NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nero’s Grill, located at 2122 Hillsboro Drive in Green Hills, has announced that the restaurant will close this Sunday, Jan. 5, after seven years of operation.
“Our lease has expired,” said John Griswold, who owns Nero’s Grill with his wife, Judy. “We want to thank our customers for seven great years, and we hope they will come see us before Sunday.”
Nero’s will be open through dinner on Sunday until 9 p.m.
Green Hills Grille occupied that location previously, but longtime Nashvillians will remember the spot as the home of Nero's Cactus Canyon, opened by Griswold's father, Nelson "Nero" Griswold, in 1962. When Nero's Grill opened in 2006, the younger Griswold told the Scene, “I’ve waited for this day for 30 years. I grew up in that restaurant and always thought that I would take over the business from my father.”
In the intervening years it was an Ireland's and a Tempo's before GHG took over the location in 1990.
Kay West recounted the history of the spot in the Scene:
He [John Griswold] was born the same year it opened, though his father’s restaurant experience preceded the birth of his son. Back in the early ’60s, there was an American Gas Station on the corner of Hobbs and Hillsboro. Inside the service station was a diner called the Top Hat; the tank ’n’ tummy combo serviced folks traveling what was then a major north-south corridor.
Nelson Griswold purchased the enterprise and renamed it Nero’s Top Hat, adding the nickname he earned one summer at the Willow Plunge Swim Club in Franklin. Not long afterward, American was bought out by Amoco, which wasn’t keen on operating a diner in their service station.
Reading the 10-foot-high writing on the wall, Griswold bought a stretch of land on nearby Hillsboro Drive and built Nero’s Cactus Canyon. Nashville’s liquor laws prohibited him from selling any alcohol but beer there, so in 1968 he built and opened the adjoining Silver Slipper Club, a private club where members could bring and store their own bottles. When liquor-by-the-drink was passed the following year, that practice became illegal, so he simply combined the two under the Cactus Canyon name, and referred to the former club as the Silver Slipper Room. (The atrium out front was added by Tempo’s.)
Back then, the corner where Noshville now stands was a parking lot, and John Griswold remembers it as where he first rode his bike without training wheels. He began helping out in the restaurant even before he hit his teens. But in 1976, his father — who by then had investments in nearly a dozen places around town, including one in Printers Alley — decided he had too much on his plate, and at 14 John was too young to take over the restaurant. Nelson leased the property to Henry Hillenmyer and Wayne Oldham.