Tomato Art Fest and Food Hopping the East Nashville Eateries

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Tomato Art Festival via Angela Roberts

The Tomato Art Fest sums up the East Nashville scene perfectly. It was the place to be on Saturday.

Voted at “Best Festival” every year since 2007, it boasted a crowd of 18,000 last year on a really hot day. I’m sure yesterday’s crowd was larger, because we had that perfect sunny, not humid ” Southern California” weather and a bit of its whimsy, in food and in art, including costumes, red-head contests, live music, and lots of fun for kids too.

The Tomato Art Fest, the brainchild of Meg and Bret MacFadyen of Art and Invention Gallery, began very humbly as an art show celebrating the tomato in late summer. Like everything else in East Nashville, it has grown hipster with that still friendly, Southern approachability.

There were plenty of people watching and the best costume of the day had to be this Carmen Miranda inspired tomato hat worn by Julie Ann Vanderpool.

All Festivals have food and craft booths. I found a few that were especially interesting.

I was drawn to these crosses and I wish I would have gotten the artist’s name. I meant to go back and got caught up in meeting friends.

I loved these T-Shirts from BeeAttitudes, a local business, based in my own town of Franklin.  Nashville aspires to maintain faith and food that is homegrown. The t-shirts have a muted color palette and express a sentiment with a bee. Bee calm. Bee Yourself. Bed Heard. Bee original. I purchased two shirts, including a special one that says Bee Home Grown, something close to my own heart.

The most interesting thing I saw was a company, Seeds Not Beads,  that was selling jewelry made from coffee beans, orange peel and seeds. Although from Atlanta, this is a very “East Nashville” type of business.

We passed several small businesses, housed in the beautiful old East Nashville architecture.

Fanny’s House of Music is right on the path. They sell, new, used and vintage merchandise, offer music lessons, and include vintage clothing in the mix.

The Five Points Location showcases many of the tried and true and newer East Nashville Eateries, ensuring a year of even longer lines waiting for a seat. I’m good with that. I want everyone, even the Franklinites to trek over to East Nashville to experience the buzz of this revitalized area that Mr. ST grew up in and taste the food. Everyone everywhere knows if you come to Nashville, you have to eat in an East Nashville eatery at least once.

Five Points Pizza is the New York kind that you fold in half, and I can’t wait to try it.

Margot Cafe is still amongst my top favorite places to eat, for consistent commitment to simple, local food with style. They had a tomato sandwich contest, and had I realized it, I would have entered this, still one of my favorite sandwiches of the year.

A meal I once had at Margot Cafe, Seared Halibut with Fresh Corn demonstrates, simple, stunning, clean, fresh. Of course,  Jeni’s Ice Cream was there, sporting green tomato sorbet.

Did you know that Jeni’s originated in Columbus, has 9 scoop shops there, but the East Nashville store is their busiest location? Jeni might be from Ohio,  but contracts with Tennessee farms to make some of her ice cream flavors, which is very cool.

We made our first stop at Izzie’s Ice, a local business, featuring all natural Italian ice. Mr. ST had the blueberry ice which  was as good as ever. Search Izzie’s out. It’s worth it.

The Pied Piper Creamery

I hooked up with Myranda Propaganda (almost her real name) and headed to the Pied Piper Creamery, voted number one favorite ice cream place in 2011. I ordered my two favs,  The Movie Star and Red Velvet Elvis. I almost got their number one selling ice cream flavor, Trailer Trash, but if you saw my lawn, it’s just a little too close to home right now.

Jenny Piper opened her doors in 2007  in an old house, very East Nashville style. She was dishing out ice cream to long lines yesterday and  remains humble and grateful whenever anyone gives her some ice cream love feedback. So now we have Jenny and Jeni and I love them both, and am happy to see their success. There is a second location in the Berry Hill area.

I think Jenny Piper really loves kids because she sells the coolest puppets at her ice cream store. I will buy anything by Melissa and Doug.

There was no shortage of GOOD food.

My lunch was ice cream, but Mr. ST has to eat more than that. Part of the fun at any festival is checking out the food and making a choice.

The joke about East Nashville is that they are “hipster.” I’m put off by that word, although I use it. I think they are earthy and progressive, open-minded to bring change and simply they have embraced, if not created,  a food culture that was lacking in Nashville ten years ago.  They celebrate veganism and nose to tail dining simultaneously.

The Tomato Art Fest showcased a lot of good food, not just typical fair food you’re sorry you ate.

Mr. ST went back and forth not able to decide if he wanted a gourmet burger, jambalaya, pizza from Five Points or something from the food trucks. Our favorites, Riff’s Fine Food Truck, the Biscuit Love Truck, The Grilled Cheeserie and one I wanted to try, the Sum’s Yum Yum Truck. The lines were long for all of them, deservedly so.

This is an example of the kind of quality food Riff’s put out on Saturday.

I Dream of Weenie

In the end, he went to East Nashville’s I Dream of Weenie, a staionary hot dog stand that smashed all of it’s sales records on Saturday and couldn’t even open on Sunday.That’s success.

I Dream of Weenie serves really good hot dogs (beef, turkey or tofu) on artisan type hot dog buns. Located right behind Fanny’s Music and across from the Pied Piper Creamery, and next to Bongo Java. Bongo Java is part of the East Nashville flavor and still my personal favorite when it comes to coffee houses and cappuccino.

This was a WLT, Weenie, Lettuce and Tomato, with sun-dried tomato mayo. He wanted a second one, but we had other places to try.

There was a  tomato contest.

If this was a month ago, I would have won. The tomato below came from my garden. It was gigantic. No tomato came close to this since and it was bigger than their winner, but alas, timing is everything.

If East Nashville is anything, it’s conducive to bar and  restaurant hopping.

After ice cream, ice and weenies, we headed over to the Rose Pepper Cantina for one of these margaritas.  We met some friends, talked for hours and decided to end the night at the new Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden.

It looks tiny from the outside, usually streamed with a long line just to put your name in. We waited nearly 40 minutes for our table, but the service was super fast. The outside patio is huge and quite a surprise. The burgers are good, and the beer menu is hefty. By the time we got a table, it was too dark to get good pictures, so I’ll have to go back and then do a blog post. Oh darn. Just to tease you, I’m getting the farm burger with the country ham, bacon and fried egg.

Myranda Propoganda was happy to showcase the variety of beverages at our table. Can you guess which drink was mine?

Home Grown, Spicy Tomato Jam

I was very tomato inspired and yesterday,  while I wrote this, I put tomato jam on the stove. The tomatoes and basil came from my garden, using a mix of yellow and red tomatoes to make this beautiful sunburst colored jam, which I’ll post tomorrow.

Pied Piper Creamery on Urbanspoon

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  1. oohh.. we love this festival! the heat is a bit overbearing and the crowds are just that.. crowded.. but it is so much fun to walk around and see each vendor and just people watch. And within the past three years since we discovered it, it truly has grown! Love it.. πŸ™‚

  2. I’m so glad you made it over to our neighborhood for the festival – isn’t it a blast? i loved those Bee-attitudes shirts, too, + we got a card to see if they could maybe make some custom ones for us. =) awesome write-up, angela!

  3. The Tomato Fest is one of the best! I must confess I went the first year, and a few years after…but by year before last it had just gotten to claustrophobic for me. Maybe if I were 6 ft tall or taller I would enjoy large crowds more, but at 5’5″ not so much. But those who are new to it, it is still one of the most fun “Nashville” moments to enjoy and the subject is to die for….tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes..everywhere you look in all forms. Kudos to Meg for keeping it going and to her great gallery.
    Looks like you ate all day and had much fun Angela.

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