by Sean Maloney
Episode 29: Guantanamera Resturant
Address: 3744 Nolensville Pike
Cuban brunch. Think about that for a second. Let it sink in: Cuban brunch. Imagine all the amazing possibilities and then clear your Sunday schedule to indulge in what might be the best development this city's breakfast scene has witnessed in years. Yes folks, Cuban brunch. It's as awesome as it sounds and it is now a very real option — a very delicious, very real option. It's (and I hate this phrase but it's totally appropriate in this instance) a damn game-changer, a radical new direction for our lazy Sundays. Ladies and gentlemen, let's all give a warm Music City welcome to the wonderful folks over at Guantanamera Restaurant.
I've been watching the refurb of the old La Hacienda building for a minute now excited simply that something, anything was moving into that space and not-so-secretly hoping that it would be better than the restaurant that briefly occupied the space previously. They've cleaned up the exterior (with a new mint and brown color scheme that looks great), remodeled the dining room (bringing back the bar that had been ripped out in favor of a buffet table) and set up the porch in a manner that screams, "Hey, we know what we're doing here!" And to be quite honest, I had barely made it through the door before deciding I was going to be coming back here on the regular — it's clean, classy, relaxed and low key.
I can't remember the name of the previous tenant, but the one time I ate there it was one of the worst meals I've ever had on The Road — the food was gross, the vibe creepy, just a terrible spot to eat. Guantanamera, on the other hand, is one of the best meals I've had on The Road — fresh, vibrant, flavorful. The chef is Venezuelan (if I remember correctly), and his wife is Cuban, so the menu is actually a mix of Cuban AND South American dishes, which fills a pretty significant whole in The Road's cuisine options. They've got arepas, for crying out loud! It's fucking awesome.
We went all out on our order — my mom was in town for the weekend, so we got a little wilder than we usually would — and were rewarded with three courses of utter bliss. The mussels with ceviche that we got for an appetizer were hands down the tastiest mussels I've ever had at a restaurant, firm and meaty with a wonderful citrus zing. My wife ordered the tilapia and loved it, especially because it came with a side of tostones, a wonderful fried plantain dish. I ordered arepas — done in a traditional white mais style that's less savory than the arepas typically available at Bonnaroo — with scrambled eggs and queso fresco. My mom ordered the roast pork arepas, both of which were pretty wonderful. Guantanamera can roast a pig with the best of them.
Oh, and their cafe cubano is some of the smoothest, most delicious I have ever had — and I've had a lot of Cuban coffee. To cap it all off we had an amazing dessert of fried plantain stuffed with cheese and covered with guava marmalade. Ay, caramba! And the bill only came to 50 bucks for the three of us. And they serve brunch until 5 p.m.! These folks know their market. The one drawback to the meal was that it did take a while to get our food. That said, they are also still in the “soft opening” phase and are trying to work the kinks out. I have the feeling that ticket times will get shorter as they get in the groove, but I appreciate the fact that everything was cooked to order. Plus, it's brunch; you shouldn't be in a hurry.
And now I just have to show up during the week to try their “Cuban Meat and Three.” Think about that for a second: “Cuban Meat and Three." It's a beautiful thought, isn't it?
Guantanmera is currently open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. And 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.