Don’t forget old favorites when dining with guests

Friday, December 6, 2013, Vol. 37, No. 49
By Hollie Deese

Whether your out-of-town family begs to go to an old favorite each time they come to Nashville or are mad you’ve never taken them to a storied place, these five spots make the holidays special for natives, newcomers and anyone returning home for a winter visit.

Loveless Cafe

8400 Tennessee 100, 646-9700

Practically an institution from the moment it opened its doors as the Harpeth Valley Tea Room, The Loveless Cafe and Motel first started serving its famous fried chicken and biscuits from picnic tables in the front yard sixty years ago. Once the dining room was set up, and country hams were cured, smoked and carved on the premises.

Lon Loveless handled the hams while his wife, Annie, covered the cooking, including the from-scratch biscuits that are the same recipe today. When the building was renovated in 2004, the menu got a bit of freshening up that now incorporates, local seasonal products that support local farms and businesses.

An emphasis is placed on items that are grown, farmed and produced nearby, and you can now find Tennessee moonshine via some creative cocktails. The perfect time to go this season is during their month-long “Bright Lights and Biscuits” event where families can drop by any time to see the seasonal décor.

Capitol Grille

231 Sixth Ave. N, 345-7116

The Capitol Grille offers the perfect setting for a special family meal. Start with a drink in the adjacent Oak Bar, with its extensive wine list, fully stocked bar and unique environment that have earned it many “best bar in Nashville” titles.

Chef Tyler Brown’s current seasonal menu includes plenty of warming dishes, including Yukon gold potato Vichyssoise with pickled leek, oyster sauce and chive, Wedge Oak Farms pork loin with pumpkin, chestnut and Maitake mushrooms and duo of Border Springs lamb with sea island red pea cassoulet, arugula and pickled fall vegetables.

But the highlight of the holiday season is their Christmas brunch on Dec. 25 for $47.50 per adult and $27.50 per child under 12. It is sure to be an abundance of deliciousness with oysters on the half shell, carving stations, a deviled egg display, smoked Niman Ranch ham with housemade apple butter and cider glaze, macaroni and Tennessee cheddar cheese, brioche stuffing with aromatic vegetables, sock sausage and cornbread stuffing and the Hermitage Hotel grand dessert display

Margot Café

1017 Woodland St., 227-4668

Intimate, warm and buzzing with camaraderie, Margot has been luring with its seasonal menu long before East Nashville was flooded with many more options. Still, the competition does nothing to detract from what Margot does best, and that’s serve up some of the best, most flavorfully fresh food in the city.

One day you might be blessed with a hot bowl of Vidalia onion soup with croutons and a trio of melon with basil and chiles. Another day it could be grilled amberjack with basmati rice and a pepper, onion and tomato stew. But no matter what is on the dinner menu, everyone can agree that taking family to Margot for one of their famous Sunday brunches is one thing that has to happen.

Sure, their apple-smoked bacon is a given, but unexpected brunch items like codfish fritters with Romesco aioli or a breadcrumb-fried egg with a broccolini, garlic, chiles and Parmesan are what elevate the experience.

City House

1222 Fourth Ave. N., 736-5838

Tandy Wilson is still working rustic magic in Germantown. The multitude of accolades for the James Beard-nominated chef have not affected his straightforward Italian via Nashville dishes.

The wood-fired brick oven is a standout in the space, producing perfect thin-crust pizzas topped with house-cured meats. City House can accommodate raucous family gatherings in the main dining room, which is open and not at all pretentious despite the quality of the food.

It will get loud for sure, so if you are looking for a more intimate evening be aware of that fact.

Add a few cocktails from the bar for a perfect family meal they won’t soon forget.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen

605 Eighth Ave. S., 256-4455

Ever since Jack Arnold opened his iconic meat-and-three in 1981, the press has been piling up, with write-ups everywhere from “The New York Times” to “Southern Living.”

A few years ago, they were even awarded a James Beard American Classic award, but all of the external accolades fall by the wayside once you grab a tray and hit the cafeteria-style restaurant for hot, hearty Southern fare.

Meat-and-threes are barely known outside Tennessee, so family members will get a true taste of one of the ways we do food here in Music City.