Our first supper club of 2015 required no pre-date menu study,
no valet parking
and no reservation.
We didn’t feel obligated to have perfect table posture or pressured to choose the right fork.
The toughest decision we had to make all night was booth—or table.
At Dino’s in East Nashville, a simple menu exists, unapologetically, in one place. Two places if you count your server’s memory and the poster pictured above, its simple english informing with crystalline clarity from the stainless steel grill hood.
A beer menu is written on another stainless, makeshift-dry-erase panel, hinting that the drinkables, while few, may rotate more often than the comestibles. Dino’s is a beer-only dive boasting the oldest beer license in Nashville and a few beer-based cocktails to boot — think michelada, shandy, etc. And thanks to grandfathered laws, you can still buy a cold six-pack to go. Or so we hear.
While a roadie-sixer makes a swell meal finisher, actual dessert in the form of pie is a new must-do at Dino’s. Lisa Donovan, former City House, Margot and then Husk pastry chef is she who whips up the sweets for the gently made-over Miranda-era diner (Miranda Whitcomb Pontes of Frothy Monkey, Burger Up, Josephine, Prima recently purchased and renovated Dino’s with a partner). Speaking of which, did all who wagged a finger at Miranda’s Dino’s “takeover” read (or, know) that Rick had only owned the joint since 2007? That’s right. Dino’s has a history all its own. A history more tied to its locale than any one of the previous owners (and names) it’s had tattooed on the rafters since 1934.
So, what has changed?
We mentioned the pie.
There’s a newly-exposed ceiling.
And then that newly refreshed, no-frills menu stands posted at the ready.
Ok, and the lighting is a bit… moodier.
That’s it. That’s all.
There was no bulldozing.
There is no smoke (literally) and mirrors.
It’s the same old place with a better smell to greet you, a better menu to feed you, its stainless steel polished to a high-shine and one helluva pastry chef supplying the pie.
What’s not classic Nashville about that? And, this:
First we shared the chili pie. Chili with black-eyed peas, chunks of celery and other vegetables made this a hearty, warming start to the all-American spread. She was just cheesy and salty enough — and just enough to share. Highly recommend.
It was burgers all around until someone decided to nab a grilled cheese and tomato soup (above). The tomato soup was thick, rich — definitely homemade, full of flavor and seasoned with just the right amount of basil. The grilled cheese arrived warm and crisp, true to the quintessential creation’s inherent, always unspoken promise. The cheese could’ve been slightly more melted, but once it was dipped in the tomato soup all was forgiven.
The burgers match their price tag at $5 each. Big, juicy, satisfying and classically adorned; no aioli or coulis here. The fries are shelled in a perfectly crisp, lightly seasoned outer layer that adds just enough flavor to make you forget about ketchup. For a few minutes. But then, ketchup.
Our tabs at nearly half the cost of a typical supper club night (and our calories right on-par) we requested a slice of every pie on the menu without hesitation. When Lisa Donovan’s name is paired with dessert you order it. And you clean your plate, be it paper or porcelain.
The night’s collection included Lisa’s famed buttermilk chess, chocolate-almond coconut (yep, it resembled an almond joy), molasses pecan and an apple hand pie.
The apple hand pie, while delicious, hinted at flavors from the fryer. It was still delicious, but, we noticed. When Jeni Britton Bauer (of Jeni’s splendid ice creams) celebrated her latest cookbook at a Husk-hosted event last summer, we had the pleasure of enjoying peach hand pies by Donovan and those hand pies carried no flavors but their own: Delicious cinnamon and Peach Truck peaches, of course. Dino’s may just need to set aside a separate fryer if they’re going to carry the (fried) hand pies on a regular basis. Or, stick to the classic, triangular variety, each with its own perfectly sweet story to tell and no need to swim in a vat before telling it. Then again, fried pie is a classic, southern dessert staple and it sure is nice to see it get some attention.
Dino’s. It’s a great little place to go for burgers and some pie, chili or otherwise. Imagine that. Thrillist also recently named Dino’s one of 8 new Nashville bars and restaurants to try right now. If it’s a laid-back, fuss-free night out you’re looking for, we can’t second that recommendation enough. A few more more peeks inside:
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