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Al-Rayan Part I

One of the things that was brought up recently for me to include in my articles was information on different kinds of markets.

Well, never let it be said that the Hungry, Hungry, Hippie doesn’t listen. Ask and you shall receive.

The first market I picked is one that is coupled to a resturant I have reviewed of the same name: Al-Rayan. The food they make there I have always found delicious and fresh, and I turned to them for the hummus the family gnashed on for Super Sunday.

So I went about picking out various snacks for a taste testing of the kinds of foods one might find at Al-Rayan, and the owners were very helpful and friendly in my decision-making process. I asked for an impromptu video interview and they readily agreed. Rather than me being the middle man, I am going to let them explain their business in their own words.

So, without further ado here is a video tour of Al-Rayan Market located on 1107 Memorial Blvd, # 107, Murfreesboro, TN!

Make lunch, not war!!!!

Miller’s Alehouse

They say its not what you know, its who you know. A couple of weeks ago, I had the great fortune through some wonderful people I know to attend the soft roll opening of Miller’s Alehouse. I’m a little late getting this too you, but better late than never. No further delays. Onward!!

The parking lot was PACKED! There was road rage over parking spaces and I was honestly afraid somebody was going to get hurt. Man, I hope that isn’t the case all the time. 

Walking in the front door, the hostess greeted us and checked our names. We were led to the second bar area and seated comfortably. The bartenders approached and quickly brought us up to speed on the way things worked there.

The menu was limited, and we could choose from a selection of items. We got the Zingers app. Chicken Tenders covered in cheese, pico, and sour cream. We nibbled on this a bit, though The Missus wasn’t feeling well so she didn’t eat much.

Later my dish was brought out and I had gotten the mahi mahi blackened, with a side salad. The food was fresh, the fish cooked perfect, and the service great.

Essentially, this place is two giant bar areas. They have lots of craft beer choices with many local selections. In warmer weather they have the ability to raise garage door windows and open up the second bar to the great outdoors.

This place is going to be a reasonably priced food and beer choice in an area already replete with such. It’ll be interesting to see what Miller’s does to Sam’s directly across the parking lot.

Let Mortal Kombat begin!

Give these guys a try, and let HHH know what you think.

Make lunch, not war!

McAlister’s.

Some time ago, I was invited to eat at Peter D’s with a friend. It was about a year ago I guess. It was an enjoyable enough meal and experience, but I didn’t really document it in my head and so the memory got a little fuzzy over time.

A few months ago, I decided it was time to turn my critical eye back to them for a “working visit” and The Missus and I went one night to enjoy a date night. I took my notes, snapped my pictures, and formed my opinions.

A few days later literally as I was writing the review, I came across the news that Peter D’s was closing. I thought about it for a bit. Then, I deleted what I had written so far. However, I wondered what would eventually go into such a coveted space in The Avenues? In time, I got my answer.

McAlister’s.

This would be the second location for this large chain of over 400 stores in Murfreesboro. I had been to the first one only once, and so many years ago I may as well just say I’ve never been. Peter D’s left one heckuva pair of shoes to fill with this location, so let’s see if McAlister’s gopt the feet to fill them.

First Impression:

I’m starting in the parking lot this time. The approach to this location leaves something to be desired, but I don’t know how much of it McAlister’s inherited. The entrance to the parking lot is dark. A little more light out there would go a long way. One of the things I look for, but almost never have to leave a comment about is the handicap parking. I have no idea why, but the handicap spots are situated away from the front door, and regular parking closer to the door. Why? There is a ramp access closer to the door, but the handicap parking spots are situated further away near a second ramp. Bad form.

Entering the foyer, two things strike me. First, its January and there are fall decorations out. A bit odd, and smacks of inattention to detail. Next, there were several framed pictures on the walls and they all contained pictures of McAlister’s products, or people enjoying them. If I am already inside your building, you don’t need product placement to ensnare me.

This is just crass over marketing and it runs through the entire store.

There is no clear indicator as to whether you seat yourself or you wait to be seated. Or if you even get seated and order from the counter on the other side of the large room.

Atmosphere:

It feels like a chain place. Like stock footage. There are TV’s on the walls, more pictures of people holding glasses that say “McAlister’s” and such. Everything is a drab green and brown color, and even though I know the place had just been remodeled, it just had a dingy look to it. I think it was intentional, some kind of matte effect maybe but it just didn’t have the “earth tones” feel it was supposed to for me. The music was a late 90’s mix of things, and this is on me totally, but I don’t think I knew a single song. I. Am. Old.

Service:

It’s all counter service here, but they do bring your food to you. There was a general lack of energy and enthusiasm by the staff on this visit. The place was empty, and the staff either bored to tears or unmotivated by their management. Was it bad service? No. Was it welcoming? Not really. There was one aspect that really negatively reflect on the staff that I will discuss in the next section.

Food:

I ordered the South West Cobb Salad. It was a tasty enough salad, and really low in calories thanks to the nutritional info they had available to me to cite. Decent portions, but kind of lacking in the presentation. The ingredients were not near as plentiful as they appeared in the menu pictures. The worst part of the meal was the guacamole was not fresh and green. It wasn’t brown, but it wasn’t far from it. I had asked for my dressing to be on the side since I tend to just dip my fork into it to eat my salads these days, and eventually I found my dressing…on The Missus’s plate when they brought it out.

The Missus got the “choose two” option so she could have a bowl of soup to warm the bones, and the veggie sammich really appealed to her. Crab and Corn chowder was her soup decision, which surprised me as she doesn’t care for crab. Nevertheless, she found it yummy.

Here’s where McCalister’s earns the drubbing I am about to give them.

The Missus had ordered the Veggie Sandwich, which comes with (supposedly) fresh avocado. The avocado on her sandwich was brown and slimy, which is not a term I use often. It was a bit shocked, and we pulled the sandwich apart to look at it. Very dark, almost grey. She couldn’t continue with it and took it back to the counter. She returned to the table and told me that when the cooks were presented with the situation, they acted indignant and rude. If your cooks are visible to the customer, they are part of the customer service experience. The quality of the food should not even have been in question, much less sent out. The guac on my salad wasn’t fresh either.

A new sandwich was brought out to us, and it looked much better with definitely fresher product. Apologies were given, but nothing else offered to help make it right. The Missus enjoyed her second sandwich and said if it was the sandwich she had been given the first time her experience would have been wonderful. But I’m not soon going to forget the staff’s reaction to her complaint.

Cleanliness:

McAlister’s makes up points by being very clean. Its to be expected since they haven’t been open that long, but its nice to see it being maintained. There’s a pall that hangs over the place, but I think that’s more from color, upholstery, and décor choices than anything else.

Final thoughts:

This could have been a much better experience. Food that wasn’t fresh, attitude from the cooks, and not getting items mixed up on plates simply reflects a staff and management that is not motivated. This place is in the lion’s den. The Avenues/Gateway/The Med is the toughest restaurant competition in Rutherford County. Here it’s a game of inches and little things will make or break you. McAlister’s was nearly empty my entire visit. If they are going to survive, they need to fill every seat in that enormous dining room as often as possible. Or there’s going to be another pair of shoes for somebody else to fill.

2 out of 5 peace signs! Dig it!

The time has come, the walrus said…to Like, Comment, and SHARE this post and page with all your friends. And remember…The walrus was Paul.

Make lunch, not war!

This little piggy went to market,I bet he was one Slick Pig!


When people around here talk about BBQ, everybody has their opinion about what’s the best. Same as burgers, pizza, hot chicken, or Mexican food. 

The secret ingredient is…there is no secret ingredient.

BBQ, like a lot of foods, has certain regional elements that set the variations apart in terms of taste, appearance, and sass. No group of people is ever likely to be unanimous in deciding what BBQ is “best”.

Slick Pig located at 1920 East Main St. in Murfreesboro, TN is one of the most popular BBQ places in town, and one of the older ones. The building it is in at one time hosted the legendary East Main Market, which in the 80’s was one of the most prolific purveyors of “import beer” back then, and famous for its sales of plastic gallon jugs of draft beer, including the now defunct Gerst House beer from Nashville.

The Missus and I stopped in a couple of weeks ago, and decided to have a sit down meal from here. I have eaten BBQ from Slick Pig for many years, but for no real reason, I always got it to go. It was near closing time, but we were made to feel just as welcome as if the doors had just opened.

First Impression:

If you have lived in Murfreesboro any length of time and don’t know where Slick Pig is, shame on you. Even if you don’t however, A quick trip down historic Main St. and the brightly lit sign will steer you in. This is an old building, many decades old. The owners have recently renovated a big portion of it and even added additional seating outside and an ice cream parlor onto the front. Walking in the door, it instantly feels like the kind of place your grandparents would take you, and you wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy Griffith sitting in a booth. It’s that kind of genuine hometown feel.

Atmosphere:

Wooden tables and booths, a good old-fashioned community board, and lots of cute “pig themed” décor abound. The rustic setting is honestly encountered, not contrived and artificial like Cracker Barrel. Lots of smiles and friendly conversation flowed from person to person. It’s refreshing to walk into a place where the clientele is so relaxed and happy that it instantly puts you at ease. These people are probably regulars, and their satisfaction is infectious. 

Service:

Food is ordered from the counter, and they give you a number from a paper ticket. We got our drinks from the fountain area and took a seat near the window. I felt bad, as we had walked in very close to closing, and the pre-closing had begun. Let me tell you though, that didn’t detract from the service one bit. Our food came out promptly and every effort was made to make sure we had everything we needed. Honestly just some of the friendliest service you could ask for.

Food:

I’ve eaten food here for many, many years. I already knew how much I was going to enjoy it. Proteins and veggies in the form of a BBQ platter made sure I was going to be happy testing my blood sugar later. I got an order of smoked wings to split with The Missus who had never tried them, and didn’t care for wings in general. I assured her that the world would never be the same after trying these and she agreed. She loved them.

Adventure was in the air apparently, because my lovely wife decided upon something I had never even seen on the menu before. “Redneck Tacos”. Pork, baked beans, and slaw piled high on top of cornbread fritters. Unique and a whole picnic on your plate at once.

Cleanliness:

Since it was close to quitting time, cleaning was already in full force. I was watching, and it’s obvious the staff has their heart in it. Even the squeeze bottles on the table were clean. Given the age of the building, its good to see that you can walk in and feel comfortable with the care it is being given.

Final Thoughts:

Is it the best BBQ in town? That’s really up to the individual I think. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the whole “best in town” arguments I see. Certain foods, like BBQ, invoke more passion in those discussions than other foods. I know that I enjoy it, and have for many years. For me, it ranks pretty high and there are days when I just want that home town feel for a meal. I used to buy Gerst House beer in this building in the 80’s. That carries a lot of nostalgia over. Maybe I’m not just eating BBQ. Maybe I’m eating memories too. I have to say…they’re delicious.

4 out of 5 peace signs. Dig it!

Speaking of memories, I need you guys to remember to do something for me.

Like this post. Like this page. Leave some Comments. SHARE my posts and page with others. Together we make the melting pot of community full of yummy things.

Make lunch, not war!

Blue Raider Foods

Sometimes you just gotta have that…thing. That food or beverage you crave to an unreasonable degree. But holy moley…you’ve already got your jammies on. Or your spouse took the car and there’s no groceries. Or its just too freaking cold. What you gonna call?

Third party delivery service, that’s who.

There’s more options than ever before now for this sort of thing. Uber Eats. Door Dash. Grub Hub.

I decided to pick one and try it. When I think of Murfreesboro delivery, it had to be True Blue. Blue Raider Foods.

Why Blue Raider Foods? Local branding. Shop local when you can.

I checked the app store for Apple to see if there was something there to use, and I didn’t find anything unless I missed it. So, I Googled the name of my restaurant and blue raider food and got a hit to click on. If you want to check out their site, click here: https://www.blueraiderfood.com. Since I typed “Ginger Thai Blue Raider Food” the link I got went me straight to the ordering for that menu, so that’s where I started. You’re going to see that reflected in the pictures.


The menu was pretty straight forward. You scroll down (not swipe left or right) till see you see your menu item and click on it. It puts it in a cart and any decision points you need to address appear on a pop up. Special instructions, number of items, heat level, etc. Once you have made all your picks, then you go to the confirmation screens and input your card info. Honestly, its really easy. They then give you an estimated window for your delivery.

Now this next part kind of works like Instakart for grocery delivery. It tells you when a delivery person accepts your order, and tracks there progress towards your residence. They arrive, you sign, and blammo! Time to gnosh.

It took an hour roughly to get my fix in’s. That’s pretty consistent with most pizza delivery so that’s cool. I never expect take home/togo to be as good as getting it in-house, so I was curious how hot, fresh, and delicious (just like me) it would be when it got here. Que part two of the review after this short intermission

(Insert dancing concession stand characters)

Welcome back

If you’ve been following me in the last few months, particularly since I got diagnosed with Type 2, you know I have turned to Pho and other soups for nutrition that’s relatively worry free for me. Ginger Thai has been one of my favorite places for Udon, Pho, and Tom Yum Goong. I wanted to see how those massive bowls of broth, noodles, and other goodies would arrive, and despite my ravings about this place in the past I had my dislike of delivery food from sit-down restaurants reinforced.

The soups were neatly wrapped up, in fact double wrapped, to ensure that no spillage would occur.

Phenomenally sturdy, thick plastic containers.

Itty bitty spoons to eat it with.

I think most restaurants assume you are going to get their food home and replate it just like it would look in their establishment. False. Most of us are going to eat it right out of the box. We ordered delivery also because we don’t want to have to wash the dishes from cooking and that includes utensils. So, most places don’t put the effort into their to go materials to really make the food hold up and provide you with the cutlery and tools sufficient to enjoy it. The ones who put a huge emphasis on to go only parking at their sites I find the most annoying with this.

So, where was I?

Oh yeah.

Tiny spoons.

There was no way I was going to eat a gallon of soup a half teaspoon at a time. Fortunately, I also carry chop sticks with me for just such an occasion. We poured our soups into bowls, and fished out the solid innards into them as well. The Missus’s soup (Creamy Tom Yum Goong) had separated while in transit, but it incorporated well enough again.

The Missus had me order her an extra side of noodles to just eat, and after some investigation, I discovered that it was assumed I wanted them in my soup. My Udon looked like two squid fighting over an oyster. Just a lot of noodles. It still tasted good and we were pleased, but it wasn’t the same as eating it there, and a few mistakes were made.

In the end, I think that’s the trade off for home delivery.

1) Its going to take longer to get to eat most likely.

2) Its going to require you to use inferior utensils and containers.

3) You may have to end up washing dishes anyway.

4) There’s a good chance something is going to be wrong with it.

5) You don’t have to leave the house

6) Apparel choices are broader. Perhaps optional.

7) You can enjoy other activities like a movie on TV while you eat.

8) You get food for delivery you used to not be able to.

Myself? Anything that’s not fast food I prefer to go to the effort of making the appearance and going out. But every once in a while, it is nice to have those other options.

“Make lunch not war”!

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint Murfreesboro.

It’s good to be the king, as Mel Brooks used to say.

Jack Brown’s Burgers has been the king of the local Battle of the Burgers for two years in a row. That’s an impressive feat for a small, regional chain of only 12 stores scattered across the southeast. There are a lot of burger places in Rutherford County and Murfreesboro. Dozens that either feature burgers as their signature offering or that have them included in their menus as a selection or three. Jack Brown’s has been at 113 N. Maple St. on The Square in Murfreesboro for a couple of years now, occupying a space that has served as home for two different coffee shops…The Clay Cup and later Reveille Joe’s. For now, let’s round up them doggies and get along the trail to today’s article.

First Impression:

As they say, “location, location, location”. Jack Brown’s has the distinction of being located in the pulsing heart of downtown, right on The Square. Businesses here seem to automatically rise in estimation of the locals loyal to this area of town. The age, character, and rustic charm of the downtown’s center mass suit this establishment well. Bovine skulls and old barn wood ensure you don’t miss the front door here. Parking is available in easy walking distance around The Square proper, or along nearby side streets. Not one, but two parking garages offer even more options. If you are handicapped, your options on the square are only a handful at best, and not easily spotted. The only negative I have for this section is that the front windows had thick black curtains drawn over them, blocking the inside view. That’s a certain part of the charm for window seating where you have sidewalk traffic. People see the lights, decor, and people as they pedestrian their way by, and those dining get to people watch or be seen as they enjoy their experience. It was after dark, so I am not sure why the curtains were closed other than they were just forgotten about in the day’s routine.

Atmosphere:

JB’s is a FUN place. Lots of whacky decor with unusual things like Jackalopes, a skeleton and Barbie sharing a bird cage, or a chandelier of bras. Lots of natural wood gives it a old west saloon feel although I hate those cheap metal Nashville starter pack chairs they use, along with 75% of every new restaurant in the last three years. They are about the least comfortable chairs in the industry, all my professionals following me should know. Maybe they are intended to move people along to turn tables quicker or something. I don’t know, but they are uncomfortable and don’t look good. No points lost for JB’s here, because EVERYBODY is using them.

The music ranged from a smidgen of classic rock, to a bunch of 90’s and R&B so there is a little bit for everyone there. We sat at a table in one of the window areas, and the lighting was so dark we had to pull out our cell phone lights to read the menu. Again, the heavy black curtains being pulled across the windows worked against this place as it made this table that much darker and the allure of sitting in a widow seat was lost. It was one of only two low tables in the building. Everything else was bar height or the bar itself. This is important to note for those with mobility issues, and I would not characterize the place as being wheelchair friendly. Its a fun atmosphere, and seems at its most enjoyable if you are having alcohol.

Service:

Our server was a young man who seemed a bit shaky. He was affable enough, though a bit disorganized. He sat down in a chair next to me, which is a common enough server practice but not one I find appropriate usually because it seems contrived. During the course of ordering, I asked a few questions about the menu and alcohol. He seemed more comfortable in people knowing what they wanted for beer than advising on what they should have. In the process of ordering, I mentioned I was diabetic and that it was the reason I had so many questions about the menu and ingredients. In spite of this, I was brought a sweet tea by mistake and later offered a fried oreo. Am I offended? Not at all. However, it was a missed opportunity in awareness. Same thing with the table area being so dark and the curtains drawn over the windows. We were looking at the menu with our phone lights.

That should have been a clue. The service overall was satisfactory, but little things like the fried oreo (for The Missus, not me!) being dropped off on the edge of the table without a word or even a pause in step and the length of time before someone who joined us was approached for an order did no favors. I could spot two people who appeared to be management. Flannel shirts if I guess right. One sat at the end of the bar with a laptop and beer and never did a table visit or addressed anything while I was there. Perhaps he was off duty. The other was a girl working behind the bar who had very little energy in her performance. The staff overall seemed a bit too relaxed. Comfortable.

Food:

Let’s tackle those award winning burgers first. Wagyu beef. We’ve all heard about it.There’s American Style Wagyu and then there’s Japanese Wagyu, or Kobe as it is sometimes called. The japanese beef was banned in the U.S. until 2012. Jack Brown’s uses “100% American Style Wagyu Beef”. A lot of people confuse the term Kobe and Wagyu as if they are the same thing. They are not. Kobe is produced from a very specific region of Japan. If it is not raised and butchered there, its not Kobe. To put it another way, All Kobe is Wagyu (Wagyu means “Japanese Beef”) but not all Wagyu is Kobe. American Style Wagyu is a superior type of beef, which comes from Japanese cattle cross bred with Angus cattle.

I like JB’s burgers. I think Wagyu is a bit wasted when you add a bunch of eccentric toppings or condiments to it. Like cooking a filet mignon well done and topping it with ketchup. But…I do like an exotic burger from time to time and their 4oz patty is just the right size for the slimmer, trimmer hippie I am trying to become.

I decided to fight in the dojo of Cobra Kai for my calorie-controlled tournament. This is a burger topped with cream cheese, pickled jalapeños and jalapeño jelly. Nice and spicy like I like it. The texture of the Wagyu was lost on me between the cream cheese and the bun. It was a good burger. Two year in a row champ of all burgers? I’ll make more of an effort next year to attend the event. Maybe the organizers will ask me to judge. Sweet potatoes are good for diabetics. Sweet potato fries? I honestly don’t know. Or rather, I didn’t. So I ordered some for a side. Unfortunately, they were overcooked. Not quite burnt, but very dark and crispy. The pickle was underneath the fries, so it was not the cool refreshing palate cleanser I was hoping for. It was hot. All in all, this meal I would not recommend to anyone with blood sugar issues. There’s really not much here that is diabetic-friendly. My blood sugar test was 158 later. I still averaged pretty good for the day, but that was higher than I like to get.

The Missus, the cheese to my macaroni, ordered the El Chupacabra! (Chupacabra means “goat sucker” and is a mythical creature originating in Puerto Rico) Goat Cheese and sweet chili bacon adorn this little treasure. Not a fan of goat cheese usually, The Missus found the flavor profile of this selection to be to her liking. Her sweet potato fries were overcooked as well.

Fried Oreos. At a dollar each, they sell themselves. The Missus enjoyed it immensely. Perhaps too much.

Cleanliness:

I found the place to be pretty clean, all in all. Nothing sticky, no globs of cheese stuck to a menu, food on the floor. Well done. I will point out that there are areas of opportunity for tidiness. Right by our table, was a stack of boxes with supplies, uniforms or something in. The area was a pile of clutter and unattractive. The back hall where the bathrooms are held extra kegs, wet floor signs, stools (not that kind of stool!) and other odds and ends. It was also the only floor that didn’t look as clean as it could be. A little attention to those details would have made this section of the review flawless.

Final Thoughts:

This place is exactly what it says it is: A great bar that happens to serve a great burger. It’s primary function is not to be a restaurant. The food is basic with a really limited menu, which I find refreshing. Pick something small and do it right. Its walking distance from Hippie Haven should the mood come over me for a libation or two as well. If you’re looking for someplace to have a few beers and a bite to eat after a long day, or a nightcap after an evening at the movies or dinner somewhere else then stop in and try this place. They stay open later than a lot of other places on The Square, and they are open on Sunday when almost nothing downtown is. Props for that alone! Do I think its the best burger in town? No. Do I think its a good burger? Absolutely. Tell me what you think in the comments and share this one with your friends. Wake the kids and phone the neighbors. Its burger fighting time!

3 out of 5 peace signs. Dig it!

So what did you think of the great and powerful Odd? Pay no attention to that hippie on the bean bag chair! Instead, Like, Comment, and SHARE!

“Make lunch not war”!

Bella Napolli Pizzeria

Following Massimo

Several months ago, I went to La Tavola restaurant in Smyrna to experience the food of a chef all my friends raved about. 

Alas, the embodiment of my anticipation had ended his employment with this location and left its fate in other hands. My review of La Tavola is further down the wall.

Eventually, I had heard that Massimo had gone to Nashville and to a place called Bella Napolli Pizzeria located at 1200 Villa Pl #206, Nashville, TN. So, The Missus and I got some friends and decided to head there and see what we were told was a unique little setting. We were not disappointed. Bella Napoli is nestled inside a groovy little alley amidst a few other eateries and shops. It had a sort of european feel to it, being something that resembled a street or alley that had been built over or added to in such a way that it was enclosed, but kind of not. Hard to explain, so check out the pics. Some neat visuals and the sort of cultural and artistic development I wish Murfreesboro would develop.

All my Nashville hippies, this review is for you. HHH finally came to town.

First Impression:

Walking into Edgehill Village is a lot like walking into a backstreet in some little European town. Edgehill Village was the home of Whiteway Cleaners in the 1920’s, and its 8 brick buildings now comprise a unique dining and retail area. I had never been here before, but we didn’t see any real parking near by. There was a valet service we used, which was convenient and friendly. Foot traffic I am guessing makes up a significant portion of this demographic. The entrance is all brick, and outside seating is available. To be honest, it kinda looks like Diagon Alley. A small hallway lined with pictures leads you to the host area, and past the open kitchen with its iconic brick oven. Everything feels natural, cozy, and authentic.

Atmosphere:

“Trattoria” is an Italian word that refers to a small farmhouse style restaurant, not so very formal but neither low end. This is an apt term for the feeling you get when you come inside. “Bistro” might fit too. Warm, inviting, relaxed and friendly. Wood and brick lend a rustic air that dispenses with formality in exchange for cordial familiarity and open hospitality. Table settings, plate ware, and plating are all tasteful but not fine dining. It’s not hard to sit down and just enjoy yourself at all.

Service:

Our server exhibited a firm grasp on the menu, easily answering questions and explaining terms. Selections of beer and wine were offered, and any explanations were handled with grace and certainty. One of the things I look for in service is the ability for someone to be accessible and attentive without being irksome and hovering over the table. I felt like this was the case on our visit. Dishes were timed well, and plates cleared appropriately. Very professional and polished.

Food:

Most times when I go out to eat, Service is the most important aspect of my experience. I’m a fair cook, and there really sin’t anything I can’t make for myself and The Missus if I want it. I go out to be pampered, and I tip accordingly. However, this time I have to admit I was looking forward to the food the most. I had heard so much about Massimo’s influence, and was eager to sample his food. He was not there this particular night, but his presence was felt in every bite.

For starters, we all ordered some apps. (No, not the kind you put on your phone) 

The Missus and I ordered the Frito Misto…fried potato croquette, fried rice croquette, and fried dough served with marinara. A tasty little trio of goodies. I only sampled a small bite or two, keeping a mindful eye on my carb intake. I have to say, each item was delicious and the marinara flavorful.

Dan and Vicky ordered a plate of Gnocchi Alla Siciliana. This dish I am told is one of the best in the area for gnocchi, and our dinner guests order it frequently. Homemade potato dumpling baked with eggplant, fresh mozzarella and parmigiano cheeses, and tossed in tomato sauce. Again, I only tried a nibble but the flavor and texture were simply wonderful.

Entree time called for me to order something sensible and balanced. I’ll freely admit, certain cuisines are harder for me to order from than others but I can usually find something at most places. I decided upon Pork Saltimbocca. Pork medallions topped with prosciutto and a white wine sauce that were just as tender as you please. A side of roasted potatoes came with it, and it was a small portion…only two or three wedges…which was perfect for me. A side of greens made enough of a fiber and protein presence that I even felt good to eat the bread that came with the dish and I later tested just fine. Between protein, fiber, and carbs this dish was very well balanced from a nutrition standpoint.

The Missus ordered a staple of italian fare for herself, the Chicken Parmigiano. This was a lightly breaded chicken breast that was finished off in a brick oven, and topped with marinara. The pasta for this dish was penne, instead of fettucini or spaghetti. Personally, I prefer penne over a lot of other pastas as it is easier to wrangle with a fork.

The Cassidy’s ordered a pizza from one of their signature selections, The Salsiccia. Topped with mozzarella, house made italian sausage, broccolii, and fresh garlic…this looks like a great meal. A slight personal change on their part was requesting a red sauce instead of the usual white sauce. Were I partaking, I would possibly have made the same change.

Lastly, a shared dessert. Tiramissu, a traditional italian treat, plated perfectly with an amazing presentation. In the past, I have been back and forth on whether or not I like this dessert. Everyplace makes theirs a bit different, and such sweet delicacies are very limited to me these days so I had to take a hard pass on this one. The rest of my dinner party seemed to really enjoy it, and again it just looked incredible. The saying goes, people eat with their eyes. In this case, it was a dish well done.

Final thoughts:

Bella Napoli isn’t just a place to get something to eat. It’s an experience, and one that delivers without disappointment. Definitely worth a trip to Nashville for date night, a meal with friends, or as a stop on your destination tourism trip. Massimo ensures the traditions of those who came before them, and I am sure has improved on them. From watching the kitchen thru the window we were seated next to, everyone here is a professional and knows their craft. Ordinarily, being sat where I can see the kitchen is a huge negative for me. I like to be immersed in the environment of the dining room, not feel like I am being put to work. However, the brick oven, the work ethic and attitude of the staff, and overall ambiance dissipated that old familiar prejudice. Here, it just felt part of the experience instead of a too-close annoyance. Combine this with the history and charm of Edgehill Village, and you have a great destination that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Murfreesboro and Rutherford County could learn from having lunch here, instead of building more chain restaurants in strip malls.

4 out of 5 peace signs!! Dig it!!

That’s one in the bag for the Nashville area since I haven’t done anything there in quite some time. Maybe ever, now that I think of it. And there’s more to come on that front. Expect another Nashville review in the near future, as well as other cities. Like I said a few articles ago, Papa’s got a brand new bag. Stay tuned to see what’s in it.

Let HHH know what you think of his expanding horizons by COMMENTING. LIKING. And let your Nashville loving friends know the “It City” has my attention too by SHARING.

Everytime you share a HHH post, a hippie gets his sandals.

“Make Lunch not war”!

The Metro Diner

“I remember a night we walked along the Seine
Riding on the Metro…” ~ The Metro, Berlin

I’m not talking about 80’s pop songs, though. I’m talking about The Metro Diner located on 711 A-I, N Thompson Ln, Murfreesboro, TN, very near the intersection of Thompson Lane and The Med. We can still apply an efficacious amount of nostalgia to this location however as you will see once we get into the meat and potatoes of things.

First Impression: 

Merriam-Webster defines a “diner” (not the person) as “ a typically small, informal, and inexpensive restaurant that has an extensive menu and that is often made from or designed to resemble a modified railroad dining car”. Typically, these can be found predominantly in the Northeast and Midwest portions of the country, though not exclusively. Does Metro Diner look like a railroad car? Not at all. It’s the corner spot of a strip mall. There is a generous amount of neon outside the building, which my mind associates with diner imagery, but I could be off. It’s not the best spot to turn into unless you are coming towards The Med from Thompson with Metro Diner on your right, but I’ve seen worse. Warning! This place is crazy busy right now, and in my opinion the parking lot is an issue. I don’t feel like there is enough parking in this area, and many of the other spots in the strip mall have not opened up yet.

Atmosphere:

This is where I think the “diner” theme really kicks in. Decor is a sort of retro look, kind of like an old restaurant from the 50’s but not *too* much. There’s a bar to the left as you go in, with plenty of colorful lighting and vintage-looking stools. You can order food at the bar (you may have to as busy as it is) but you can also purchase alcohol there. Classic rock was playing over the speakers, though it was a bit hard to hear sometimes as it was very noisy. The kitchen is VERY open, and you can easily see right into it, and the expediter stands right next to the booths getting the orders out. There is also a counter with stools right up against the kitchen for those who truly wish a seat at the show. Black and white checkerboard floors and vintage light fixtures complete the illusion.

Service:

We went very soon after they opened, a week or so. The corporate trainers were still in the mix, and keeping things between the ditches. Our server had a hitch or two in her giddy-up, but nothing disastrous and recovered quickly. Honestly, nothing worth even mentioning. The manager stopped by and chatted with us briefly as well, and that was nice to see: a manger on the floor and engaged with his patrons. Some people don’t like table visits. Some are offended if they don’t get one. I’m somewhere in the middle. I feel better about my experience when I see managers/owners involved with the guests and operations, but don’t feel it has to be with me personally. Nor do I feel they have to be hustling too much. A manager you see running around like crazy is a manager trying to correct a lot of problems. A place with a lot of problems makes me feel concerned for my own experience there. The staff and management here were relaxed, friendly and funny, but still a little green. Overall, great job.

Food:

I think this is where the “diner” part comes in again according to Merriam-Webster. The menu wasn’t enormous, but it did have a big selection including a lot of breakfast options. Also, nothing was too expensive. The food wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t plain…just good solid, stick to your ribs kind of fare.

I had a classic breakfast, the Three Egg Breakfast. I love, love, love my eggs over easy, and they came out perfect. All that extra yoke is the perfect addition to whatever else is on my plate. In this case, I mixed it with my hash browns instead of using ketchup. I avoid ketchup more often than not these days due to the sugar content. A tablespoon of Heinz ketchup has 4 g of sugar in it. For my meat selection, I opted for bacon. I’m kind of picky about my bacon and how its cooked. I cook mine in the oven at home at 350 for about 15 minutes till its cooked evenly and thoroughly, but still tender and a little chewy. I hate bacon so crisp it disintegrates as soon as you bite down on it. This bacon was close to my preferred state, but a little more done than I would have liked. I wasn’t going to ask for special treatment as they were so busy so I enjoyed it anyway. Lastly, I took a gamble. I ordered a waffle. I wasn’t sure how it would hit my blood sugar but I wanted to try one. The real killer is the syrup. To my delight, they had sugar free syrup available! For those keeping score with me, my blood sugar later that night was a little elevated, but only a few points outside my range and I still finished in my zone for the day. On a side note, apparently I forgot to take a pic of my food this time. My description of my plate will have to suffice.

The Missus sure do love her some bennies. Eggs Benedict that is. The San Francisco Benedict caught her discerning eye, mainly due to the presence of avocado on it. It’s a favorite food of hers. Poached eggs, the aforementioned avocado, Canadian bacon (eh!), and slices of tomato all covered in hollandaise. The visual on it was just as yummy as it tasted according to her. Because she is a sensible woman often with more smarts than me, she got a side of fresh fruit to go along with it. Had we switched meals, I would have likely been just fine to eat what she ordered too. There’s a lot of dishes here I’ll never be able to sample, but with smart menu choices and ordering there’s a lot I CAN have as well.

To round out the experience, The Missus got a milkshake. This was a menu “special” and Toasted Marshmallow I believe was the flavor.

Boy…it sure looked good.

Cleanliness:

Let’s face it: the place was brand new and packed with people. Its really hard to catch any cleaning flaws here. You have to just look for cleaning habits in this case. Did anyone wipe anything down when they had time? Did I catch sight of anyone with a broom in their hand near the expo area? Was there debris in the parking lot? Honestly, I didn’t see anything that jumped out at me which is a good thing. No towels hanging out of back pockets or across shoulders, no spray bottles next to food or food surfaces, etc. Those things catch my eye no matter how busy or new a place is.

Final Thoughts: 

A solid hit for me. The food was good, the service attentive, and the atmosphere dynamic. Menu selections have enough choices that everyone should find something they like. Best of all, it’s a great standard breakfast you can get at night. That’s a great option to Waffle House or Cracker Barrel. Every time I drive by this place, it’s packed. My suggestion is you hop on board the train and try it for yourself. I think you’ll be glad you rode on “The Metro”. (See what I did there?)

3 out of 5 peace signs! Dig it!

Now its time to roll credits and get you to do the liking, the commenting, and most of all the SHARING. If you ever visit Hippie Haven Studios, make sure to wear some flowers in your hair! (Old timers will get this reference)

“Make lunch, not war”!

Zoe’s Kitchen

There’s lots of Mediterranean places to eat in Rutherford County, comprising of all manner of styles. Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern…but there’s one fast-casual option that combines fast-casual fare with Mediterranean flare. Zoe’s Kitchen is located just where you would expect it, in the Gateway/Avenues zone at 2222 Medical Pkwy, Suite F Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37129. Let’s shout Opa! And dance into the review, shall we?

First Impression:

Zoe’s has a little more effort into the branding and recognition on the outside of the building than other places nearby. This place is easier to pick out than some. Like many eateries along The Med (Medical Center Parkway) Zoe’s shares a parking lot with other businesses in a strip mall development. Parking isn’t an issue I think, though on a particularly busy day it might. Three feet into the inside, you are met with a wall that has an arrow directing your journey. I dislike being met immediately with a barrier. The feng shui is all wrong with that and I don’t feel welcome. Turning to the left a narrow passage leads to the next turn, and then to the ordering counter. (Wow, that sounds like a Dungeons and Dragons adventure description) You don’t get much chance to see a smiling face or make contact with anyone till you have to make decision points. The service is friendly and the food good, but the first thing I would like to see when I enter a restaurant is a smiling face, not a wall.

Atmosphere:

The color scheme for this concept seems to be avocado green and burnt orange. I don’t know how I feel about it. I really don’t. It kind of excites me and slows me down all at once. Its weird. The seating is varied, some areas offering more privacy than others. A patio was in use when we arrived, tables with umbrellas to shade from the sun well kept. Options for couples or larger groups are in evidence.

Service:

Counter service once again. This format is very widely used in the current market, and I find for most of the foods I eat in places like this it works. The people were helpful and explained my options patiently and well.

Food:

Like most fast-casual concepts, the food is the star of the show. We met with the owners of Readyville Mill for a lunch date and to discuss business, so we got to see their dishes as well. I’ll focus on what The Missus and I ordered for the sake of brevity, but be sure to check out the pictures for a look at all the dishes.

If you saw my video yesterday, you know I have to be careful with everything I eat now. Every meal is like a math problem…a Matrix to be deciphered by a culinary Neo. I choose the power grain bowl. It is comprised of lentils, quinoa, farro and rice with house-made tzatziki, Moroccan harissa, Mediterranean relish, cucumbers and fresh dill. I added chicken to it for a total of about 870 calories. The bowl’s grains balanced out for me by having diabetic-friendly foods (lentils, cucumbers, and quinoa for example) with the rice. The rice in this instance was brown rice, which is not as good for me as wild rice, but not as bad as white or sushi rice. Combined with the fibers and proteins in the bowl, my blood sugar 2-3 hours later was 114 which is 16 points inside my target range. Even when you are eating “bad” things, depending on what you eat with it, your body plays in the sandbox with things differently. The ingredients were very VERY fresh. The hot items were hot and the cold items cold, making for a very interesting profile of textures, flavors,  and temperatures. For my reduced portion plans, it was kind of too much food. I got very full very fast, especially with the rice, and could have easily turned my $10 meal into two $5 meals. Not only was the food tasty, it LOOKED good. Very nice presentation. To wash it down (I rarely drink anything but water these days) I chose a sparkling water.

Cans of Spindrift sparkling water were available and I chose the raspberry-lime flavor. Let me tell you…once you get so used to sugary drinks and you try something that is not sweetened like you expect…it’s a bracing experience. Like biting into a snow cone after drinking hot coffee.

The Missus had the Cauliflower Rice Bowl with lamb meatballs for a choice of protein. “Riced” items are something I am learning about, and I tried a bite of this item. Let’s just say I will have to grow into this one. Other than the lamb, the main ingredients were chilled cauliflower rice with house-made tzatziki, Israeli skhug, feta, cucumbers and fresh dill. Before the protein was added, this dish rang in at 560 calories. That’s pretty low for a good size portion of food. Only the lamb was a hot item in this bowl, and the riced cauliflower makes it a really different experience.

Cleanliness:

You guys know my targets by now: floors under tables, trash receptacles, drink stations, table tops. All passed with flying colors. I’ll be honest; I visited here several months ago and had a much different experience with the cleanliness. Glad to see it’s turned a 180.

Final Thoughts: 

Simply put: A healthier meal made simple to get with fresh ingredients and tasty options. Not hard to find or get into, and you can dine-in or get it to go. Hard for me to find any negatives on this visit, other than the design of the entry way. Comparably priced with other concepts in the area.

4 out of 5 peace signs! Dig it!

Like this thing. Comment on this thing. Share this thing with someone you love. It’s sugar free. (The Missus gets all my sugar.)

“Make lunch, not war”!