Friday, January 14, 2011

Swett’s is Good for Your Soul

2725 Clifton Ave.
Nashville, TN
Visited October 19, 2010

Beer selection: None.

Food: “Soul food” heaven.

I know we can get all cloak-and-dagger about this “Suits” thing, but I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Suit757 is a white guy.

Shocker, huh?

But if there is one thing I’ve learned as I’ve made my way across every state in our country in search of good places to eat and drink, it is that some of the best food on earth is prepared by black hands.

Some of my most memorable meals have been served at chicken & waffle joints, BBQ pits, fried chicken shacks and blue collar soul food cafeterias located in the parts of town most suburbanites won’t even drive through with their car doors locked.

In fact, I’m pretty sure in some of these places I might have been the first patron of European ascenstry to darken the door in years. Almost definitely the first one to do so in a suit.

That’s why we call it “Suits in Strange Places”.

So let me say right off the bat, Swett’s is NOT one of those places.

Oh sure, to get there, you have to drive to the sketchy side of town where Swett’s has been serving classic meat-and-three “soul food” since 1954.

But Swett’s is a veritable Nashville tourist attraction. Right up there with Studio B and the Grand Old Opry.

Heck, Swett’s even has an outpost in the airport food court. (You know you’ve made it mainstream when you get a franchise either at the airport or the local Major League Baseball stadium.)

So, no, there is no need to get nervous about a trip to Swett’s. You’ll feel right at home no matter your neighborhood or ancestry. The only thing you need is a taste for great southern cooking and a big appetite.

Other than some intriguing framed pictures of famous customers on the wall next to where the cafeteria line forms, Swett’s has zincho atmosphere. This place is all about eating.

As my place in line quickly snaked by the collage of smiling musicians and football players, I grabbed a tray and came face to face with my first dilemma of the day.


Yeah, Swett’s astutely puts desert at the FRONT of the line. Before you’ve stuffed yourself and come to your senses, “There’s no way I can eat another bite.”

Staring at the display of homemade pies, cobblers and brownies, the dilemma morphs from “to get desert or not” to “which one do I want?”

To accompany my chosen pecan pie, I asked the friendly cafeteria lady the throw some fried chicken legs on my plate.

Of course, the beef tips, meat loaf, stewed chicken and ribs all looked heavenly too. Maybe next time.

Next up: vegetables.

From greens to cole slaw to mac & cheese to cabbage. You really can’t go wrong at Swett’s.

Even if it is some nasty veggie you vowed you would never eat again once you left your mother’s clutches, try it again here. You won’t be disappointed. Slow cooked, simmered in spices, drenched in pig fat, larded with bacon. Swett’s will quickly convert the most hardened carnivore into a veggie lover (just don’t ever go home to mom).

My three vegetables were green beans, sweet potatoes and dressing (okay, they are a little loose on the definition of vegetable).

The beans packed such a flavor wallop from all the ham bits and seasonings that you’d hardly know you were eating a vegetable (that’s a compliment, by the way).

Ditto for the sweet potatoes. These babies were so drenched in syrupy sugar and pecans that they tasted like one of the most decadent deserts on the menu. Absolutely delicious!

The dressing was moist, packed with good seasonings and warm out of the oven.

Thanksgiving will never be the same again.

The fried chicken was excellent also, crispy fried with plenty of good spices.

The round pancake-looking “fried corn bread” was a bit of a mystery to me. I tried looking around at the regular customers to see if there was something special I should be doing to it. Like drench it in butter or syrup or honey. It was a little dry and uninspiring just by itself.

Of course I saved the pie for last.

I have a thing about pecan pie. I like it warm.

Unfortunately, Swett’s only serves it at room temperature.

To me, that’s like going skinny dipping with your friends – but all the girls keep their clothes on.

Disappointing. And pointless.

That being said, I have to say Swett’s pecan pie was one of the best I’ve ever had in my life – that’s saying something considering its 72 degree handicap. Chock full of pecans and drizzled in sweetness.

I came to the conclusion that Swett’s can do no wrong. That’s why folks of all types from every corner of Nashville, year after year, keep making the trek to Clifton Avenue at lunchtime.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!
Swett's on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment