Nearly Native Eats: Myrtle’s Chicken + Beer

Beer and chicken – two words more beautiful have never been uttered together (according to my boyfriend). My southern boy is the epitome of “meat and potatoes”, raised on home cooking, his diet is generally guiltless and you better believe he’s never gone anywhere near the words “gluten-free”.  So when Myrtle’s Chicken + Beer opened it’s doors on Market Square in downtown Knoxville, you better believe it jumped all the way to the front of his new restaurant list. Me on the other hand, I’m pretty basic when it comes to staying healthy, meaning that I try to stay away from all the carby fried goodness, but it’s hard to pass up old-fashioned southern fried chicken, so we quickly made our way to this southern comfort spot.

Offering a convenient Market Square location and a food genre that the good southern people of Knoxville, Tennessee absolutely love, Myrtle’s is a recipe for success. The menu is pretty straightforward, dressing chicken several different ways, whether it be in their starter baskets, sandwiches, or entrées. You can pretty much be sure that if you’re ordering something from Myrtle’s it probably has chicken somewhere in it, save for a few side items, a salad, and in their tomato pie. I’d say if you’re vegan, this probably isn’t the spot for you. But you can bet this was the spot for my boyfriend and an indulgence for me.

Myrtle’s Famous Fried Chicken can be prepared with light or dark meat, in chicken tender form, as wings, and slathered in one of their many sauces. I’m no connoisseur of fried chicken, but whatever Myrtle’s is doing works – the buttermilk taste lingering on every bite of the fried chicken is worthy of any southern home. If that’s not your thing, their classic American sandwiches and wraps will feel familiar. Plus, they’ve got several salads to choose from if you’re simply not ready to dive into something fried. Even if you skip the fried chicken, don’t skimp when it comes to the sides because the tomato pie and grits are not to be missed! And, y’all, they have brunch. The chicken and waffles are calling my name.

Don’t forget to try one of their cocktails, featuring some local spirits, or barrel-aged classic cocktails to wash everything down with. Needless to say, my boyfriend was in heaven – this joint is perfect for a casual date night, especially if you’ve got a fried chicken lover. Belly up to the bar or find yourself a booth, it’s a small space, so it won’t get too loud. Of course, this is a fried chicken, southern comfort restaurant, so don’t expect much of anything as far as calorie redemption goes. Just indulge and enjoy it because a trip to Myrtle’s is totally worth it.

Check out their website on the Eat Like a Native page!

Nearly Native Eats: Caviar & Bananas

I’m not much of a lunch person. While others use their lunch hour to escape from their offices, their shops, or just the general daily grind, I usually recover my predictably prepped meal from the murky office refrigerator and retreat back to my desk. You know what I’m talking about – while everyone takes care of their own household, they can’t seem to clean their junk out of the communal office fridge, resulting in piles of unknown smells and abandoned Tupperware. Regardless, I rarely indulge in lunch excursions, but some destinations I’ll make an exception for. When it comes to finding the perfect anti-afternoon food coma fuel, I look to Caviar & Bananas to help me escape the perils of the office fridge.

Located in the ground floor of the massive Aerston conglomerate in the Midtown neighborhood of Nashville, Caviar & Bananas has traveled from Charleston, NC to give us the benefits of a sit-down cafe and a convenience-oriented market in one. While it might be littered with students at all times of the day, when lunchtime hits their backpacks blend with briefcases of local professionals who have a hankering for a fresh salad, deli sandwich, or baked good. We’re not talking some wilted, pre-packaged iceberg lettuce-based salad either – build your own or select a C&B recommendation and you’ll get fresh spinach and kale, fruits and vegetables, ciabatta and multigrain bread. Even if you’re just stopping in for a quick breakfast, their full-service coffee bar has everything you need to get your day going (even for those of us who love almond and coconut milk).

So Caviar and Bananas has you covered when it comes to the first half of your day (including weekend brunch!), but they certainly don’t forget about evening activities. Their wine bar opens for business every afternoon with a wide variety of shared small plates, and cheese and prosciutto boards (plus frose!). This cafe and market is not kidding around when it comes to all-day service. Whether you’re escaping the daily grind for just a few moments to grab a quick snack or you arrive in the morning for coffee and remain until it’s time for wine, Caviar and Bananas has something for every diet restriction or random craving.

Sometimes you just need a break – even if you’re not much of a lunch person like me, Caviar and Bananas is worth taking a timeout away from the office fridge.

Check out their website on the Eat Like a Native page!

Nearly Native Eats: Little Octopus

Have you ever set out to have an epic night, complete with dinner and drinks out on the town until way past your bedtime, only to have it foiled by the unanticipated post-heavy-meal “food baby” weighing you down? You started out with conviction, telling yourself you’ll avoid eating the entire basket of chips or finishing off that molten lava cake, but how could you resist? Everything was just SO delicious, but the more you stuff yourself the more your bed and some stretchy pants sound better than getting your groove on. There are times for these indulgent meals, but there are also times that you want to feel invigorated by your meal and ready to take on the night. Little Octopus is here to serve up some seriously tasty, fresh food to power you up for more than a post-dinner date with your couch.

No longer just a temporary resident at POP Nashville, Little Octopus has moved its fresh and colorful menu to a convenient Gulch location for those Nashvillians that appreciate eating robust, yet healthy eats to get their sustenance. For the skeptics: Just because it’s “healthy” doesn’t mean it tastes like cardboard. Comprised of a wide variety of small plates and entrée dishes to share, this modern Gulch mainstay showcases unique lunch and dinner options. The majority of the menu is noted with a combination of Gluten Free, Pescatarian, and Vegan labels, but this shouldn’t scare the meat and potato loving masses. Lunch features hardy dishes like the Cuban sandwich, while dinner has chicken, scallops, and oxtail. Of course, with a name like “Little Octopus” the seafood selection is scattered throughout and is designed for enjoying among friends, so order up! You could even be adventurous and try the steak tartare or cactus. And of course, they’ve got signature cocktails and other drinks to compliment your many dishes.

Beyond the menu that makes it stand as innovative and distinctive among the competitive Nashville dining scene, Little Octopus keeps its seating limited and the ambience intimate. The venue is fit for conversation, whether it’s a first date or a group hang, allowing for you to hear yourself without intense music or the latest game blaring in the background. It’s the perfect place to test your taste buds and trade plates without loading up on anything deep-fried or greasy.

Regardless of personal dietary directives, meat lovers and vegans can find common ground at Little Octopus without feeling full to the point of immobility. Skip the cheese fries and fried chicken for a night and fuel up with flavorful food that won’t leave you wanting to be horizontal on your couch instead of out on the town. Grab your friends or your favorite date night companion and get yourself to this healthy hot spot today!

Check out their website on the Eat Like a Native page!