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!

Live Like a Native: Burning the Roast

Is it just me or does moving in with your significant other make you feel crazy? Motivations and desires I never thought I had have surfaced from some remote place inside me. Among these invasive new thoughts was the sudden need to “provide” for my SO. This overwhelming need to make like June Cleaver and become the homemaker that my mother was growing up suddenly interrupted the way I’d done my adult life since forever.  I wanted, needed, to follow the example my mom set of a modern career woman who balanced children, husband, home, and career all at once. She made it look so easy! So, as my first step into this “Super June” provider role, I made it my duty (without my SO actually saying anything about it) to plan and cook dinner regularly. Actually executing this self-inflicted responsibility, however, was a pipe dream. Conveniently forgetting the times my mom burnt the bread or opted for fast food, my master plan to create healthy and delicious meals quickly became more than I bargained for.

When cooking for one, researching and executing recipes was a selfish act – I could eat all of the kale, brussels sprouts, (ice cream) and sweet potatoes I wanted! But when it came time to add the tastes of my SO into the exercise of meal planning, it got complicated. He’s meat and pasta and I’m fish and quinoa, so the thought of making meals that satisfied us both completely freaked me out. While I tried at first to cater mainly to his needs, I struggled to find meals that both of us enjoyed. I quickly broke down under the pressure I’d created in my head for the type of live-in girlfriend I thought my SO expected. Somehow, even in an age when women have overcome so many stereotypes, I simply couldn’t quite get past the June Cleaver mentality.

It got worse with the dreaded roast incident. Slow cooking meals always looked so easy! Pop all of your ingredients in to the pot and put it on low for hours until everything is cooked to perfection. Simple, right? I’d used a slow cooker before (often with my mom nearby), so when my SO suggested preparing a roast I quickly said yes with little thought, thankful we found a meal we both liked. Little did I know that there was actually a strategy to slow cooking. I just cut everything up and dumped it in. What I didn’t realize is that vegetables typically go on the bottom with the meat layered on top. Not until my SO taste-tested hours later, biting into a basically raw potato, did I realized that I’d royally messed up.

Needless to say the roast tasted like at tire and the vegetables were hopeless. Internally I was freaking out, letting my June Cleaver perfectionism eat away at my thoughts even while my SO sweetly ate the disaster of a meal saying, “it’s really not that bad”. It was that bad. I could no longer stand the pressure I’d been putting on myself and broke down in front of him, frustrated I couldn’t be the dinner provider I’d envisioned. But what came out of this dangerous food-driven path I’d taken myself down was a lesson I’m forever grateful for.

When I broke down, explaining what I *thought* I was supposed to be for my SO he quickly put those thoughts to rest. He didn’t expect me to be any version of June Cleaver – he loved to cook and we could make meals together without having some elaborate plan. We could even run up to the grocery store right before we cooked dinner instead of constantly meal planning – what a concept!

I realize I got lucky here, not every person loves to cook. But the point is that I’d created this world of expectation without even thinking about discussing it with my SO. Instead of living in this self-inflicted pain of perfectionism, I simply needed to talk it out with him. Coming to this understanding has since made cooking dinner less of a chore and more of a fun activity. I’ve even managed to help along his tolerance for brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. While burning the roast was a minor mistake in the long run, it forced me to actually communicate with my SO instead of just internalizing all my crazy thoughts and burying myself in my own expectations. So if you’re like me and moving in with your SO made you a bit crazy, maybe talking it out is the perfect way to get out of your own way and kick June back to the decade she belongs in.

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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!