Valentine's with KEM
Nashville native and Platinum-selling singer/songwriter KEM returns for a very special one-night-only Valentine’s engagement at the Schermerhorn on Monday, February
If you’ve ever driven south on I-24, you’ve passed one of the most surprisingly delicious stretches of road among Nashville’s outskirts. There’s rich Ethiopian food, kicking Korean soups, and a Laotian market and restaurant that pumps out addictively spicy dishes. All of the above will keep you coming back for more.
Ethiopian food is plain fun to eat. Period. And at Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, it’s an outright adventure. Not only do you get to eat with your hands (without fear of being reprimanded), but also, when you order a coffee, they roast and grind the beans directly in front of you. Welcome to the least-likely gourmet coffee shop in town. (Sorry, Crema.) Order a combo plate—either vegetarian or not—which gives you a taste of everything, from doro wett (a chicken stew cooked with eggs and berbere, a spice blend) to turmeric- and ginger-spiced lentils. It’s all served with injera, spongy Ethiopian bread that serves multiple duties as plate, utensil, and sopping up-mechanism. facebook.com
Most Korean restaurants are known for their barbecue, and, while you can get that at Hai Woon Dai, there’s so much more to explore. The best dishes are the ones you might eat late at night, after a bottle or two of sochu. Here, that’s the budae-jjigae, a spicy soup that was actually created for American militants stationed in Korea. It literally means, “army base soup.” It’s got everything to satisfy a late-night craving: fiery kimchi, eggs, ramen noodles, Spam (yes, Spam), hot dogs, and, sometimes, American cheese. It’s spectacular. They also make the best seafood pancake in town.
Although it’s no longer a secret, King Market has been serving up some of the best Thai-Laotian dishes in Nashville for decades. If you’ve ever been to Thai Esane near 12 South, you’ll recognize most of the menu, as the same family owns both spots. (The parents run King Market; their daughter runs Thai Esane.) The hours are strange (check before you head over), but once you’re there, prepare to be taken outside of your comfort zone. There’s the insanely spicy Thai-style papaya salad or the Thai-style sausage, studded with ginger, chilies, and lemongrass to start. Finish it off with khao soi, a famous noodle soup from Laos that includes a delicious pork broth, broad noodles, tomato, bean sprouts, and cabbage. It’s so good that you’ll have no problem slurping it down, even on a 90-degree Nashville summer day. kingmarkettn.com
Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant — 1310 Antioch Pk, 615-712-8453; facebook.com
Hai Woon Dai — 2051 Antioch Pk, Antioch, 615-333-9186
King Market — 1801 Antioch Pk., Antioch, 615-333-3103; kingmarkettn.com