Friday, August 14, 2009

The Best Fried Chicken - The Loveless Cafe, Nashville, TN

For my last full day in Nashville, after my meeting was over, I went down to the legendary Loveless Cafe. Now, one of the standard meals in these parts is Meat and Three, one meat, three vegetables. It seems that I've been more like Three Meats and Three. At Jack's, I had ribs, pulled pork, and brisket plus Beans, Mac and Cheese, and cornbread.

At Loveless, I had another three meats: fried chicken, fried catfish, and country ham plus fried okra, grits, and turnip greens. I also had some of Loveless's famous biscuits.

Often, when a restaurant has a great recommendation and reviews, I find it somewhat disappointing. Not in this case. So far, this is the best fried chicken I have ever had. Yes, Hawaii people, Zippy's fried chicken is very good, but the chicken at Loveless is ethereal: a thin, light but crispy crust, perfectly seasoned; underneath is plump, tender, juicy meat that is simply amazing.

The country ham was good, especially when I cut a piece and put it between one of the fabulous biscuits. The fried catfish was excellent.

As for the sides: the grits made me realize why Pastor Mike and his wife Cris didn't say much when I said I liked the grits at Denny's in Kaneohe. The grits at Loveless were so much better: stone ground and impeccably cooked. Fried okra is something that many people outside of the South haven't eaten. It is a wonderful vegetable when cooked properly, as these were: batter fried, crispy on the outside and tender and flavorful on the inside. The turnip greens were good, although they are my least favorite type of greens: I would rate collard greens and kale above them, and mustard greens are my favorite of all. Somehow, mustard greens remind me of Korean kim chee jigae, which is cabbage kim chee that is long simmered with "side meat," just like greens.

A bit of amusement and proof that there is a connection between the South and Hawaii (the most southen state in the Union): I looked at the middle of my plate and thought I was back home. There was something that looked just like andagi, the Okinawan deep fried doughnut (more like a doughnut hole). After a few seconds, I realized that this was a hush puppy, which are morsels of cornmeal that are deep friend. Hush puppies are savory (andagi are sweet), with a bit of onion inside - deee-licious! The name supposedly comes from the aroma of hush puppies frying, which drove pet dogs crazy. The cook would toss one to a dog, and say, "Hush, puppy!"

The other connection was when I thought the turnip greens were a little bland. I poured on them a condiment called Bruce's Tabasco Peppers in Vinegar, which was a bottle jammed with peppers and vinegar. It reminded me very much of Hawaiian chili pepper water.

I was too full to order dessert, but I did go to the Loveless Country Store, and sampled something called Piggy Popcorn: popcorn glazed with maple syrup and tossed with - yes, indeed - bacon! Extraordinary!

An incredible meal that ended a great week in Nashville.

Grace and aloha,


P. S. My reason for being in Nashville was for the Study on Ministry for the United Methodist Church. One of the highlights was a meditation given by one of our study members, Holger Eschmann. He shared from Isaiah 49:16 - "See, I [God] have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me." Inscribed is a word that is not used so much anymore. Holger explained that in studying the word, an alternate meaning is "tattooed." This means that God has tattooed us on the palms of His hands. There is a sense of permanence to a tattoo - it's always there. That speaks volumes about the love God has for us. We may forget, but God never forgets.

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