Friday, July 23, 2010

Tequila's: A Taste of Mexico in Nashville

Sometimes folks like to guard neighborhood gems closely and keep them under the radar. Tequila's Mexican Restaurant is one of those gems.

Around our house, Mexican and Tex-Mex are a part of our weekly diet. It's truly the "cuisine" we crave on a regular basis.

About a year ago, we heard whispers about an off the beaten path, quiet neighborhood Mexican restaurant, nestled away in a shopping strip center at the corner of Charlotte and Annex.

Before we knew it, we were Tequila's regulars. We spent New Year's Eve there. Friends from Memphis came to town for the Country Music Marathon and we took them on karaoke night. (Unfortunately, karaoke night is no longer). Recently, instead of a trendy restaurant at the Gulch or 12th South, I found myself recommending Tequila's for a girls' night out since we were in the mood for Mexican. The girls loved it! And just last week, some friends from Destin, FL made a Tequila's run with us too. They were impressed with the fish tacos.

My favorite dish reminds me of the few months I lived in Mexico. Mexico has incredible steak and beef. The Tacos de Carne Asada have the best steak of any version I have tried in Nashville (including Rosepepper Cantina in East Nashville and Cinco de Mayo - another Charlotte Avenue favorite). With a side of cilantro, it takes me back to a south of the border experience at a Mexican barbecue where my Mexican friends slow roasted steak in a fire pit in the ground. Very tender, juicy steak, topped off with a wonderful marinade.

A restaurant is definitely a gem to me when they don't skimp on the mass produced house items. The house margaritas are really smooth for house margaritas. Of course the top shelf 'ritas are even better. The free flowing salsa and chips are fresh like the other ingredients on the menu.

Besides the freshest ingredients we've found in a Mexican restaurant, Tequila's has great customer service. Dining with a 20 month old brings out the best or the worst in a server. I'm happy to report the service staff are wonderful with children. They even bring the children's plates first and make sure the plates are not hot.

You'll be happy to know the crowd is very diverse and not completely full of 20 month old toddlers. Early in the evening, you'll see the family crowd. It's surprisingly low key and quiet even so. Later on, the later night diners come in. There's a happy hour hum, but never too out of control. You might see birthday parties, business folks grabbing a bite and drink after work, laid back groups of friends and low key date-nighters.

No matter when we dine, we are always seated quickly. And we can count on the familiar, dependable, comfortable experience with simply great food that makes one want to become a"regular".

Tequila's Mexican Restaurant is a superb Charlotte Avenue gem. And (gulp), I think I'm ready to divulge our sweet neighborhood secret to rest of Nashville, if my neighbors are ready to share it as well?

Monday, July 12, 2010

West Nashville Farmers Market

Is it me, or does buying from local farmers just make common sense (for those of us who are business and practical minded), plus give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your gut (for those of us who are also concerned about the environment and healthy eating)?

Not to mention, fresh food just plain tastes better and is better for you than the frozen, sugar/salt-laden, processed, preservative-drenched alternatives!

Add to this open air, locally grown/organic grocery store, a cornucopia for the senses: music, free yoga, fresh squeezed lemonade, wild flowers, live chickens, honey samples, slabs of fresh meat ready to grill and hanging with your neighbors under big shady trees on a lazy Saturday morning.

What makes the West Nashville Farmers Market such a Charlotte Avenue gem, is that it pulls the community together in a public gathering space. Goodness knows we need more of that in our Facebook and iPhone addicted daily reality. It helps our neighborhood feel like, well, a neighborhood!

On our trek last Saturday, it wasn't two minutes before we ran into a couple of old friends and were chewing the fat. We even talked about how we're not that into Facebook anymore. Face to face human contact! Who knew it was still in vogue?

Of course it's hard to resist a purchase or two. My husband bought three jalapenos for a quarter ($0.25) to heat up his homemade salsa later that night. Added to our neighbors' tomatoes from their garden, it was delicious. It makes you never want to buy a jar of salsa again.

We also bought the local Wildflower Honey ($5.50) from Ed Johnson of Goodlettsville. Folks with allergy issues in Nashville are supposed to benefit from eating this locally pollinated honey. Rumor has it (at least around the honey booth) that Vince Young munches on bee pollen as part of his training regimen.

A friend of mine experienced a loss of a loved one, and instead of sterile flowers from a florist or grocery store, I bought her a bunch of wildflowers ($10) from the Flower Girls' Farm. The fresh basil in the bouquet was a delightful, surprise aroma, and the mason jar was a perfect vase.

Finally, I've learned what CSA stands for: Community Supported Agriculture. Several of our friends already belong to CSA's or co-ops where people buy shares of produce from local farmers in advance. We saw several people in line at Delvin Farms ready to pick up their CSA produce boxes.

If you're looking for something relaxing, fun and different to do on a Saturday morning in West Nashville, log off your Facebook account, peel your texting thumbs away from that mobile device you are holding and enjoy the West Nashville Farmers Market!

The West Nashville Farmers Market takes place May-October, Saturdays from 9am to 12pm at the corner of 46th Avenue and Charlotte. The market is under the trees at Richland Park between the tennis courts and Richland Branch Library.

If you want to find out more about community farmers markets springing up around town such as the East Nashville Farmers Market, read about the good folks at Good Food for Good People who have spearheaded these initiatives.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spotting Vintage Deals at Spotted Dog Antiques

On my way to see my family in Bellevue about a month ago, I was driving down Charlotte to Old Hickory Blvd. Just past WalMart on the right, it was hard to miss a metal spotted dog sculpture at the foot of a driveway leading to an old log cabin. Before long, a sign was out in the yard: "Spotted Dog Antiques". Tired of rubbernecking it, I determined that I would check out this possible gem.

The day finally came last week, when my 19 month old son's nap and snack schedule permitted. It turns out I went a second time with my visiting father-in-law yesterday. The stroller situation didn't allow me to enjoy the second floor of the antique shop the first time (FYI for any stroller pushers). My father-in-law and I combed through the Spotted Dog twice, pointing and oohing and ahhing. It was nice to have an avid thrifter/antiquer (not to mention an experienced interior designer) from Asheville confirm Spotted Dog's gem status.

And what a gem! My first visit, I learned that the Spotted Dog's owner was a former partner in the now defunct Crystal Dragon thrift store formerly across from Richland Park. Spotted Dog continues this family tradition with its own brand of vintage flair and fun.

Most items are priced but it's implicitly understood they might be negotiable. My purchase was a turquoise vintage phone that had been on my Christmas and birthday wish list for some time. It was priced at $25, but he parted with it for $20. Even at the marked price, this was a steal considering the State Fairgrounds flea market and online folks sell these for $50 and up.
Check out how great the turquoise phone looks aside our Mr. Sharpy in the home office!

Spotted Dog Antiques is a welcome addition to our thriving thrift and antique scene on Charlotte Avenue. Check back within the week for the next Charlotte gem discovery.

Enjoy some of the gems we spotted at Spotted Dog Antiques:

A local artisan makes these kiln-dried yellow poplar cabinets in an array of colors (yellow, white, light green, etc.). Priced around $225.

This vintage Miss Muffet lamp (complete with little owl observing her predicament from a tree branch) would look so cute in a little girl's room. I believe it was marked around $15.

Some lucky thrifter landed this blue flowered dresser for $150 before I could. Alas, it was marked SORRY I'M SOLD. My father-in-law said he saw someone buy a smaller dresser in Asheville for $300 - so great price!

One full room devoted to LP's. Wish we had had time to scour the vinyl to supply our old Zenith turntable console.

Sports memorabilia for $5 each. These pennants scream "man cave" or boy's room decor.

This 1950's mirror with knick knack shelves was marked $55.

Spotted Dog Antiques has a varied and prolific supply of wall art. Most of it was well under $100 and of that bunch, a good majority is under $50.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Pink Elephant in the Room...

Charlotte Avenue was the Pink Elephant in the room for me. But now I'm ready to talk about it.

My husband and I bought our second home a stone’s throw from Charlotte Avenue in 2006. As a Nashville native, I’ve had to overcome some stereotypes about Charlotte. At first, I was embarrassed (now just somewhat annoyed) by the plethora of payday advance and discount tobacco stores. Red-faced, when I gave directions to visitors, I apologetically encouraged them to avoid Charlotte altogether.

But then, I found I simply could not avoid Charlotte in order to carry out every day business. First, out of convenience and necessity I used it. Over time, Charlotte grew on me.

My niece and nephews giggle with glee when they see the Pink Elephant at University Motors because they are almost to my house. Before, I might have felt a tinge of uneasiness. Now I'm proud of Charlotte Avenue's kitschy mascot.

Does Charlotte have warts? Oh, Yes. Can it be improved? Sure.

But Charlotte has genuine character and moxie. It provides businesses and activities that reflect the people and cultures of our neighborhood. Rich, poor, in between. Costco, pawn shop or taqueria. It is our neighborhood’s thoroughfare. And I want more people to know about it, celebrate it and experience it.

So, check back for little gems you might find on the West side’s thoroughfare if you dig a little deeper. Hail the Pink Elephant!

In a few days, look for my first post about a little gem called Spotted Dog Antiques...