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Geist in Germantown

In Germantown, Geist revives a piece of Nashville’s history.

Written By:  Erin Byers Murray

Photographers:  Christen Clemins

The decision of when and where to open a restaurant in Nashville right now is often centered on either opening inside a newly constructed development or seeking out a property to renovate. Lately, it’s been those restaurants that have chosen to update and preserve a previously used, historic space that have our heads swiveling. With Geist, the latest restaurant to crop up in Germantown, the decision to preserve adds mightily to the restaurant’s charm.

The 118-year-old building was originally home to a blacksmith shop owned by John Geist, Sr., whose name is still listed on the façade—it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. When owner Doug Martin, whose background is in commercial real estate and development, came across the property, he says he knew immediately that he wanted to turn it into a restaurant, to breathe it back to life.

One of the buildings, a home, couldn’t be salvaged, but the team repurposed that structure’s materials to build out what is now a multi-roomed restaurant, which includes a brick-lined patio, dubbed The Champagne Garden. Inside, beams and brick line the bar and dining room, which is filled with comfortable seating and inviting nooks.

As a developer and investor in other restaurants, Martin knew where to apply his own touch, like on the wine list. Full of unique, affordable choices, as well as a handful of reserve options, the list even pulls from his own collection, with a few Oregon pinot noirs and Burgundies, as well as a good selection of sparkling wines.

For the other food and drink efforts, he brought in the talents of chef Josh Stockton, who previously worked at resorts like Wynn Las Vegas and Blackberry Farm, to guide the menu of what Martin calls “approachable, seasonal, shareable plates.”

The consultant behind Nashville Bar Alliance, Freddy Schwenk, devised Geist’s cocktail list, with a range of inspired remakes—the Half Black Manhattan, for example, offers boozy depth, with its combination of Old Forester 86, Averna, and Cocchi Torino.

Stockton’s food menu is listed from light to heavier dishes. The emphasis isn’t on one particular cuisine, but you will find international flavors peppered throughout. On the lighter end, there are vegetable-focused items, like smoky, charred beets set above a goat cheese spread and heirloom carrots with a barely there tang of farmers’ cheese. Some of those marriages are solid, like a harissa-spice cauliflower dish, while others (acorn squash with too-tart sour cherries) might need a few more iterations to find their footing.

Further along, you’ll find tagliatelle with braised pork and pesto, and an exquisitely light, cassoulet-like confit chicken, with beans and sausage. A sturdy burger is one of the only dishes we recommend keeping to yourself. Otherwise, dishes, like the bistro steak, with its multi-hued potatoes and dabs of blue cheese, and a crisp-skinned roasted fish over farro, are plates that can feed one fully or be divvied up and passed amongst the group.

Desserts are part of the experience here, so don’t skip the white-chocolate sphere, filled with a Key-lime center. Once broken open, the layers of this futuristic dish lusciously ooze out over a graham-cracker crumble. As you nosh your way through that, give thanks for those who aim to preserve a piece of the past, while gently stepping into the future.

311 Jefferson St, 615-920-5440; geistnashville.com

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