Guest Chef Dinner at The 404 Kitchen
On Tuesday, March 28, chef Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen in Nashville will welcome chef Justin Burdett of Local Provisions in Asheville, N.C., for a Whistle Pig Dinner. Each
The one-mile stretch of Charlotte Pike that sits due west of White Bridge Road might seem like a jumble of dollar marts, discount tires, and vape shops. But, if you slow down, look closer, and do a little exploring, a global feast awaits.
Intentional or not, the red-painted rock at the base of a hilly driveway serves as a landmark for a shopping center vacated by Kroger decades ago. Now, it’s home to three restaurants and one international grocer.
This is Nashville’s first Vietnamese eatery—I remember going there in the late ’80s and being bowled over by both food and drink at this no-frills joint. Over the years, it has hardly changed. There are crackly baguettes filled with sliced pork; pâté; pickled vegetables; pho, fragrant from star anise; and wildly tart lemonade. But the Bánh Xèo might be my favorite. A crisp rice-flour pancake, thin as a crepe, is folded and filled with shrimp, pork, mung bean sprouts, and onion, and a small plate of lettuce leaves and cilantro comes on the side. Just remember: Cash is king at Kien Giang.
Rival Miss Saigon has a more polished vibe. Outside, they’ve created a garden patio with hanging plants. Inside is dark and cozy, with shimmery mobiles dangling from the ceiling. I’m pleased with vermicelli #47 (grilled shrimp, sliced pork, and mixed veggies), and my vegetarian partner likes the surprisingly flavorful vegan pho. Other perks include cold beer and credit card service. misssaigontn.com
The third in this trio is Lucky Bamboo China Bistro, one of the only Chinese spots in town serving real-deal Dim Sum. luckybamboochinabistro.com
Across the way, in a tiny retail strip, is the buzzing VN Pho & Deli, which you’ll find packed with diners taking blissful slurps of the city’s best pho. Inhale that scent: It’s so small that the room fills with an herbal licorice from the green plates accompanying the noodle soup. On facebook
Just past the pink elephant outside University Motors is the Panaderia La Hispana, a small bakeshop where breads, rolls, and all kinds of pastries are made on-site. Tiered wedding cakes even join the ranks of goodies. Go for the Guatemalan rice-flour cakes, which are baked into small rounds or loaves. They have a nice tang from the crema and Cotija cheese folded into the batter. You can also get flan by the slice, but my choice is resoundingly the sweet, milk-drenched Tres Leches cake.
Mi Favorita Supermercado would be mi favorite, if I lived nearby. The in-house butcher has handsome cuts of steaks, chops, and cutlets, and you’ll find surprising ingredients, like fresh garbanzos to throw in a summer chili. Parked in the same lot is La Mulita Express, home of famous 99-cent tacos. They offer the usual suspects: carnitas, carne asada, and al pastor. For the adventurous, there’s tripe and tongue, but be sure you don’t overlook the food truck’s namesake: mulitas. These gems are not unlike little quesadillas, made with corn tortillas.
Further down the stretch, in the unassuming West Towne Plaza, the women of Korea House have been making and serving the dishes of their homeland for more than two decades. Both Nashville’s Korean community and the community at large frequent the busy spot. It’s a perennial favorite for its home-style cooking and congenial service. Here, I relish the small and festive banchan bowls. Alone, each one sparks the palate. Added to a dish, these little extras bring another dimension of hot, sweet, salty, or sour. Toast it all—and your journey—with a shot of Soju, with Kirin as your chaser. Gun-bae!
Kien Giang — 5845 Charlotte Pk, 615-353-1250
Miss Saigon — 5847 Charlotte Pk, 615-354-1351; misssaigontn.com
Lucky Bamboo China Bistro — 5855 Charlotte Pk, 615-760-5930; luckybamboochinabistro.com
VN Pho & Deli — 5906 Charlotte Pk, 615-356-5995; On facebook
Panaderia La Hispana — 6208B Charlotte Pk, 615-645-9723
Mi Favorita Supermercado //La Mulita Express — 6317B Charlotte Pk, 615-353-1330
Korea House — 6410 Charlotte Pk, Ste. 108, 615-352-2790