The Restaurant Sampler
The Hobnob Corner
In dining out, as with most aspects of life, everything is a matter of perspective—our position relative to the subject in question frames everything we perceive.
I digested this deeper truth a few weeks back in the course of my regular dining duties at the Hobnob Corner Restaurant.
On an otherwise unspectacular afternoon, I arranged to meet with my attractive colleague in the white frame building right at the heart of Nashville—the oldest commercial establishment in Brown County.
It is located on the southwest corner of Main and Van Buren streets, a corner that has now become synonymous with, well…hobnobbing, which, if my dictionary is still holding up, means “to associate familiarly.”
And if there is anything I enjoy more than a good meal, it is associating familiarly.
I found myself seated at the frontmost table in the venerable Hobnob dining room, all the way in the front of the long, shotgun room, facing the bank of windows at the front corner of the building.
For some reason, this shift of perspective from the deep, dark, high-ceilinged rear rooms with the, dark, rolling wooden floors to the cat-bird seat in the show windows up front yielded a different dining experience, more forward-looking, perhaps.
Indiana is tomato country and late July/early August is the height of tomato season, when tomatoes have the real tomato taste.
Accordingly, my attractive companion ordered the beautiful summer tomato and basil salad with locally grown heirloom tomatoes, “tossed with a rain of fresh basil, olive oil, red onions and a touch of red wine vinegar,” flavored with capers and pine nuts and tossed with croutons.
It was a joyous palatal romp through the tastes of the summer garden.
I love the spinach lasagna at the Hobnob. The warm, cheesy dish with mozzarella and cream cheese, and a good marinara sauce was tasty and satisfying, with steamed veggies on the side.
I added a small dinner salad with the house vinaigrette and shared with my colleague a cup of the soup of the day, a complex and delightful “Aubergine” (French for eggplant).
The menu offers a delectable selection of entrees including ravioli pesto, chicken Mandarin and liver and onions. Another favorite of mine is the “Rube Martin,” the Hobnob’s take on the classic Ruben sandwich with thinly-sliced corned beef, fresh sauerkraut and imported, aged Emmenthal cheese on onion-dill bread.
The offerings also include a 12 ounce Angus beef New York strip steak, spaghetti with Italian sausage sauce, and a chicken picante, as well as an old fashioned pot roast.
There are several good sandwiches on the menu, including an open-faced vegetable sandwich with avocado, tomato, alfalfa sprouts and mushrooms on whole wheat with melted cheddar cheese; turkey and steak sandwiches served open-faced; a tuna melt, or a good one-third pound cheeseburger.
The Hobnob serves lunch, dinner, and is especially popular for breakfast. It is open every day of the week.
The restaurant also produces outstanding breads, pastries, and Danish baked from scratch at the store daily.
With that in mind, how could we pass up dessert? We felt it was our duty to eat it, for the sake of our readers.
While I satiated my pesky cheesecake addiction with a generous slab of the classic New-York style, my crafty companion wisely order the peach shortcake, piled so high with fresh peaches, shortbread and whipped cream, it was as if it were intended to be mooched on by your dining companion. I had to oblige.
Also available, an old-fashioned chocolate sundae and “Coffee Toffee Pie.”
Owner and proprietor Warren Cole dropped by our table and I couldn’t help boring the poor man with my sometimes sketchy rendition of Nashville history and the history of this particular building, something I’m sure he’s probably never heard before.
And, of course, I had to recall to him all my own particular recollections of the place; in an earlier incarnation as Miller’s Drug Store, back when I was a lad—back in the age of soda fountains, when a boy could order a cherry phosphate or a “green river.”
“That’s what everybody says,” replied Warren. “But the funny thing is, in December we will have been here 25 years. But everyone still thinks of it as Miller’s Drug Store. I suppose twenty years from now, when there’s some other kind of business in here, people will stop by, and tell the owner wistfully ‘I remember when this was the Hobnob Corner. I’ve eaten many a good meal in this room.’”
I sat in the frontmost table, quietly gazing out those old, old windows into the heart of the village that keeps reinventing itself; that still knows what history means.
I nibbled at the last of my cheesecake and ruminated on the perspective imposed by time and location.
And I was a profoundly satisfied man.