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901 Second Avenue No.
Nashville, TN 37201
Date of Visit: 26 March 2004
OVERALL EXPERIENCE (5 is Best)
The Stock-Yard Restaurant is a Nashville landmark. It occupies buildings that once were the Nashville Union Stock-Yards, which started operation in 1924. According to the restaurant's brochure, "...livestock corrals lined Second Avenue and were filled with cattle, hogs, sheep and mules awaiting sale at what was then the premiere livestock trading center of the mid-South." In 1974, the Stock-Yards closed. But in 1979 the now-famous restaurant of the same name opened its doors. [Note: The restaurant was recently sold to restaurateur Chuck Patel.]
So how did the ChiefCowEater end up at this restaurant? I found myself in Nashville (Don't ask!) and -- as is usually the case -- in dire need of some good dead cow. One evening while attempting to adjust my attitude at the Sheraton Music City bar, I overheard another guest ask about directions to a local steak house. The gentleman sitting next to me mentioned that this particular place was not the best steak house in Nashville. I asked which one was, and he said the Stock-Yard. Checking with the concierge, I found a brochure from the restaurant. And there was a plus: The Stock-Yard offers free transportation to and from their restaurant! So I called they to ask about transportation and reservations. I was a bit apprehensive calling to ask about a free service for only one person. However, the lady on the phone made me feel like I was the most important person who had called her that day. Warmly greeted on the phone, she said that they would be more than happy to come pick me up, even if it was just "little" old me. So I made a reservation for the following night. [Important Note: I learned that the restaurant has an interesting arrangement with their van drivers. The restaurant provides the driver with a small hourly wage and furnishes the van. But drivers must pay for their own gasoline! Please keep this in mind when you tip...and be generous.]
At exactly 6:15 PM, the van pulled up to the hotel entrance. I would be its only passenger on this trip. As we drove the several miles from the Sheraton to the restaurant, the van driver pointed out all of the interesting sights along the way. He was very professional and entertaining and it made for a nice, enjoyable drive in the Nashville traffic.
Stepping into the restaurant is like stepping back in time. There are several small dining rooms and a bar clustered around a large kitchen and prep area...and a live lobster tank. Each dining room was once the private office of one of the livestock traders or merchants who plied their trades there some eighty years ago. Wood plank floors creek as you move from room to room, taking in the historical ambiance and gazing at photographs and memorabilia of a past era that decorate the walls. There is also a glassed-in dry aging room that allows you to stand there and watch dead cow grow old... gracefully.
I was seated in the Stone Cattle Buyer's room. The waiter, Dennis, came over to introduce himself and take my drink order. I said that I wanted to review the wine list first. According to the restaurant's menu: "The wine list contains almost 300 selections, one of the most extensive in the city." In all, the list was actually very nice and the pricing was what I would expect. By-the-glass selections were limited, so I opted to enjoy a full bottle of Sterling 2000 cabernet sauvignon ($60.00)
The Stock-Yard's menu is extensive. Examples include escargot ($10.95), calamari ($9.75), and oyster's Rockefeller ($11.50) for appetizers, and a 22-ounce Angus porterhouse ($34.95), 12-ounce rib eye ($27.95), Steak au Poivre ($39.95), scampi ($25.95), and fresh lobster (market price). Additionally, they offer several chicken, pork, and pasta dishes as well. The menu also mentions the restaurant's chef. It notes that, "Chef Ahylege is listed as America's outstanding chefs of the 20th century by the International Restaurant and Hospitality Bureau."
Per Dennis' recommendation (and how can one not take a waiter's recommendation after he shows you a picture of his little son--also named Dennis...which happens to be my name!), I went with the crab cakes ($10.95). Surprisingly, they were similar to the crab cakes we had at Balboa, except not as "crunchy". As I wrote in that review, I really feel that crab cakes should have lump crab in them, not finely chopped or minced. The menu describes them as "Cilantro crab cakes served on a bed of lobster cognac sauce." I did not taste much cilantro, and the lobster cognac sauce needed something to make it memorable. Along with the crab cakes, an individual-size loaf of bread was brought to the table.
Dennis brought the Sterling cabernet. I believe that Sterling has changed the style of their wines from past years. I remember 15 years ago that they were big, oaky wines with lots of body. This was soft and light, without heavy acid and tannins, and drinkable now. The only negative experience was with their wine glasses. They were typical multi-purpose restaurant glasses, which were better suited to a house red. I did find out later from one of the bartenders that they have Riedel stemware that they will use if the bottle of wine costs over $100.00. My recommendation to Chuck Patel: Throw out all the old glasses and get at least a decent stemware for all your wine-drinking customers. You insult me when I pay $60 for a bottle of wine and you serve it to me in a 99-cent glass.
It was now time for dead cow. I had ordered the 14-ounce certified aged Angus New York strip ($32.95), with a baked potato ($5.00). What else did you think I would order?! It was grilled to perfection. Right from the first bite, I knew this was Good Dead Cow. The potato was excellent, and served with extra sour cream just as I had requested.
If you want to get everyone's attention in a restaurant, take out your notebook and begin taking extensive notes on everything that is happening. Keep the menu and wine list handy, and periodically refer back to them as dinner progresses. First to take note was Kechia Krisle. I believe that she is the Maitre 'd. She was also the extremely friendly lady I spoke with when I called for reservations. She came by to chat. We talked about the wine and some of the selections on their wine list. Next came Chuck Patel, the new owner. He sat right down at my table (I guess if you OWN the table, you can do that!) and asked me how was my meal. I told him that it was excellent and proceeded to mention the great service from Dennis and Kechia. He told me that most of the wait staff had been with the restaurant for many years. He mentioned one waiter who has been there 14-years and has a very high-level "day job" at a local Nashville company. He works at the Stock-Yard five-hours a night and mades about $55,000 a year waiting tables. Next, Kechia returned with her business card (no title on the card) and said that I should call her before my next visit to the Stock-Yard and that she was looking forward to talking more about wine. Last to come by (to see just what the Hell I was writing!) was a man who introduced himself as "Brian, the manager." He did not have much to say and didn't hang around long. (I knew I should have worn my DeadCowSociety.Com shirt!) [Note to ChiefMeatInspector: So order the darn shirts already!]
Dennis was back, this time tempting me with the dessert tray. I told him that I would think about dessert while I took a meander around the restaurant. So I picked up my glass of wine and took a walk around the place. When I had tired of sightseeing, I returned to my table and awaited the return of the dessert tray. Some of their selections include Key Lime pie, coconut cake, cheesecake, pecan pie, and others. I decided on the New York cheesecake ($6.95) and, once again at Dennis' suggestion, had it covered in hot fudge. It was wonderful. I do not eat cheesecake very often and this was excellent. Not too sweet, and the addition of the hot fudge gives your mouth something to think about: The cold cheesecake mixed with the hot fudge makes the palate come alive. This was accompanied by the remaining cabernet and coffee ($1.75).
After settling the bill with Dennis, I wandered back to the bar, which is called the Studio. It's a lively place with a good selection of liquors, including an excellent selection of cognacs, cordials, and cigars. To top off the night (remember that I am not driving!), I ordered a Tennessee favorite: Gentleman Jack straight up. It was while sitting at the bar and talking with the young, energetic bartenders, that I found out about the "special" wine glasses and when the new owner took over.
There is lots to see and do in Nashville, and a stop at the Stock-Yard Restaurant must be on your list of things to do when there. Their free transportation is something that other restaurants, nationwide, should take note. With the emphasis today on always having a designated driver, what better way to show our community that you care? Something to consider.
And remember to say hi to Kechina for me!
ALL RATINGS FOR THE STOCK-YARD RESTAURANT