Before defecting from the north to Middle Tennessee I had a difficult time putting my finger on what exactly Nashville was “known” for aside from country music and Broadway. Living in Chicago provided the opportunity to try my taste buds at a range of restaurants across the metropolitan area. Chicago’s neighborhoods were known for signature dining experiences, i.e. Greektown, Ukrainian Village, Little Italy… you get the picture. But Chicago’s signature item? The deep-dish pizza, obviously. Everyone knows this. So what was Nashville’s signature item? Southern food? Sure, there are a number of options when it comes to southern home style restaurants and BBQ joints, but would I be able to find the diverse and ethnic options I so enjoyed through Chicago’s long winters?
To my surprise and satisfaction I’ve discovered that, as Nashville’s sprawling population continues to grow and change drawing people from across the country, so do the dining options. Epice is one of the newest additions to Nashville, bringing Lebanese cuisine to the traditionally Americanized restaurant strip in the heart of the 12South neighborhood. Opening it’s doors very recently in 2014, Epice (pronounced roughly as eh-piece; y’all I didn’t know how to say it either) has already made major waves with Nashville foodies, offering a variety of traditional and specialized Lebanese fare. If you’ve ever gone to Kalamata’s for a quick lunch (aka the best falafel in Nashville, review coming soon!), another local staple, Epice is the brain-child of the owners. The verdict? This place is impressive. Perfect for foodies, date nights, ladies nights, and out-of-towners alike.
Granted, if you’re a meat and potatoes, savory southern type of diner, then Epice might be taking a step outside of your comfort zone. But trust me, it’s well worth taking the chance. Lebanese food is filled with flavorful spices and features traditional entrees of lamb, eggplant, and hummos to name a few. This is not your mama’s chicken pot pie! Epice delivers balanced and flavorful dishes that will create an entirely new experience for the (nearly) native Nashvillian ethnic food newbies. Not only is the menu pretty phenomenal, but the atmosphere and service lends to a pleasant overall experience. The owner, Maher Fawaz, greeted us as we were seated and the server was very knowledgeable about the menu and provided recommendations as my nearly native cohort and I were unsure what foods would best represent the Lebanese fare.
Keep in mind that Epice will only get more popular among the (nearly) natives, so make reservations before you decide to swing by. Also, with the superb dining experience comes a price tag. It’s not your 2-for-1 special or happy hour with bar food kind of establishment. It will be a bit pricey if you decide to try several dishes. But if this is your first time trying Lebanese food, order up! Trying a diverse number of menu items will help you with your overall impression of the ethnic good genre.
As this city continues to see growth, I have high hopes for the diversity that it will attract in the coming years. And as an ex-Chicagoan, the promise for a future of more ethnic dining options in neighborhoods across Nashville excites me! Epice opening it’s doors in 12south to blow the local American southern food-loving minds of Nashville is just one of the first steps of many to come for the ethnic dining scene. For you Nashville newbies looking to impress your more “native” friends, suggest Epice as your next dining destination. You won’t be disappointed.
Entrees: Sayadeya (top left), Lahmeh (top right), Al-Raheb (bottom right)
Entrée side salad and pita chips/olive oil included
Check out their website on the Eat Like a Native page!