It had been nearly seven years since we had been to the Yellow Porch. It fell off my radar because it’s not in a location I think about, and even when I’m driving by, I’ll miss it. Yellow Porch doesn’t need to worry about being hidden behind a few buildings (a bank and a sub shop) on Thompson Lane in 100 Oaks area because they have a strong following and almost never an empty seat.
The Yellow porch, serving sophisticated farm to table food for fifteen years (a lifetime in local restaurant world), is one of the Nashville Originals.
As we entered the small, crowded dining room on a very cold Tuesday evening in April (record breaking), we were shocked that there were no empty tables outside of one small table near the bar and small booth. Luckily we grabbed the booth and got equally lucky with a very entertaining waiter.
Eating out is more than food and atmosphere. The quality of the experience always involves the people, those I’m dining with and the restaurant staff. I can’t even stress enough how important a dedicated restaurant staff is to the success of a place. Great food with a ho hum server is worse than good food with an enthusiastic server. We had the best of both.
Our server didn’t need to twist our arm when he recommended the Tennessee Sweet Water Cheese Fritters. He called them heavenly hush puppies and explained that there was a particular way to eat them. You break them in half and stuff them with the fermented chow chow. Cheesy, pillowy, spicy, crunchy, vinegary, served with aoili. A winner. The menu is so diverse that included in the starters is a blue cheese celery soup that I want to try the next time. It’s a menu staple.
I will jump over the moon to tell you about the next appetizer, because I fought for the last bite. Big enough to be an entree for me, the crab cake covered with raw shredded Brussels Sprouts is that perfect combination of crab cake, sauce and crunchy green.
I never (well, almost never) order chicken in a restaurant and only will do so when the waiter lights up and nearly begs me to. He did, so I did, and the lesson here is, listen to the waiter. A sorghum infused airline chicken with a Morrocan rub over the possibly best mac and cheese (my taste) and a side of broccolini for the most reasonable price, is something I can return to. It’s Tuesday night good. It’s Saturday night good.
I’m not typically a mac and cheese lover with an entree because it’s heavy, but this is different. It’s not just a big cheesy dish. It’s a unique surprise of flavor and texture, made with shells, crunchy vegetables and lots of flavor.
Judging from the cheese fritters combo and this dish, the chef loves to play around with textures, ingredients and combinations in a whimsical fashion. No bland Southern food served here! Yet, it’s Southern friendly. If the food were music, it would attract both fiddle and violin enthusiasts.
I ate half of it heated up the next day. It was even better. I could taste each flavor coming together and I would return for just this dish. I’m still imagining the chef sitting at a table or perhaps over a stove creating this assembly like an orchestra.
One of our guests got the short ribs with mashed potatoes and root vegetables. What a presentation. I’ve had the short ribs at fine dining places which can’t compare. The portion is so big, this big eater couldn’t finish it. This is the dish when you want meat and potatoes and you are in a big comfort food mood, yet still want to feel like you’re dining out.
Mr. Spinach Tiger ordered the shrimp and grits. Yellow Porch, when I wrote this article on the best places to get shrimp and grits in Nashville, I surely would have included you had I known. He immediately put them in his top five and nearly licked the plate clean.
We were offered a sheet of specials such as trout stuffed with crab, which was tempting. We decided upon regular menu items, but did order a bottle of one of the featured wines. A Sierra Batuco Reserva Chilean red blend of Sirah, Cabernet and Carmenere. This is the red that goes with every entree mentioned, silky, loud and smoky enough to accompany beef, but a short finish, never getting in the way of the food. We loved it and think it’s worth recommending. We did notice that it followed well with the dessert. A bite of tiramisu and a sip of the wine finished off the evening with charm.
Tiramisu is not the trendiest dessert, but it’s respectable and timeless the way creme brulee is. It must be made well and this version is. The only thing I wasn’t fond of was the caramel on the plate. It left an aftertaste of caramel sauce, when I was hoping for more of an espresso taste.
The decor itself isn’t too much too look at, except for these larger than life pictures hanging on the walls that perhaps I might like more in a larger space. I don’t get the connection of “yellow porch” which sound cozy and Southern and these pictures, but no one cares when the food is this good. Tables are crowded closely together and the place is noisy. I watched faces from my coveted only booth. No one seemed to mind the red walls that closed the restaurant in even more. In fact, it was the happiest bunch of diners I’ve seen in a while. They looked like regulars who knew they were onto a good thing. Regulars mean consistency and that is the quality of a restaurant that can stand the test of time. Yellow Porch clearly does that.
Entrees are reasonably priced, beautifully presented and come with sides included. It’s not for a change to not have to order ala carte.
Service was Nashville friendly and our server knew a lot about the menu.
Give yourself plenty of extra time to park. It’s a bit of a challenge as the parking lot is small.
While the decor on the inside is a bit lacking, the patio is cozy, and probably the best place to eat in the warmer months. The Yellow Porch accepts reservations and I highly recommend making them. I couldn’t find a twitter handle but they have a facebook page.
I write about food, so it’s often hard to get back to a place often, but the Yellow Porch left me with the desire to return and eat everything on the menu. I want the paella next, because where in Nashville are you going to get paella for under $20?
The Yellow Porch
734 Thompson Lane