If a place has some character, serves good food (read: GOOD food…not necessarily complicated food, but GOOD), and the prices are reasonable…it gets my attention. Sure I love to sample what chefs create, but if I’m not in a sampling mood and just want something comfy and consistent and in an atmosphere where I relax easily…then I go to the ole reliables.
I lived in NYC for many years and one of my all-time favorite reliables was the local diner. Any one of them!
NY diners are usually run by Greeks with a menu that includes some Greek specialties, but the big draw for me was the all-day/all-night breakfast. Sure they had classic sandwiches, big burgers, a zillion salads, sometimes even lobster tails, steak, plus a lit-up carousel filled with mile-high cakes and pies (these I never ordered) (too much sweet for my timid sweet tooth). Gimme the eggs; I want the home fries.
Here in Nashville, diners aren’t on every other corner like they (used to be) in NYC (even there, they’re disappearing). But I’ve happily connected to 3 restaurants that do the diner thing and THEN SOME.
Today I’ll just start with one. Wendell Smith’s. To say I’ve discovered Wendell Smith’s just goes to show you what a Nashville greenhorn I am. When you walk into Wendell Smith’s for the first time you realize everyone in there has been going for YEARS. That maiden visit I almost felt like an intruder. But they greet you friendly enough. And now Wendell’s tickles me every time I walk in their door.
From what I understand the restaurant started in the 1950’s. The place still looks like the 1950’s including some wear and tear from the passage of decades. But that’s all added charm.
It used to have a drive-up window that they closed in to add more tables. A friend’s mom and dad met at that drive-up window years ago!
Wendell’s is not necessarily known for its breakfast food. It’s a meat and 3 with a changing daily menu. Their permanent menu has the eggs and omelets, burgers, and sandwiches, and things like tuna-stuffed tomato.
But I’ve got my favorite breakfast dish and order it almost every time: 2 eggs, scrambled soft, home fries, and sliced tomatoes. (Okay, occasionally I get the cheese omelet.)
Wendell’s is big on tomatoes. They ALWAYS have big, ripe fresh tomatoes on hand. And they sell them by the pound, too.
On some days they have Polish Sausage on the meat and 3 menu. Duane will always order that. And if their yumfest fried chicken is on the menu I’ll skip my breakfast for that. I also LOVE their turnip greens.
The place gets packed at lunch (when I seem to usually have breakfast) but each time we go there’s a booth available.
ADDED BONUS: Wendell’s waitresses are the best in town. Serious career waitresses. They already know what we’re gonna order. And we love that feeling of being regulars.
Wendell Smith’s is true Nashville.