by Jim Ridley
While going through several quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore--i.e., bound books of Scene back issues--a familiar byline caught our eyes. There, among early Scene restaurant critics such as Bill Hobbs (now a GOP firebrand) and Mike Pigott (now at McNeely, Pigott & Fox), we found the name Nicki Pendleton...known to readers of Bites and her blog Tupperware Avalanche as Nicki P. Wood.
In the late '80s, Nicki was one of the founders of the Kinko's-published zine The Fireplace Whiskey Journal, many of whose contributors (including E. Thomas Wood, Clark Parsons and Collin Wade Monk) went on to write for the reinvented Scene. Before she went on to a distinguished career as food critic for the late, lamented Nashville Banner--at one point she was the subject of a front-page Wall Street Journal feature--Nicki too served time in the Scene's salt mines.
At the time, her skewerings of subpar food drew howls of outrage--and laughter. Here's a deftly wielded dagger from her 1992 review of the bygone restaurant Brother's, on the topic of smoking in the restaurant:
Smoking at Brother's is allowed, with discretion. When it comes to smoking in restaurants, only the middle class is interested in institutionalizing morality. The poor have nothing to lose, and the rich feel above the law. Therefore, you can smoke in pool halls and you can smoke in expensive restaurants. The latter with discretion, as with the many other vices of the rich.
That is why the best restaurants have low lighting. About Brother's, though, one friend said, "It wasn't dark enough."
It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance all over again, Mrs. Wood.