Back Alley Diner: Chumminess and Burgers in the Concrete Canyon

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Chili burger from Back Alley Diner
  • Chili burger from Back Alley Diner
Tucked in among the skyscrapers, Back Alley Diner's aging wooden steps sit like a horsecart next to a jetliner. You have to look for them, because they're down the alley off of Church Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues (also called Arcade Alley). There's just one business in the alley, and it's Back Alley Diner.

Back Alley co-owner David Olin flung open the doors for business about four months ago in the space that once housed the bars Wall Street and Brandon's.

Olin spent several years cooking at PaSgetti's in Bellevue, which had gradually broadened its repertoire from Italian to catfish and barbecue. Olin and co-owner Charlie McCabe realized that in downtown Nashville, among a crowd hungry for a good burger, there just weren't many options.

Back Alley offers a strong list emphasizing burgers from straightforward numbers to blue cheesy, bacony, onion-ring-topped, pineapple-chunked extravaganzas. There's also a substantive showing of catfish, barbecue and smoked chicken.

We got the Knife and Fork Burger, dressed like a chili dog with chili and cheese. At first I thought, "They should have called it a Chili Dog Burger." But "knife and fork" lets you know not to to try picking it up to eat it — if you value your dress shirt.

BAD makes its side dishes; at a minimum, you should have the crisp homemade potato chips. Thin enough to crunch but thick enough to have some substance, these are the very ideal of chips. The kitchen surely must scramble to meet demand for them.

Happy hour, from 4-7 p.m. weekdays, draws in a crowd of suit-and-tie downtown workers (like my brother) for $5 martinis. My bro calls it a mellow stop for waiting out the traffic away from the office. For now, Back Alley Diner is open Monday through Friday only.

The downtown neighbors and residents wander in for dinner, and on Wednesday nights for trivia night. It's
funny to think of a neighborhood place downtown, but there you have it.

Back Alley Diner, 217 Arcade Alley (251-3003), backalleydiner.com or badnashville on Facebook.

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