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The 404 Kitchen

With a new, roomier location and bar space, The 404 Kitchen opens its doors to a wider audience.

Written By:  Erin Byers Murray

Photographers:  Emily Dorio

From railroad tracks and gravel roads to glittering hotel lobbies and dining rooms, the Gulch has come a long way in 15 years. That transformation, like so many other neighborhoods, has altered the character of this town—and cemented the Gulch as a dining destination. With Little Octopus, Marsh House, Fin & Pearl, and Otaku Ramen, the options are diverse, and they cater to a crowd of both locals and tourists. Just head down to the Gulch on any given Saturday, and you’ll witness the range, from long waits at valet stands to long waits for tables. Now, with the recent move of The 404 Kitchen, there are a few more seats to meet the rising needs.

There was a particular sense of charm that came with dining at the original 404 Kitchen. (The building is intact across the street, now home to Emmy Squared.) At only 56 seats, the shipping container-turned-dining room was a cozy hang, and chef Matt Bolus was frequently in the dining room, saying hello to his guests.

But, with that coziness came restrictions. The kitchen was the size of a large walk-in closet; Bolus and his sous chef Luke Williams navigated it the best they knew how, using the dining room for additional prep space when needed. And, once those 56 seats were full, there was no room for walk-ins.

This winter, the restaurant upgraded by moving into the former Watermark space. The sprawling two-story restaurant now has its own stand-alone bar, where one can order from the full menu, as well as a multi-room dining space upstairs, plus a massive kitchen to accommodate it all.

So, with all of the upgrades, does The 404 manage to keep its charm? In some ways, not so much. Chef Bolus has a bigger kitchen to work from, meaning he’s actually in it most nights, instead of floating in to the dining room. And, instead of an intimate dining counter, there’s now Gertie’s Bar, which boasts around 500 whiskeys, as well as a few televisions. The crowd might include cocktail seekers, bar hoppers, and beer drinkers seated beside those looking to eat a multi-course meal. All of this pulls vibes from cozy and upscale to casually communal.

On the plus side, the cocktail program now matches that extensive slate of whiskeys. The multi-page menu is oddly organized by movie titles—but what’s in the glass makes an impression, like The Man in Black, which has a base of Buffalo Trace with the bitter backbone of Bruto Americano.

Upstairs, the dining room feels industrial, with homey touches to warm it up, like area rugs set beneath the polished wooden tables and curtains to divide the rooms. The art depicts cityscapes, and, in the bathrooms, Bolus brought over the cheeky wallpaper. With all of these upgrades, the restaurant is more casual, but also accessible to a wider audience.

What to order:

Chicken liver pâté, $12
Dry-aged beef tartare, $17
Pozole del mar, $26
Rabbit Man Farm’s rabbit, $26
30-ounce Bear Creek rib-eye, $95

Diners looking for their 404 favorites will still find them at the new space, including the gamey beef tartare, the creamy chicken liver pâté with homemade crackers, house-made burrata, a rabbit dish, and a pork T-bone on the entrée list. Bolus has also expanded the options with the addition of a wood-fired grill, where he prepares a few large-format dishes, like a whole crisp-skinned chicken and a 30-ounce rib-eye. There’s now a Caesar salad, which the chef had been mulling over for years and now, finally, has the prep space to accommodate. Dishes that were once specials now fall into regular rotation, like the pozole, which is layered with hominy, shrimp, and scallops. The dessert selection is still tight and crafted by the current team of chefs—but Bolus is thinking of adding a pastry chef now that he has the room.

Just as the landscape of the Gulch itself has changed, the spirit of The 404 is bound to shift—especially now that it’s more accessible to a wider audience.

There are still kinks to work out and growing pains for the staff, Bolus notes. But, even as the food and drink offerings grow, the restaurant’s original focus—quality ingredients, simple preparations, a stand-out whiskey selection—remain. As Bolus likes to point out, “It’s bigger, but it’s still us.” 

507 12th Ave S, 615-251-1404; the404nashville.com 

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