Two days before Christmas, Haley and I found ourselves in downtown Nashville to attend my first NHL hockey game. Not really sure what to expect in terms of traffic; I went ahead and made a reservation to Midtown Cafe just in case. Our reservations were made quite early to give us ample time to eat and then get to Bridgestone Arena. It was so early (5 PM) that we ended up being the only patrons there until the end of our dinner. This made it seem extra special, as if I rented out the entire restaurant just for us.
The primary reason I chose Midtown Cafe simply because I had purchased a discounted coupon online to their restaurant a couple days earlier. I purchased the coupon because their menu was modest and had a variety of food that Haley and I would enjoy. In addition, most reviews of Midtown Cafe were positive so I was eager to try it out.
Locally-owned and operated, Midtown Cafe is small boutique restaurant located in the Belmont/Vanderbilt area. Words to describe it would definitely be cozy and romantic. The dimly lit environment is decorated in darker monochromatic colors, ranging from the black linens to two-tone splashes of gray paint on the walls. Each table is home to several dark wood chairs and the white dinnerware adds a bit of contrast to the table.
The service here during our visit was notably great. Our waitress was friendly and conversational without a hint of being an overburden. Despite the fact that we were the only ones there at the time (hence an easy job), she did a fantastic job at making us feel welcome.
Most boutique restaurants I’ve come across feature a specialized and sophisticated menu with only a handful of menu selections. At Midtown Cafe, they go the extra step to tame their offerings and offer a wider selection. Don’t assume that their menu is “watered down”, because it isn’t. I see their menu as an attempt to offer customers a taste of casual fine dining without all the flair. Even with the availability of several entree choices, Haley and I settled for a steak and a selection of sides. Of course with my appetite, I opted for something extra… a bowl of Lemon Artichoke Soup ($5.99).
After ordering, we were presented with a basket of tiny biscuits and a ramekin of butter. The biscuits were average with a strange consistency of chewiness. Very similar to microwaved leftover biscuits from the day before.
The Lemon Artichoke Soup consisted of chunks of chopped artichokes and diced onions in a creamy lemon-infused chicken broth. I especially like that they didn’t skimp on the artichokes. Evident in the photo, there were plenty of meaty artichokes with every spoonful. The concept of a sour lemon soup may seem strange to some people, but if you’re a fan of lemon-based foods and artichokes, you’ll definitely like this soup.
As for our main course, Haley and I both specifically ordered the 12 oz New York Strip steak ($29.99 each). I was surprised to learn that they were in fact USDA Prime graded steaks. For sides, Haley chose Angel Hair with Herb Butter and Steamed Broccoli. I wanted to be adventurous and chose the Truffled Potato Hash and Sautéed Swiss Chard.
Like the soup I had earlier, our sides also carried a complex series of unique flavors. Haley’s pasta was the tamest. The angel hair was covered in a strong garlic butter sauce and the generous sprinkling of savory, nutty Parmesan cheese added an additional depth of flavor.
The Truffled Potato Hash had a strange flavor I’ve never encountered before. The potatoes were hand mashed with what I assume is truffle oil; hence the name. I’ve never had a real truffle but I know for a fact that truffle oil is not made with truffles, but is olive oil flavored with a synthetic compound to make it taste similar to truffles. After taking a couple bites, I tasted a slight flavor of onions with the combination of a stronger fishy flavor (similar to fish sauce). I’ve never had real truffles, so I can’t confirm that its flavor is similar to what I experienced.
As for the Sautéed Swiss Chard, I chose this side because I wanted to try something different. The lightly sautéed chard had a slight balsamic vinegary flavoring to it but was then overpowered by the natural bitterness of chard. While edible, I’m not a fan of bitter foods. The bitterness was slight, but apparent… reminiscent of crushed Tylenol.
The steaks were cooked to specification without any problems. They were presented on our plate with garnish and still hot. My first bite exhibited a full-flavored piece of beef but with little to no seasoning. Although I enjoyed the savory flavors of the beef, I found myself having to add salt and pepper to add some dynamics to the steak. After a quick couple dashes of the table’s most common condiments, I was back on my way to enjoying the juicy cut of steak.
Overall I enjoyed my experience at Midtown Cafe. The service and atmosphere receive high marks but the food is a different story. I know Nashville is home to dozens of boutique restaurants, but Midtown Cafe’s prices are priced a bit high in comparison. Depending on what you order, the food here can range from OK to great. I really loved my soup with a close following in rating by the steak. The selected sides were decent, but just not my cup of tea. It’s been a long time since I’ve been indifferent about food in general and next time I’ll try something else. With all those points mentioned, Midtown Cafe still deserves a 4-star rating and I’ll definitely give it another shot in the future.
102 19th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
Bill Total:$76.47 For Two