Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Southern Tradition Survives In Trashville

Elliston Place Soda Shop
2111 Elliston Place
Nashville, TN
Visited August 18, 2010

Beer selection: None.

Food: Delicious Southern cooking.

Nashville gets a bad rap. And, frankly, it’s entirely deserved.

The city is built around taking what is supposed to be artistic expression and stripping it down to a commercial pre-packaged product for the masses.

Here’s what happens when you build your entire industry around catering to the lowest common denominator of fickle pop culture whims: tradition, history and good taste get tossed aside like conservative principles the day after a Republican gets elected.

That’s why I always look forward to a trip to Elliston Place Soda Shop whenever I’m in Nashville. The place is like an unchanging rock among a churning sea of bad taste.

Hannah Montana doesn’t hang out here. At least, I hope not.

No, Elliston Place Soda Shop hasn’t changed a bit since the day it opened 60 years ago.

As you flip through the little juke boxes at each booth you still see the same songs by George Jones, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Sr. and Hank Williams Jr.

And the homemade biscuits are Southern-delicious every time.

Today, I got the country ham, scrambled eggs and grits to accompany my requisite buttermilk biscuits.

The ham was great -- not salty in the least bit -- an interesting variation on country hams from further east of these parts.

Since my first day waiting tables at a Southern breakfast restaurant 20 years ago, I’ve marveled at how well the tastes and textures of eggs, ham and biscuit compliment each other. It’s a match made in heaven. There’s no better way to start your day.

But it is the grits that are the star at Elliston Place.

I’ve developed a theory about grits over the last 20 years I’ve been eating them that Elliston Place has required me to alter. (I can change my opinions about some things, on occasion.)

Since grits aren’t normally known to pack a major flavor wallop (unless you get those fancy grits with cheese or ham or gravy in there like they serve at four star Southern restaurants at dinner time), I used to be believe that it is all about the texture when grading grits.

You don’t want your grits too clumpy. And you don’t want them too runny.

You want them moist, but still fork edible.

Elliston Place achieves not just grits perfection on the texture scale. They score a 10 on taste too.

If anyone tries to tell you grits don’t have any taste, you need to immediately bring them to Nashville.

These grits, while completely ungilded, have a delicious hominy taste. No grits-virgin Yankee could ever taste these and ask that typical Yankee question, “So, what are grits, anyway?”

You know right away when you taste that first fork-full of Elliston Place’s grits. You can’t help but notice that deep, earthy corn meal flavor, which gets even better with a small dab of butter and a quick shake of salt and pepper.

Elliston Place Soda Shop is also a great place for lunch.

Come sit at the lunch counter and order up your favorite meat-and-three along with a chocolate milk shake or malt, made the old fashioned way – just like they’ve been doing here for six decades.

Yep. You can count on Elliston Place every time. Every meal.

So no matter what kind of crappy pabulum the suits around the corner on Music Row are churning out this week, you always know there is one place in Nashville that won’t let you down or leave Southern tradition behind.

Just don’t forget to throw a dime in the juke box for George Jones for me.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

Elliston Place Soda Shop on Urbanspoon

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