Nashville Must Eats – Burger Republic

From the moment I first heard about Burger Republic in 2015, I’ve been trying to get there to try what many call the best burgers in Nashville.  Now, almost 3 years later, it has finally happened.  And, it definitely did not disappoint.

While Burger Republic has multiple locations, Sonia and I opted for the Lenox Village location as it is the most convenient one to us.  We went around 4 pm, and the place had a few people in the dining area with a bigger crowd sitting in the bar area.  They were having happy hour, while we were there, and the specials looked to be available in the dining area as well as the bar.

Before I get into the heart of this review, I want to note that prior to heading to the restaurant, Sonia and I had a small breakfast and walked 3.5 miles to get our appetites primed for this long-awaited meal.  And as expected, we were both starving by the time we got seated.  Overall, Burger Republic has a nice range of choices from their shakes to their appetizers to, of course, their burgers.

For me, I was torn between “The Tennessee” and “The 96”, so in the end, I opted for the burger that came with bacon.  When in doubt, always go with bacon.  You have your choice of sides as well, which is almost as difficult as picking a burger.  In the end, I went with “The Tennessee” and a side of tots, and Sonia got the ‘Shroomin with a side salad.

For “The Tennessee”, I can see why this was picked by Zagat’s for their 50 Burgers in 50 States.  From first looks, I was a little worried that this would not be filling as the burger patty looked small when compared to the amount of fried onions in the burger, but I forgot all about it the moment I took my first bite.  The mix of the fried onions, the Jack Daniel’s honey glaze, the burger, and the bacon worked perfectly together to give a ridiculously satisfying taste of smoky, meaty, and sweet.  I couldn’t believe how perfectly portioned all the components of the burger are and how they work in unison together.  The tots were a nice complement to the burger as well.  Being born and raised in the South, sometimes, I forget that things can be fried well and sometimes they many not be.  These tots were crispy with a nice pillowy potato inside and had no hint of excess oil or greasiness on them.

Sonia, who had been craving a good burger for as long as I can remember, found her “Shroomin'” just as satisfying.  All the toppings tasted fresh, with the smokiness of the bacon being a highlight.  She was especially fond of the patty as it was not overly seasoned but again just one of the components meant to complement the rest of the burger.  Her one comment though, if she had to give one, would be that she would have liked more seasoning on the mushrooms.  Just something to give them a little bit more pop.  She opted for the healthier side option and was again pleased with the freshness of the salad with added praise for the honey dijon dressing.

All in all, I can see why many people name Burger Republic as a Nashville must have.  While known for their burgers, it also looks like they are highly praised for their shakes as well.  While I wanted the focus of this post to be the burgers, if you really want the Burger Republic experience, I would encourage you to pair your burger with one of their shake offerings.

Burger Republic has multiple locations, but the Lenox Village location is at 6900 Lenox Village Dr., Suite 22, Nashville, TN 37211.  For other locations, please visit www.burgerrepublic.com.

Postscript: I guess I missed that “The 96” came with bacon though as Sonia has since corrected me that it does indeed note bacon in the menu description.  All that means is that we have to go back to Burger Republic sooner rather than later.

DC Food Monuments – Washington, DC

When planning a trip to DC, most people are likely to look for information about the White House, the presidential monuments, or the various museums throughout the area.  For me and Sonia though, our planning focused on what to eat and when.  This was not only our first trip in a while but also our first trip for 2018, so we wanted to set the bar high with the culinary delights we sampled in our country’s capital.

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

When done right, there’s no better combo in the morning than doughnuts and chicken sandwiches.  There’s just something naughty about having doughnuts and fried chicken together in the same meal.

If you’ve read any of our doughnut crawl blog posts from last year, you should be able to guess which doughnut we went with….of course it was the maple bacon.  Looking at it, I was expecting it to be very heavy, but was I wrong.  It was surprisingly fluffy and light even though it looked somewhat dense when we cut it in half.  There was a good amount of bacon and glaze topping this doughnut, and each was perfectly portioned so that neither dominated.  Rather, they combined in your mouth in perfect proportion with each bite.  Once we each finished our halves, I found myself regretting the agreement to share so we could say we were making smarter food choices in 2018.

Luckily, the urge to run out and buy more of these doughnuts was tempered by the fact that prior to eating this doughnut, Sonia and I each had a chicken sandwich.  One of the highlights of Astro is the variety of ways in which the chicken sandwich can be customized.  They offer a couple of bun options for breakfast and a number of sauces and add-ons.  Since this was our first time having it, we decided to go simple.  Sonia went with the doughnut bun, and I opted for the cheddar biscuit.  The doughnut was similar in texture to that of the maple bacon, but it was plain so no added sweetness from it.  As for the biscuit, it was a little denser than the doughnut, but still not too heavy that it weighs you down.  The chicken itself was nicely fried so that it was crispy but not oily.  However, the highlight had to be the honey butter we added.  It came in a small container on the side so we were able to have a bite with the butter and another without it.  The bite with the butter won hands down.  The added creaminess and sweetness put the sandwich over the top.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is located at 1308 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.

The Pig

If you haven’t guessed it, we have a ridiculous obsession with piggy eats.  I feel like we’ve limited our reviews of pork delicacies though to mainly bacon, but all that changes with this next restaurant.  With a name like The Pig, how could we not try it.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were not prepared for all the yummy options.  Normally, when Sonia and I eat out, we go over the menu and customer reviews to see what the must eats are for a particular place.  Coming here unprepared though had us making tough choices on what we definitely had to try or what could wait until we came back another time (and yes, just based on the menu, we were ready to come back again).  In the end, we opted to share multiple appetizers and then split an entree with a couple of sides.

For our appetizers, we split an andouille sausage, the face bacon, pork wings, and the farm harvest.  While the face bacon is one of their signature items, the two I would definitely recommend are the pork wings and the farm harvest.  I do want to note though that the face bacon was good, and they did an amazing job with the texture so that it didn’t feel like we were eating a fatty cut.  The cognac mustard that it sits on adds a wonderful flavor and was one of the best sauces we had on our trip.

Face Bacon

Face Bacon 2

Next we tackled the farm harvest, which was a salad of arugula and spinach with apples, feta and cranberries.  While there was no pig to be found in this dish, it served as a nice complement to the fat and meatiness of the other appetizers.  The salad had a nice freshness to it which helped tame the guilty feelings of having a meal with so much meat.

Farm HarvestFarm Harvest 2

From the salad, we moved on to the andouille, which was probably my least favorite of the appetizers.  For me, it was way too spicy, so I couldn’t enjoy it, and Sonia found it very aggressive with the paprika.  To offset the heat, we both had to rely on the pickled cauliflower and beets that accompanied it.  Even though the andouille was a little too forward for our tastes, we both agreed that those pickled vegetables were a highlight that we would want again.

AndouilleAndouille 2

After finishing the andouille, our final appetizer that remained was the pork wings.  The order came with 2 pieces and came with sweet pickles (which Sonia loved) and a house made sauce.  The menu noted the sauce as a chili sauce, but I felt it was a little more like an Asian-inspired garlicky glaze.  The pork wings were meaty and tender.  They came sauced as well which made the additional cup of sauce on the plate almost unnecessary.  I’m glad that we saved the wings for last as the flavor got to linger in my mouth while we waited for our entree and sides to come.  My only complaint though is that the order only came with 2 pieces.  You can’t help but want more.

Garlic Pork WingsGarlic Pork Wings 2

While I don’t regret ordering so many appetizers, the down side was that we only got to try one entree.  From the porchetta to the duck breast (yes, I know that’s not from a pig, but duck is so hard to say no to sometimes) to the ribs, I wanted to try it all.  In the end, we chose the shank and ordered the mac & cheese and roasted mushrooms as sides.

The pork shank came served over crispy kale and eggplant caponata.  I especially want to note that the portion was very generous and more than enough for 2 people to share.  The shank was fall-off-the-bone tender and came topped with a pesto that added a nice herb-y flavor.  The perfect bite for me was getting some of the shank with the pesto and a few pieces of the crunchy kale.

Pork ShankPork Shank 2

As for the sides, the mac & cheese was delicious and cheesy, but both of us found ourselves wanting more of the crunchy topping.  As for the mushrooms, they came with a nice crunchy topping as well.  It’s cooked in duck fat, which gives it a nice umami flavor and made it easier to accept that we didn’t order the duck breast.

There’s something about going to a new restaurant, ordering a ridiculous amount of food, and still feeling like you didn’t even scratch the surface of the menu.  The Pig is one of those places for us.  Unfortunately, we live a plane ride away from DC so it would cost us some plane tickets to come back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves back in DC one weekend solely to visit The Pig.

The Pig is located at 1320 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.

Nashville Hot Grilled Cheese (and it’s fried) – Pepperfire Hot Chicken

Growing up in Nashville ages ago, I never imagined that Nashville Hot Chicken would become the quintessential food to define this city.  From a landscape where the only restaurant one needed to know was Prince’s, Nashville now has a number of options spanning all corners of the city with almost all being featured in some form at least once on Food Network.  I won’t go into the debate on which has the best chicken or which has the hottest, but I would recommend trying as many places as you can and deciding which one is for you.

While it was the hot chicken that brought us to Pepperfire Hot Chicken, my biggest surprise was another signature item on their menu – the Peppercheese.

The Peppercheese is a grilled cheese sandwich made with pepper jack cheese, breaded and then deep fried.  While this is definitely not for those on a diet, it will appeal to the inner foodie in even the most die-hard of health nuts.

After ordering and picking up our Peppercheese, the first thing we noted was that the bread slices were thicker, along the lines of Texas toast, but we felt like this was probably necessary to maintain texture and integrity of the sandwich while frying.  However, while the bread appeared to be a substantial part of the dish, Pepperfire maintained the perfect ratio of cheese to bread so that every bite yielded melted, gooey, hot cheese that’s surrounded by a fluffy, pillow of bread with the right amount of crunch along the exterior.

It’s also important to note that the frying on the Peppercheese is spot on.  There were no surprise oil gushes or puddles when biting into it or when wrapping your hands around it.

For those thinking, “why would I order a sandwich, when I came here for the hot chicken”, never fear.  The sandwich works perfectly to complement any of the hot chicken dinners on the menu, or you can order the Tender Royale, which is a Peppercheese and 3 chicken tenders.

Pepperfire Hot Chicken is located at 1000 Gallatin Avenue in Nashville, TN.

For more pictures from Pepperfire, check out our instagram.

 

Another Year, Another Reboot

2017 has come and gone, and with it, another year of blog posts that could have been.  The year started out with renewed vigor, and an idea on how to blog more frequently, but by the middle of they year, we were already losing steam.  It also didn’t help that life had suddenly put us in a position of fewer traveling opportunities.

However, with a new year comes a renewed desire to spread our love of food.  While we may not get to travel as much, we are lucky to live in an area with amazing food choices.  The blog will continue to include the amazing food we try on our travels, but as we are more staycationers at this time, we will focus on our food travels around us.

So welcome 2018, and welcome Eatsward Bound, Nashville-edition!

 

Donuts Done Right – Five Daughters Bakery (Nashville, TN)

Growing up in Nashville, there was only one donut store I knew as a child – Krispy Kreme.  I think they had a contract with all the Catholic schools because it was guaranteed that anytime we were having a school breakfast or fundraiser, boxes of the original glazed and the chocolate frosted were ever present.  As Krispy Kreme grew in popularity, they started opening more brick and mortar shops, and the famous “Hot Now” sign became a beacon calling all fans on to yummy freshness.

This past Easter, Sonia and I traveled to Nashville to spend the holiday with my family.  I did some research as usual on places to visit as part of the donut crawls we are doing whenever we travel and came up with a few places.  For this trip though, the crawl didn’t happen as some places were closed or the donuts were no longer being made.  In the end, we made it to one place, and after having their donuts, I wouldn’t have wanted to try any others.

Five Daughters Bakery is a family owned and operated business with 3 locations in the Nashville area.  One of their specialties is the 100 layer doughnut (their version of a croissant doughnut), and it comes in a variety of flavors with the staples being maple glaze, vanilla creme, chocolate sea salt, the king kong (which is a maple bacon doughnut), and vanilla sugar.  In addition to these, they offer additional flavors each month which can be found on their web site.

From the moment we stepped into the Five Daughters location in the Factory in Franklin, we were in awe of the variety of baked goods and found ourselves resisting the urge to order one of everything.  In the end, we were able to exercise some restraint and ordered a maple glaze, a chocolate sea salt, a king kong, and a lemon blueberry.  We also ordered a Quinnamon roll because they looked so good.

Our box of deliciousness:

IMG_20170414_092535678

Sonia and I have had different versions of croissant donuts, and we both agree that these are the best we’ve ever had.  For me, I feel the novelty of these types of donuts rested in the texture and layers, but Five Daughters has elevated these doughnuts beyond that.   The texture of these were similar to that of a churro, having a nice crunch to the exterior with a soft, pillowy inside.  And the quality of the ingredients and the flavors elevate these beyond not only any other croissant doughnut we’ve had but also over most of the regular donuts.

Each bite for each of the doughnuts was a burst of flavors that took center stage over the dough itself.  It was like the dough was simply a platform used to showcase the maple flavor or the lemon and blueberry.  In particular, with the lemon blueberry, we forgot we were even eating a croissant doughnut and found ourselves thinking it to be more like a sip of blueberry lemonade.

Another highlight for us was the king kong.  When you first see the size and amount of bacon on it, you think that it is going to be a very bacon-y bite (which should not be read to be a bad thing), but then you take that bite, and you’re greeted with all the best flavors you could want for breakfast.  The blend of the saltiness from the bacon with the sweetness of the maple glaze, all with just the right amount of dough leads to perfection.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While we may not have been able to do a full donut crawl in Nashville, I am glad we were able to get to Five Daughters Bakery.  I may have grown up on Krispy Kreme, but Five Daughters takes Nashville donuts to a whole new level, and I cannot wait until I can get back home to get some more and try some of their other flavors.  Special shout out to the staff also, who were beyond helpful and courteous.

Five Daughters Bakery has multiple locations.  The one we visited is located at 230 Franklin Road (inside the Factory), Franklin, TN 37064.

Churro – It’s Spanish for Donut

For the second installment of our donut crawl, we traveled to Madrid, Spain.  While Spain did have donuts – Dunkin’ Donuts has locations in and around Madrid under the name Dunkin’ Coffee, and McDonalds and Burger King both offer donuts as part of their menus – Sonia and I opted to go with a more local and traditional form of fried dough – the churro.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints and a bit of jet lag, we only made 2 of our stops.  Our first stop on our trail of churros was Chocolateria Valor.

Before we get into the churros, I want to note that Chocolateria Valor are the brick and mortar chocolate shops for the Valor company, which is one of Spain’s premier chocolate makers.  You may step into the shop looking for churros and chocolate, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself distracted by the other desserts and sweets they have to offer.  If my eyes could eat, I think I would have been in trouble.

Sticking to our game plan though, we each had an order of the traditional hot chocolate with an order of churros.

The portion size ended up being 4 churros with a small cup of chocolate.  This actually ended up being more than we were planning to eat, so depending on how hungry you are, 1 order of each can easily be shared by 2 people.  That being said, Sonia and I had no problem finishing the 2 orders.

First, let’s cover the chocolate.  We were surprised by how thick the chocolate was.  For us, this was more a dipping chocolate, so we weren’t sure about drinking it once we finished our churros.  Sonia tried and just couldn’t finish it as drink because of how thick it was.  The highlight for us with the chocolate though was the flavor.  This cup isn’t simply a cup of chocolate but rather it was chocolate with a subtle hint of added spices.  This wasn’t even one of their gourmet chocolate drinks, but it did come across as one.

Now let’s move on to the churros.  The first things we noticed was that the churros weren’t textured or sugared, and then we noticed that they seemed to be cut pieces from something larger.  I guess we were expecting something more in line with the churros you get from Disney or Costco, but these are definitely different.

For us, the churros had were soft and eggy.  There wasn’t anything to note about the flavor of the churro itself, which is why the chocolate played a big role in the flavor for us.  Our biggest issue with the churros though was that they were very greasy.  By the end of the meal, both our hands were covered in grease, and we both used a good amount of napkins to wipe some of it off from our hands while we were eating.  To be fair though, I did wonder if the greasiness was more a factor because of how busy the place was at the time we were there.  They were continuously making churros and setting them to drain, but because of the volume and turnover at this time, I’m wondering if they were going from oil to plate too quickly.

Valor - Churro 2Valor - ChurroValor - Greasy Hand

Chocolateria Valor has multiple locations.  The one we visited is at Calle del Postigo de San Martín, 7, 28013.

Our next stop was Chocolateria San Gines, which is probably the most well-known churro spot in Madrid.

Again we had the churros with a cup of chocolate, but this time, we opted to split the order, which came with 6 churros.  For us, the churros here had a texture more in line with what we thought of as a churro.  Like the one at Valor, the inside was nice and fluffy but overall, the churro here was a little firmer and less greasy.  Also, the churro had a bit of saltiness to it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As for the chocolate, San Gines wasn’t as thick as the one at Valor, but it was more drinkable.  While it didn’t have any added spice flavor, it did have a nice sweetness to it.  We also noted that as the chocolate sat, it did begin to thicken.

Chocolateria San Gines is located at San Gines passage 5 in Madrid.

Kono’s is Kalua Pork

For us, the one dish that is synonymous with Hawaii is the kalua pork.  On our last trip, we ate the pork at the Paradise Cove luau, but this time, we did a little more digging on restaurants serving it.  Since we had to drive to wherever we picked, we decided to go to the Kono’s location in Honolulu.  It’s right next to the Leonard’s on Kapahulu so dessert is just a few steps away.

Konos - MenuKonos - Store Front

The first thing we noticed when we walked into Kono’s was the amazingly helpful and friendly staff.  They greeted us immediately and asked if this was our first time at Kono’s.  After we confirmed that it was, they walked us through the menu and told us their personal picks.  We settled on the pork plate lunch which came with a nice serving of pork, rice, and salad.  For the salad, they include a papaya seed dressing, and for the pork, there’s a guava BBQ sauce.

Konos - Pork Plate

The pork had a nice flavor and saltiness that was complemented well with the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.  Sonia and I shared the plate, but from the moment we had our first bites, we regretted the choice to share.  While the pork is served with the BBQ sauce, Kono’s also makes their own hot sauces.  Sonia was a fan of the Habanero Hot Sauce and grabbed a bottle to take home.  While waiting for our meal, Sonia overheard another customer ask for another sauce and discovered there are more sauces that you can request.  You can’t buy them, but Kono’s might want to consider adding these to the sauces for sale, because Sonia was a fan.  I wish we could remember what each sauce was, but you can see them in the below picture.  They are 3 sauces in the plastic containers in front of the bottled sauces.

Konos - Sauces

Kono’s has multiple locations, but the one we visited was the one at 945 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816.