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: Emilia

The Double Date. A sometimes daring, often times entertaining excursion for two couples to come together in commonality over a meal or drinks. Just when you think you’ve escaped the perils of dating – outfit insecurities, nervous talking, jokes that fall flat – you and your partner can feel them resurfacing as you prepare to meet your couple counterpart out for a night on the town, especially when it’s for the first time. Not to add to the pressure, but selecting the proper venue is key. Nothing to crazy or too quiet because getting to know a new couple needs a comfortable space. So where to go?

Tucked in to Knoxville’s charming Market Square sits Emilia, the trendy Italian oasis that’s the perfect place for your couple’s night out. With expert execution and just enough flavor familiarity, from its Insalata Caprese to its Carbonara, this eatery is a refreshing taste of Italy that will help you calm your double date jitters. The menu’s classically Italian characteristics come with freshly prepared house-made pasta and a variety of options to satisfy everyone from the steak-loving carnivore to ricotta-loving vegetarian. With wine (or cocktails) flowing and some fluffy focaccia in your belly, conversation will come easily in the open and inviting interior of Emilia. Plus, if you really want to be prepared, they take reservations so that you can plan ahead!

While you can’t just pull up and park at Emilia, due to it’s convenient Market Square location, parking is not far off at accessible garages on the next block. If you happen to have a wait, there are a number of bars within walking distance either on Market or nearby to snag a drink and get the evening going.

Having your partner might be like a built-in best friend, but there comes a time when involving others in the mix might help you get out of your relationship comfort zone. Don’t let the your old dating habits creep back in, especially fretting over the selecting the perfect location –  mix things up and dare to double date at an Italian spot that impresses with ease.

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

Nearly Native Eats: Henley

What is a “brasserie” anyway? Rooted in French tradition, it’s a restaurant serving hearty dishes with a relaxed setting. It’s a pretty broad definition if you ask me. When I think of French restaurants, I automatically jump to escargot, French onion soup, and loaves of bread, covering tables so packed on the sidewalk they’re almost spilling onto the street. But brasserie is simply a term to convey style, to set expectations for patrons that, when they arrive, will feel comfortable. Henley’s blend of contemporary, yet classic esthetic and service with brasserie ease lets you indulge in a setting that isn’t stuffy.

While a typical French brasserie might spread its relaxed accoutrements all over the sidewalk in front of you, Henley happens to be quite hidden inside the ground level of the new Aerston Hotel in the Midtown neighborhood in Nashville. Parking can be a chore, as the neighborhood has been flooded with new commercial attractions, but once you’re able to find a spot, look for the entrance to this intimate eatery to the right of the hotel valet and before its neighbor, Caviar and Bananas. Once you enter, you’ll be met with a set of sultry eyes drawing you in from their place perched over the bar. Whether you prefer the sunlit dining toward the front or the cozy library in the back, Henley can help you set the mood for your dining experience.

After you’ve embraced the vibe, you can choose to share some savory small plates to get a taste for a broad range of dishes, or focus on the communal items if you’re looking for larger portions. The menu is rooted in seasonally basic elements with a twist, like the mouth-watering Chicken Fried Chanterelles that will totally change your perspective on mushrooms. And don’t forget the hand-crafted cocktails that’ll give you the courage to stare right back into those sultry eyes overlooking the room.

This spot is perfect for a date, for impressing your parents, or for catching up with a friend. It’s not overwhelmingly loud and there’s no chance of distraction via television. The only thing you might catch yourself look at aside from the flavorful food is the contemporary décor that seems just right for the space. Definitely a must-visit, Henley welcomes you with the open arms of a French brasserie without actually being French at all.

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