When I travel in the United States, I Google “James Beard” and the city of my destination to learn about new and noteworthy eateries. The James Beard Foundation recognizes chefs and restauranteurs with awards comparable to the Oscars given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Visiting the establishment of a James Beard semi-finalist or finalist usually ensures a great dining experience. After a ten year period as a nominee and four years as a finalist, James Beard awarded Tandy Wilson, the chef/owner of Nashville’s City House, with Best Chef: Southeast last Spring.
Visiting by myself on a Monday night, I found the dining room full but plenty of seats at the bar or the pizza bar. I chose the bar. When dining alone, sitting at the bar offers social interaction that you wouldn’t get alone at a table. During dinner, I enjoyed receiving and later giving menu recommendations from and to my fellow patrons, respectively. The bar shelves prominently display a variety of whiskeys inspiring a number of signature house cocktails on the menu, but I ordered the Salem made with Cathead Pecan Vodka, Hoodoo Chicory Liquor, Bianca Vermouth, a citrus shrub, and Moscato in a Mason jar rimmed with sugar in the raw. Deliciously tart and sweet with just a hint of bitter.
The crisp and bitter radicchio salad with sliced carrot and pickled onion tossed in a spicy-creamy Alabama white sauce came alive in my mouth with every bite. The dressing’s spicy heat conveyed a delicious horseradish zest. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Sour Corn Cake entrée arrived in a shallow baking pan filled with creamy, lemony-garlicky yellow eyed beans and broccoli covered by a thin pancake of crisp cornbread. I asked the bartender to choose an Italian white to pair with this course. She brought me a glass of Greco made by Iuzzolini Cirò Bianco in Calabria in 2014 which brought out the lemon in the dish. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
While sitting at the bar, I noticed several pizzas that I know I’d enjoy on a future visit. A lamb sausage special for the evening and the Half Chicken on the current menu drew my attention. So many chefs focus most of their creativity on meat and seafood dishes, but Chef Wilson’s attention to simple tasty vegetable dishes as a main event points to his mastery of food.
My bartender tempted me with dessert after dinner. I ordered the Almond Ricotta Pound Cake served with drizzles of lemon marmalade and a ramekin of lemon Ricotta gelato. The kitchen updates the dessert menu with new creations over time, but this cake remains with each iteration. I understand why. ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
I really enjoyed my visit to City House. The friendly bartender knew the menu, provided helpful answers to questions and suggested a well-matched wine pairing for dinner. The kitchen paced service of each course at the right moments. Within moments of sitting down at the bar, a fellow gourmand noticed my Facebook check-in to City House and recommended I try a dish which no longer appears on the menu. Not resting on his laurels, Chef Tandy Wilson continues to innovate with changes to the menu. I look forward to enjoying his creativity on future visits.
1222 4th Ave North
Nashville, TN 37210
Menus as of November 14, 2016: