The Mockingbird Nashville
At The Mockingbird, you can traverse the globe with creative, clever, and diner-inspired fare.
Written By: Nancy Vienneau
Photographers: Jen McDonald
Chef Maneet Chauhan has been busy creating a mini dining empire on 12th Avenue North. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder is an impressive trio, beginning with Chauhan Ale and Masala House, followed by Tánsuŏ, and, now, there’s The Mockingbird.
“They are like your children,” she muses, “each with a distinctive personality, yet you love all the same.”
The most recent may be the most distinctive: The Mockingbird is a modern, global diner. In launching the concept, Chauhan partnered with talented friends Brian Riggenbach and Mikey Corona. Known for their Chicago pop-up, Yo Soy Underground Supper Club (and Riggenbach as Chopped champion in 2015), the couple left the Windy City for Music City, Corona as general manager and Riggenbach as executive chef for their first brick-and-mortar restaurant. Playful mimicry is at the heart of The Mockingbird, which draws inspiration from retro-diner ambiance and globe-trekking tastes.
Inside, the tin-patterned ceilings are low, the bar has Art-deco curves, and tabletops resemble formica, but are white quartz. Each is set with a charming hodge-podge of vintage plates. Get the fun started with a cocktail, like a Tequila Mockingbird, perhaps? Served in a coupe, the heady lime-mezcal mix has the mockingbird image floating on the frothed egg white. Or try the Punching Bag, a boozy fruit punch, served in a plastic bag with straw.
For noshing, Tray Chic, the house charcuterie, makes a nice share. On the campy cafeteria tray is a choice assembly of summer sausage, pastrami, chicken-liver mousse capped with sweet-onion jam, pickled veggies, beer mustard, toasts, and Ritz-type crackers. Grilled cheese is diner-comfort food, and Riggenbach’s Don’t Worry, Brie Happy delivers that in upscale fashion, the double-crème cheese griddled on petite breads with jalapeno jam and chimichurri.
Main dishes are served on heavy-duty white china ringed in blue and printed with the restaurant moniker, like diners of yore. We’re partial to The Bird is The Word, a fried chicken blue-plate special with a Southwest spin. Crispy boneless thighs come nestled in salsa-verde mashed potatoes, ladled with chorizo white gravy. In Three’s Company, Riggenbach gives meatloaf the modern-diner touch, as well, blending pancetta, sirloin, and chorizo. Texas toast and adobo gravy complete this rib sticker. Our favorite global mash-up is Seoul Purpose, Korean bulgogi-style hanger steak, paired with a potato-latke waffle.
For all the clever names and presentation, both food and drink are absolutely delicious. The whimsy, flair, and flavor extend to dessert. A modern-diner experience warrants a modern-diner milkshake. Made with local Pied Piper ice cream, the Tutti-Frutti is a crazy-fun churn of Fruity Pebbles ice cream, mounded with a swirl of whipped cream, its tall fountain glass edged with tutti-frutti colored cereal bits—it makes for a fun ending to a fanciful meal.
121A 12th Ave N, 615-741-9900; mockingbirdnashville.com