by Jim Ridley
Was it just me, or did The Tennessean's ballyhooed "Toast of Music City" land with all the splash of poop in a punchbowl? Foodies have had their issues with the Scene's "Best of Nashville" reader votes over the years, and as you'd expect, the consensus will almost never represent the highest bough of achievement or the farthest limb of adventure. But at least those folks were reaching for low-hanging fruit, not the stuff already on the ground.
"The most competitive category with nearly 44,000 individual votes, we are a city of food and drink connoisseurs," read the opening of the Food & Drink section's two-sentence intro. Wow. After that modifier-dangling display of rhetorical fireworks, the lists themselves could only be a letdown. To be fair, there were several respectable choices among the winners—Lime for best new restaurant, Yazoo for beer, I Dream of Weenie for hot dogs—alongside deserving usual suspects such as Pancake Pantry for breakfast and Arnold's for meat-and-three.
But come on—in the cradle of hot chicken, the best Tennessean readers can come up with is freakin' Bojangles? Starbucks for coffee? Here's the score by my tally: three for Chicken Nick's in Williamson County, two for NYPD Pizza in Mt. Juliet (and Shoney's—don't forget Shoney's!), one for server Topher James at some unspecified Ruby Tuesday—and zero for Baja Burrito, Basil, Cafe Nonna, Cuppycakes, Dee's Q, Flyte, Jimmy Kelly's, Joey's, Manny's House of Pizza, Mambu, Marche, Martin's, Mitchell Deli, Muddea's, Ombi, Pizza Perfect, PM Cafe, Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, Rumba, Samurai Sushi, Sweet 16th or Tayst, to name but a few.
The contest saved its biggest WTF for the very top. And now, drum roll please, the best restaurant in Nashville. At No. 1, representing the very best dining experience the city of Nashville has to offer, it's...Bar-B-Cutie. Any Bar-B-Cutie in particular? (The paper's website lists eight, as well as a franchising office.) Nope. Guess any one Bar-B-Cutie beats a trip to Capitol Grille any day of the week.
Which brings up my whole problem with the format. The section offered little actual copy or even photos to break up the monotony of the cookie-cutter ads, just lists without a word of explanation or identification. (The "Best of Nashville" lists aren't annotated either, but there are thousands of words of accompanying writers' choices to compensate.) Maybe somebody could make an interesting case for Bar-B-Cutie. (It wouldn't be me.) But taken strictly at face value, this toast looks a lot like stale bread.