The Silly GooseHave you ever had one of those moments where you realize that something truly fantastic has sprouted in your neighborhood and you didn't even know it? When we moved to East Nashville last August I could swear this storefront was empty. And now? A mix of funky, eclectic, charm crammed into a small space called the Silly Goose. I have no doubt that before long the Silly Goose will be hailed as part of the ongoing foodie revolution of East Nashville. It is imaginative, delicious high quality food with a dedication to locally produced ingredients. It is on a very short list of places I will always taken out of town visitors, along with Nashville institutions like Las Paletas, Marche and Margot. So go ahead and hurry in now so you can say you were ahead of the trend.
1888 Eastland Ave.
Nashville, TN 37206
Tuesday-Saturday 11AM to 9PM
When you walk in, the decor is dominated by a trio of tall artworks that contrast with the whimsical goose and food painting on the walls, which seems to be straight out of a classic children's book. The room has only a few tables, so even for a midweek lunch we had a 15 minute wait. The wait staff and kitchen staff seem to be genuinely enjoying being a part of the food endeavor. The waitress was fun and engaging without being chatty or interruptive. A chalk board on the wall near the kitchen lists a long list of local purveyors, many of whom local foodies will already be familiar with. Delvin Farms was providing their greens that week. Their goat cheeses were from Noble Farms, a favorite of the Nashville and East Nashville farmers markets (where Mr Noble himself works the booth selling his cheeses). They source their bread from Provence; if you're from Nashville, I'm going to trust that is 'nuff said.
The menu features an assortment of sandwiches, salads and quinoa dishes. If you are a foodie, the options will really tickle your fancy. There are several that take standards and tweak them so they arrive on your plate and your palate like the boy next door you've always known who suddenly shows up and is a total heart-stopping hottie. Like ham and cheese? Feast your face on the Silly Goose version, where cappicola and thomme team up with peppery arugula pesto and shaved fennel drizzled with balsamic reduction. My husband ordered the cappicola sandwich and I can vouch personally that it takes ham and cheese for a walk on the wild side. Fancy a roast beef sandwich? Theirs comes with roasted red pepper aioli, blue gouda, arugula and grilled onions.
Seriously, the worst part of the meal was having to pick only one option to eat. Preserved lemon couscous with grilled eggplant, sundried tomato, walnuts, fennel and apple? yes. Ham, brie, green apple, honey mustard on foccacia? yum. Salad with avocado, cashews, goat cheese, mango, pineapple, herbs and a sesame ginger vinaigrette? Where do I sign up. There was not one single thing on the menu that I did not want to try. Honestly. It sounds like hyperbole, but I cannot recall the last time I looked at a menu and could genuinely say I wanted to try every thing. It made me instantly glad my husband is one of those people who doesn't mind that I am going to sample a taste from his plate.
I was so emboldened by their menu, I did something I rarely do: I ordered the salmon. I didn't have salmon until I was in college, and as a result I am excessively picky about my salmon dishes. I'd say at least half the time I order salmon in a restaurant, my husband winds up finishing it. I'm not sure what exactly put me in a gambling mood, maybe it was the mouth watering description "Smoked salmon, honey black pepper goat cheese, caramelized onion, and baby arugula on marbled rye." You had me at caramelized onion. And each bite was a small bit of sassy, savory heaven. The sweetness of the caramelized onion brought out the subtle sweetness of the smoked salmon, but the tangy goat cheese and peppery arugula brought just the right balance to keep it from being cloying. If you don't live in Nashville you should drive here just to try it. The words "a revelation" come to mind.
The food is assembled and plated at the small stainless steel counter that separates the tiny dining area from the tiny and immaculate kitchen. There, I watched as a chef with an air of confidence and edgy artiness busily squirted pesto and balsamic reduction in jackson pollock splashes across our sandwiches and quinoa salad. The finished effect had the kind of fine dining appeal that speaks of someone who takes pride in the work of their food. I love eating with my eyes.
For drinks, in addition to a variety of fresh pressed juices, they offered fresh basil lemonade or a fantastic ginger tea concoction, both served in the accidentally unaffected southern style: in small glass mason jars. We ordered some of each and they were both fantastic, but I have to say I thought the ginger tea was the big winner. Sometimes when I sit on my back porch in the sunshine I have little passing fantasies about a glass of it appearing beside me,the providence of kindly foodie fairies. Better still? They refill ya for free.
Halfway through our lunch I noticed the waiter scooping out a serving of four cups of different ice creams. I completely lost my train of thought, and in the middle of a sentence said "they. have. ice cream." Because suddenly it was all I could think about. Especially that strikingly magenta ice cream. "I bet that one is beet. It has to be. Look at that color. Ooooo." Yup, turns out they also serve an inventive array of house-made ice creams. Over achievers. That day they had a honey beet option that is something of a signature dish, but also included a chocolate ice cream and a peanut butter vegan option (made with coconut milk). But the rest of the folks I was eating with weren't as dedicated to food as I am. They all said they were "full" and let a little thing like that stand in the way of eating dessert. So I can't vouch personally for the desserts except to say they are high on my "to do" list.
They have a credo listed on their webpage, which I think speaks to the passion that seems to infuse everything with a little extra joie de vivre: "we make delicious, nourishing, wholesome food with love and care from the purest and highest quality ingredients available to us. We search for and buy local, organic, sustainably produced, minimally manipulated food." I love that bit about minimally manipulated food. And you get all this for about $9 per sandwich or salad.
To top it all off, all the entrees they prepare are cooked on two George Forman grills. If that isn't a testament to high quality food combined thoughtfully and prepared with a minimum of gimmicks, I don't know what is.