Since just the beginning of this month we’ve told you about the recent or impending openings of new locations for Biscuit Love, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, EiO & the Hive and Hemingway’s Bar & Hideaway. Before we’ve even had a chance to digest those, another wave of eateries has started service, including two in the new Aertson complex looming over Midtown at the Broadway/Division split. Knowing that it may take a while for us to visit them all and give our considered First Bite impressions, I figured it would be best to at least offer quick capsule views so you Bitesters can go check them out on your own. Here goes:
Henley is described as “ a modern American brasserie” in the new Kimpton Hotel at the Aertson, helmed by chef R.J. Cooper. (Lesley Lassiter recently interviewed Cooper for a Better Know a Chef installment.) While I’ve only had time to sample a couple of delicious Rochambeau Chesapeake Bay oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co. while interviewing Cooper for an upcoming piece of my own, I can say that Henley is a stunner of a space, with a menu that looks to be designed for sharing.
Like a small Southern mansion stretching from veranda to billiards parlor, it has an ambiance that is both classy and comfy, and with ace bartender Jonathan Howard behind the stick, I am certain the drinks will be top-notch!
Meanwhile, the Oak Steakhouse has also opened adjacent to a new hotel, this time the Westin near the Eighth Avenue roundabout in SoBro. While it is not physically inside the hotel, it is operated by the successful Indigo Road restaurant group out of Charleston under the able direction of Steve Palmer. Eric Zizka helms the kitchen and has created a menu of meats and seafood that should appeal to both locals and the expense account set visiting town for a convention. Chef Zizka’s emphasis on using local ingredients is another nice detail of the steakhouse’s philosophy, and is not necessarily the norm for chain steakhouses. Nothing about the dramatic interior screams “chain” either, so you should feel like you’re dining in a unique space, not a cookie-cutter.
Not quite as grandiose, but still a welcome addition to the neighborhood is Caviar & Bananas in the opposite end of the Aertson strip from Henley. This bright and airy specialty grocery and deli features a coffee and tea bar, bakery, sandwiches and salads, prepared foods, craft beer and wine plus a more extensive wine bar menu during the evenings. I never thought I’d Uber to a deli, but that may be the call for an evening of eating and sipping at C&B. Also based out of Charleston, Caviar & Bananas is the brainchild of Margaret and Kris Furniss, who have been spending a lot of time in Music City to realize their dream of combining something special with something casual, like caviar and bananas.
Finally, the most recent opening was just last week in East Nashville, as GReKo Street Food opened the door on the stylish, street art-decorated eatery at 704 Main St. As the person who actually has to remember how to type GReKo correctly, I asked the Darsino brothers, Bill and Tony, what was up with the capitalization. The slightly cryptic response was that GR is the international abbreviation for Greece and that the original name for the restaurant was going to be GR Kitchen. Since "Greko" approximates the Latin root word for Greek, the Darsinos decided to pay homage to the original concept by capitalizing the GR and the K. The more you know …
But the most important thing to know is that the kitchen will be run by none other than popular Nashville chef Sal Avila, formerly of Prima. Avila will be helping the Darsinos realize and execute their vision of Greek street food with dishes like pork or beef soulvaki in a pita, grilled octopus, Athenian half-chickens or Korinthian Lamb cooked over open fire ,and frozen Greek yogurt desserts courtesy of Pied Piper Creamery. I’ve sampled the food of both the Darsinos and of course chef Avila, so I’m really excited to get over to GReKo soon!
In fact, although I haven’t eaten at any of these new spots yet, mark my words: I will. Soon and with a vengeance. But until then, feel free to give us your early opinions in the comments below. I want to know what to order when I finally get there!
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