M Restaurant and Bar, usually just known a M is conveniently located in Cummins Station, in Nashville, close to the new $623 million Music City Center that’s about to open, near the Frist and easily accessible from the highway.
Smart location, smart decor, and smart, sophisticated yet approachable Southern food.
I love the name M. What are the odds of eating at two different restaurants named M that have nothing to do with each other? I told you about a wonderful eating adventure in Columbus, Ohio last summer. Our first stop was at a place called M, which nailed it for food, cocktails and beauty, including ethereal draped sheers which prompted me to deem it “the Pinterest restaurant.’ Funny enough the M I’m writing about also has long white sheers covering one of the windows and possesses a very keen aesthetic.
While the decor of M in Columbus leans a little feminine in its design, M in Nashville leans toward handsome. I’ve never called a restaurant handsome before, but the charcoal upholstered chairs, black tablecloths, stained concrete floors and deep charcoal walls scream hipster, urban handsome with yet a very unpretentious charm. The bar is has similar comfy chairs and makes me think I want to come back and just hang there, peer into the open kitchen and enjoy what Nashville is becoming…a food town with an array of local restaurants popping up and redefining Southern food.
M Restaurant and Bar had only been open for 8 weeks when we dined there, and we were lucky to get a Saturday night reservation. The place was packed, yet our very lovely table was waiting for us, with wine glasses and full utensils as if they know every guest comes to dine, not just grab a bite.
The lighting is low, so please forgive my pictures. We chose two salads, and while I liked them equally, the kale won the table vote. The other one was a lettuce wedge with blue cheese and a crispy half quail, which won my personal vote.
We selected four entrees, and three of us were very impressed. I had shrimp and grits. The bowl was a big portion, so much so, I kept giving bites to the other three at the table, and still got full. The grits are creamy and the next night we were all together again, still talking about them.
Mr. ST. had scallops. They were seared perfectly, yet so tender as they were cooked through barely and rightfully accompanied by a smoky butternut squash.
I was happy when someone at the table ordered the “three little pigs”, a pork tenderloin, pork belly and pork cheeks served with kimchi kissed brussels sprouts to cut through the richness.
We thoroughly enjoyed the three little pigs, a dish which we are unlikely to make at home. The only dish that was mildly disappointing was the snapper with grits. The grits were dryer than the grits with the shrimp, which were swimming in a great sauce. The fish was not a large portion and while delicious in its own right, it would have felt like a more ample plate had the fish been sitting on the same grits with some of the same sauce from the shrimp and grits bowl. It still rated very high.
The desserts at M Restaurant and Bar are worth the trip. I am almost always disappointed with desserts around town. I don’t have a big sweet tooth, but when I want a dessert, I want it to be wonderful, not too sweet, but memorable. It’s the restaurant’s last chance to undo any small mistakes. The server didn’t deliver the bottle of wine until the meal was nearly done, and we never received bread we saw on other tables. We try to be easy going with new restaurants that are busy on a Saturday night, and the desserts made us forget these small things.
Do not leave without ordering both the blackberry cobbler and the coconut cake.
I am clearly a blackberry fan, and I’m going to try to snatch their recipe or copycat it. The whole table loved both desserts but the blackberry cobbler won by a small margin, full of blackberries, not too sweet, and tasted like home. I, however, equally loved the coconut cake which was moist and unforgettable.
The staff at M is friendly, young, and willing to serve. Although, the decor has all the modern urban loft touches, it still manages to include charm and southern hospitality. You can stay a while, enjoy a long cocktail hour, and order several courses, making sure you leave room for dessert.
Note: Tomorrow I’ll be posting about M’s country cousin, Mack & Kate’s in Franklin. M has the same familiar friendliness that is the signature of owners Jan and Bernie Strawn. They also own Macke’s, upscale Southern, and M. Market, also located in Cummins Station.
If M is the first restaurant you visit in Nashville, you will want to visit the others. Each has its own personality.
Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, Chef, Toby Willis passed away from complications due to a brain hemorrhage. We are very sorry for this loss. On March 5, an event for Tummies for Toby will take place. This is a foundation to raise money for chefs and friends to go to Haiti to feed the hungry, build kitchens and more.