by Sean Maloney
Episode 12: Norman Couser's Country Cooking
Address: 3754 Nolensville Pike
Remember, way back when this column started, when some random, anonymous commentor was like, "Dude, are you ever going to visit a restaurant you don't like?" This entry is dedicated to that random dude/dudette, whoever/wherever they might be. Norman Couser's Country Cooking was possibly the most bland meal I've had in ages. It's not a meat-and-three: it's a meh-and-three. In a city with so much good, flavorful Southern food, it's tough to imagine why anybody would go here. Oh wait, I know — it's probably the only spot you can get bland, uninteresting food on Nolensville Pike. (If there's another, don't tell me. I'll find it.)
Not that Couser's is bad, per se — it's just not good. I took maybe three bites before I realized why I've been driving clear across town to get my meat-and-three fix. I love Southern food — I would drop everything and make the hour drive out to Miller's Grocery in Christiana right now if anyone else was down for it — and I think it can be one of the most flavorful, vibrant culinary forms. But it certainly needs more care and better ingredients than what they're using at Couser's. All the food tasted surprisingly similar to my high school cafeteria's version of lunch — which is kind of a bad sign, considering it's Southern food and I grew up in Massachusetts.
The special was meatloaf — you can't go wrong with meatloaf! — but it was topped with a celery/tomato sauce that overpowered/covered up the flavor of the meat. It was more like celery loaf, which ... eh. I like celery, I like loaves, but the combination of the two was really underwhelming. The mac-and-cheese was OK-ish, but I had to add salt to make it taste like something, and I never, ever add salt in restaurants — it's essentially an insult to the cook, stating that I don't think they did their job very well. These folks didn't do their job very well. The cole slaw was straight out of a box from Sysco, the creamed corn was lukewarm, and the corn cakes were slightly overcooked. Considering how much handmade home-cooked is available on The Road at similar if not lower prices, Couser's is basically your worst bet.
And the atmosphere! I was definitely the youngest person in there by a good 10, 15 years — and I'm in my mid-30s. Think about that for a second. There's this creepy cow painting and stuffed animals sprinkled around a dining room that reminds of the hospice care facility where my grandfather died. It's "nice," but wholly devoid of character.
I can imagine that once upon a time Couser's was worth its, um, salt — they have been in business forever. These days, I wouldn't say it's worth the trip. And the trip for me is all of two minutes down the road.