Despite the economic challenges, Nashville restaurateurs are still opening imaginative new venues offering creative bills of fare. For some, this has meant taking their food on the road, and it's likely that the popular trend will continue to find a new culinary landscape emerging at a street corner near you.
The Grilled Cheeserie marries the universal love of a comfort food classic to the convenience of mobile munching. The brainchild of a former Los Angelina with a food truck pedigree, this four-wheeled hotspot has already become a local fave.
Although Grilled Cheeserie co-founders Crystal Bogan and her husband Joseph left California for Nashville in 2009, the story of their project begins in Crystal Bogan's West Coast roots. It was ultimately the advice of her uncle, who owns a food truck commissary kitchen, that encouraged her to put her ideas on wheels.
When it comes to her recipes, Bogan realizes she's serving a classic and her respect is on display in traditional “American-on-white-bread” combos. These unpretentious preparations make her more inspired riffs on bread and cheese all the more exciting in contrast.
Bogan's Melt of the Moment micro-specials showcase her broad-ranging creativity. For example, a recent Facebook update announced a traditional Southern combination of “pimento cheese w/local smoked cheddar, Benton's bacon on country white bread.” However, another melty mouthful skips the cheese altogether. The Bananarama Melt combines Nutella, banana and homemade coconut marshmallows on brioche. “They taste like Samoas Girl Scout cookies,” enthuses Bogan.
All Grilled Cheeserie creations are made from scratch, and nearly everything is locally sourced. Bogan's list of suppliers reads like a Who's Who of local food cornerstones, and it's clear that Bogan's connections to them and the rest of the mobile food scene are her proudest accomplishment.
Sarah Souther moved to music city “for love” six years ago and now Nashville has fallen for her tasty treats. The Irish native has always indulged an artsy side that found her creating clothing and accessories from her hand-painted silk designs. While couture might seem like an odd springboard into candy-making, Souther's marshmallow creations seem custom-fit for Nashville's sweet tooth.
After sampling Souther’s experiments with homemade marshmallows, her friends became fast fans of the treats and began requesting marshmallow packages for gifts. Then she provided desserts for a friend's birthday party, and Souther and her Irish luck found themselves booked into a full season of event catering.
Souther developed marshmallow flavors like espresso praline half dipped in Belgian dark chocolate, and rose cardamom half dipped in Belgian milk chocolate, and her success continued when she connected with a diverse network of small local retailers and farmers’ markets. “I love it,” says Souther. “They've been incredibly supportive, the farmers markets especially. I love all these little places!”
Fido, Belcourt Theatre, and Green Wagon all carry her marshmallow treats, but wholesaling alone was never the plan for Bang Candy, and Souther joined Nashville's mobile food trend with a little white “shack” she pulls on a trailer behind a black Volvo. The “Cocovan” storefront-on-the-go allows Souther to sell hot chocolate with her marshmallows at any type of event, festival, private party, or street-treat scenario. In the near future, she is planning a menu of hot chocolate cocktails and cocktail-inspired lollipops including an absinthe and champagne sucker she calls “Death in the Afternoon.” What a way to go!
Our city long been home to fantastic taco trucks, but Mas Tacos, Por Favor is a pioneer of Nashville's recent food truck trend. A Nashville native who's spent her life in the restaurant business, owner Teresa Mason's love of food truck culture began during eight years she spent in New York.
Opened in 2008, the Mas Tacos menu mimics traditional taco cart offerings in its simple combinations of ingredients. Mason makes her own mark with a variety of vegetarian options, and at Mas Tacos, it's clear that you're eating the result of a specific vision. “I make what I want to eat,” states Mason. “When we introduce something new, it's because I've tried something and I'm like, 'I want to try a new twist on that!'”
While the Mas menu changes daily, the legendary quinoa taco is always up for grabs. The taco originally featured quinoa, fresh roasted corn, Yukon potato, and jalapeno. Its cold-weather cousin combines quinoa with sweet potato, jalapeno and dried habenero. The fried avocado sandwich has proven to be a gateway meal to vegetarianism and Mas Tacos' aguas frescas and soups make for unexpectedly well-rounded street side snacking.
Mason is fiercely independent, but she jumped at the chance to open up a stable storefront when the perfect property presented itself in East Nashville. “I wanted something that was ready-made,” she explains. “It happened to have all of the basic, expensive things I knew I needed.”
The McFerrin Avenue venue seats about a dozen and does a brisk to-go service. In the winter months, the Mas Tacos storefront is only open for lunch, but they will begin serving dinner when the warm weather returns. The truck will make its traditional comeback at the East Nashville Saint Patrick's Day Pub Crawl. ***
Nashville's food truck scene is providing a direct solution to the dearth of al fresco dining options in the city, and here is the best part: They bring the food to you.
In true new food truck tradition, timely menus and locations for these meals-on-wheels purveyors can be found on Facebook and Twitter.