The Restaurant Sampler
The Jug Restaurant
When one is determined to seek out a broad cross section of dining opportunities and sample many different foods in many different venues, it will not suffice to confine one’s gastric forays to the broad ways and main streets.
No, one must seek out the road less traveled, the byways, alleyways and little lanes in search of satisfying fare.
Accordingly, I headed up Molly’s Lane toward an old friend tucked away “behind” main street Nashville—The Jug.
The intimate, family-owned eatery at the corner of Molly’s and Honeysuckle lanes, named after the infamous “Little Brown Jug” of bluegrass music fame, has been inviting everyone to “Eat where the locals eat!” for twenty years.
My attractive colleague told me the “Molly” of Molly’s Lane is most likely “Aunt Molly” Lucas, a likable spinster who lived in the Nashville the first wave of artists discovered. Molly made her living as laundress and helped her sister, Allie Ferguson run the Ferguson House, a local boarding house.
The Jug has a outdoor deck with a scattering of umbrella-ed tables perched up above the fray of October shoppers jostling for a find; but on a foggy, graying afternoon, we opted for the cozy wooden dining room.
Now, I have a weakness where The Jug is concerned—a blind spot as it were—dating back to my days as one of those office workers in the “Peaceful Valley.” That weakness is my affection, my devotion, to their famous hand-cut, hand-breaded tenderloin.
But in the interest of the measured, professional judgment required of any keenly focused restaurant sampler, I had resolved to order something else on this particular day.
The Jug offers “Get ’Em While They Last” specials for each day of the week including smoked sausage with green beans and new potatoes (Wednesday); ham and beans with cornbread and fried potatoes (Thursday); honey-Dijon grilled chicken with pasta salad (Friday); pulled pork barbecue with cole slaw (Saturday); chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes and green beans (Sunday); TexMex burger with black bean salad (Monday).
It happened to be Tuesday and the special was a huge, juicy baked sweet potato stuffed with mini-marshmallows, brown sugar and walnuts, which came with a Waldorf salad.
The salad was delicious, with just apples, celery and dressing. But shouldn’t a Waldorf have walnuts and grape halves? Shouldn’t those nuts be on the salad and not the yam?
Just for the record, Joy of Cooking gives the ingredients for a Waldorf salad (created by Chef Oscar Tschirky in the late 1890’s) as diced celery, diced apples and mayonnaise. Chopped walnuts and seeded grape halves came later.
I had the soup of the day, a home-made chicken noodle soup which was meaty, savory and seasoned just right.
I also looked favorably upon the selection of baked (Irish) potatoes; a “Monterey Ranch” with Mont/Jack cheese, bacon and onions with ranch dressing; a “Nacho Baked” spud with taco meat, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and sour cream and “Larry’s Potato” with steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots topped with grilled mushrooms and served with honey mustard dressing.
Of course, for the less adventurous, there is the broccoli cheese potato and the durable butter and sour cream potato.
I couldn’t shake my admiration for all things breaded and deep fried, and ordered a generous basket of breaded mushrooms served with ranch dressing off an appetizer list that includes jalapeño poppers, chicken fingers, “Tender Chips,” which are little bite-sized tenderloin pieces, and “Onion Straws” which are what onion rings would be if they weren’t round.
Salad possibilities include a tortilla-bowl taco salad with lettuce, ground beef and refried beans, cheese, onions and tomato; a grilled chicken chef salad and a “special recipe” chicken salad with grapes, celery and pineapple.
Everything looked, smelled and tasted delicious and I haven’t even mentioned the widely-admired, half-pound, hand-pressed grilled “Jug Burger.” The grilled burrito, or the “Big Fish,” a flaky Alaskan Pollack hand-breaded and (heaven help me I do love it so) deep-fried.
And to complete a wonderful afternoon dining experience there were fresh, homemade desserts.
Just like all the fresh, made from scratch food on the Jug’s menu, the daily desserts include pies, cobblers, and other baked delights lovingly created by Melody and her sister Sherry.
The big baked yam with those little marshmallows and the cool, gray weather had got me thinking about Turkey Day.
I chose the pumpkin pie with a big thick, just-like-mom-used-to-make crust, and a perfect floret of whipped cream on top and asked for a big mug of the strongest coffee they had on hand.
The pie was superb, the setting was agreeable, the conversation was illuminating and entertaining, and the coffee was warm, rich and delightful.
I sipped appreciatively, shared one bite of the traditional autumnal pastry with my pulchritudinous pal, cast an eye out the window, beyond the deck where diners dined— beyond Molly’s Lane, beyond the bustle of October in Nashville.
In my mind’s eye, I could see the old cemetery, the first cemetery, up there on the hill above and behind town, perched high above what has become of Peaceful Valley…
Molly is resting up there along with her sister and so many of those Nashville pioneers whose blood is in these alleys and lanes; who never imagined that they would become legendary figures, Brown County icons.
I slowly sipped my coffee, enjoyed my pie, and was a profoundly satisfied man.