First of all, there's a misconception that the Capitol Grille is always a super-fancy spot. True, at lunch you may be sitting next to folks in dark suits enjoying a power lunch, but there are also hotel patrons dressed for a day of sight seeing after a quick bite. At breakfast, the vibe is even more casual, and that particular meal is usually filled by hotel guests. At dinner, the vibe is certainly more upscale, but don't feel like you can't get in without a reservation during the week or that you'll be turned away if you left your sport coat at home. On weekends, reservations are suggested, but you can always check on Open Table to see if tables are available.
In addition to the heirloom vegetables that Farmer Brown raises at Glen Leven Farms, the Hermitage has been raising a herd of cattle under the Double H brand, and both beef and veggies are featured prominently on the new spring menus. For breakfast, a 7-ounce strip of Double H beef is served with two eggs under a bearnaise for heartiest start to the day that you can imagine. At lunch, new starters include a pickled cauliflower soup and a farm salad made with fava beans, English peas, radish, lemon and absolutely delightful Danver carrots, shaved paper-thin on a mandoline. Dependent on the latest harvest, you can expect the ingredients in this salad to be tweaked periodically. Another wonderful new salad is the Layered Pea Salad, which features butter lettuce, ramp mayo (the first ramps of the season!), local cheddar cheese, onions and ham from the Hamery in Murfreesboro. The salad comes to the table layered in a little mason jar and is then spooned onto your plate like Grandma pulling some preserves out of the root cellar.
Those ramps also show up on the open-faced meatloaf sandwich, so get them while they're around. For something really special, try the Double H beef pastrami salad on marble rye. The kitchen at the Capitol Grille makes their pastrami in-house for a Southern take on a Yankee classic.
They have also added two new daily Blue Plate specials with fried chicken under sawmill gravy served with braised greens and creamed corn on Mondays, and a creamed chicken over cornbread on Fridays. For just $14, that Blue Plate deal is one of the best business lunches in town. Or you can make your own power lunch deals with a sandwich and soup or salad for $18 or a main dish plus soup or salad for $23. Brown-bag it a couple tims next week and treat yourself to something special with the money you save.
The dinner menu has been almost completely revamped for spring. The farm salad is joined by a beet salad, which should make Carrington very happy. If any of you stood in the long lines in front of the Capitol Grille table at the recent Thomas Keller event, you've already experienced the marvelous Crispy Fried Quail with heirloom pumpkin, creamed greens and sorghum, which has been added to the first courses list on the menu. It was outrageous!
All the main courses at dinner are new, with highlights including a delicate trout from Sunburst Farms, breaded with hominy and then served with a nostalgic Green Goddess sauce. The Double H Steak Frites are unique in that the fries are actually garden vegetable fries served with an 8-ounc hanger steak and a green chimichurri. The ranchers at Double H Farms grade each one of their heads of cattle before they come into the kitchen, and they have had an impressive percentage of their livestock grading out at USDA Prime, the highest designation of beef quality. Their grass-fed and grain-finished beef really is beautifully marbled and has a taste that is well, much beefier, than store-bought. For big spenders, there are several high-dollar dry-aged cuts available that will rival any steak in town.
One final note about the dining at the Hermitage. Don't forget about the Oak Bar, which has its own novel bar food menu, including a list of happy hour dishes that are half off from 4:30-6:30 p.m. That makes the the smoked bologna sandwich with mayo and green tomato chow-chow only four bucks, which is one of the best high-tone lowbrow treats in town. You can also order the entire Capitol Grille menu in the Oak Bar if you don't feel like leaving your bar table after a couple sammiches and some of the bar's Tennessee Champagne, a powerful concoction of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel, blackstrap bitters and Dr. Enuf.
With all these different dining options, consider putting the Hermitage on your dining list sometime other than the most special of occasions. It's worth a visit just about anytime.