothing like a farm fresh deviled egg, season ripe tomatoes for the buttermilk tomato-basil soup and center-cut filets with sautéed green beans, barbecue bordelaise sauce and horseradish cream.
Country music stars coupled with Southern small-town charm, Middle Tennessee is the mecca for music, adventure and a blossoming food scene that would be a culinary crime to miss:
Clay Greenberg, former executive chef of Virago and LIME, and Paul Cercone, previous owner of Normandy Farm Artisan Bakery, teamed up to open Silo in the historic Germantown area of Nashville. The chef-driven menu includes sophisticated farm food in a space that holds a community table, private dining room, two patios, an open kitchen and a bar area. You’ll actually want to wake up early on the weekend just for the Sunday brunch which includes hot and fluffy cinnamon rolls, Brioche French toast with Georgia peaches, smothered in bourbon-vanilla maple syrup and of course the farm-fresh eggs served any way you like. Dinner includes three-course meal options like daily charcuterie, shrimp & grits and the chocolate mousse with a pretzel crust drizzled with a butterscotch sauce.
Trade big city beauty with historic, small town comfort in Franklin, recently named Garden & Gun Magazine’s 2014 Greatest Southern Town. There you’ll find Gray’s on Main, a three-story restaurant with a blend of traditional and eclectic in every Southern dish. The menu seasonally changes and incorporates locally-grown ingredients into each creation. Gray’s history is just as interesting as its menu. The circa 1876 Victorian building was originally the site for Gray’s Drug Co., a landmark pharmacy that had a century-long run. The 2013 restoration of the building paved the way for Gray’s on Main and now is a site where locals and visitors can savor lobster tossed with ham, macaroni pasta and sharp cheddar and gruyere cheeses; a wild elk filet, or fresh trout wrapped in a corn husk and fresh herbs with Southern caviar and a rice pilaf. Have the late night munchies? Gray’s has you covered 10 p.m. to midnight.
Headed east? Home of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee’s Oldest Town, Secret City, and farm fresh favorites from local eateries like these:
The Plaid Apron in Knoxville serves up seasonal favorites for daily breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch. Started in 2011 by Drew and Bonnie McDonald, diners can expect hearty breakfasts with choices like an omelet stuffed to the brim with bacon, kale and garlic cheddar; griddle cakes with whipped sorghum and vanilla butter and maple syrup; and stone-cut oats for oatmeal topped with, fruit and granola. Do dinner with smoked beef topped with horseradish mayo, the market fish with te you (Chinese broccoli) and garlic scapes, or the grilled cheese which gets a revamp with buttermilk cheddar, strawberries, local sprouts, onion jam and focaccia.
No two sweet treats are the same at Milk & Honey in Chattanooga. That’s because the popsicles, gelato and coffee are made from scratch every day, incorporating seasonal and organic fruits and berries. Snacking is celebrated here, so go all out with an espresso, a house-made Horchata Latte or Lavendar Honey Latte, and paletas, a Latin American treat that is light but still very indulgent. Breakfast and lunch are also offered that include the Farmhouse biscuit that has Milk & Honey breakfast sausage, Benton’s bacon, tomato jam, egg, arugula, caramelized onions, shallots, and white cheddar; and the turkey and brie pita that is spread with a vinegar mayo with fresh spinach and raspberry preserves. Yum!
Which farm-fresh restaurants in Tennessee have you tried? Contribute to this culinary conversation in the comment box below!