Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wendell Smith's

Monday September 13th 2010
Wendell Smith’s, 53rd and Charlotte, Nashville, TN

Meat and Three is another one of those things that never made it up to the north. Well, I suppose the concept arrived there quite naturally, but the coined phrase definitely has not.
“You know, it’s like a Meat and Three place.”, someone told me once, describing a restaurant. Except I didn’t know.
“What the hell is that?” I responded. But if you ponder it for a moment or two, the answer clearly comes; a meat with three sides, it’s simple enough.
Scott Otis, now accustomed to hopping around erratically on his one decent leg, caught wind of the Meat and Three and insisted upon dining at one, eager to partake in any activity outside of the living room. We opted for Wendell Smith’s, a split liquor store and meat and three diner on the corner of 53rd and Charlotte, proudly displaying the neon ‘whiskey’ sign for all of West Nashville to see. The meat and three section of their menu changes daily and is therefore hand written, photocopied, and paper clipped to their actual permanent laminated diner fare menu. After brief debate between the pit-roast barbecue or the Polish sausage with kraut meat options, I sided with the sausage, learning that the pork was ‘pit-roasted’ at Whitt’s across the street. For my sides I played it pretty safe going with mac n cheese, green beans, and creamed potatoes with a side of corn bread. Going into this situation I had one grave misconception about the meal, I thought it would be good, of a decent quality. When they said “home style cooking”, I hadn’t expected the home to be that of a toothless tube feeder who’s kitchen consists solely of a microwave and can only do their shopping at Save-A-Lot.

My sub par (even for hospital quality) green beans sat slovenly in a pool of their own excreted juices, where any trace of nutrients that hadn’t already been sucked from them at the canning factory likely escaped to. Creamed potatoes, in my foolish mind, conjured up an image of thinly sliced potatoes smothered in a rich cheese sauce, glistening by candlelight in an elegant bowl on the table. What I received was actually far more accurate to the name, a powdery box mix of additional starch and additive infused potato related molecules, brought to the thin line between liquid and slop with the aid of warm water. Creamed? Someone annihilated those potatoes, maybe years in the past, and humiliated them presently by drizzling a sweet brown gravy into an indented tide pool atop the mound. What made the dauntingly sized sausage on my plate more Polish than your average ball game jumbo, I will never know. It was clearly of the store bought and pre-cooked variety, remaining chilled in the center, a good 30 seconds under microwaved, topped with a lewd amount of sauerkraut that was now wilted, browned, and steaming hot, having accompanied my sausage into the rotating radiation machine. Now the mac n cheese I had no problem with, it was good. Did someone toil over it for hours? Was it a Smith family recipe, perfected by generations of culinary attention? I suspect it to be a random boxed brand from the store, or maybe just elbow macaroni covered in Velveeta, and yes, that was the best part of the meal. The corn bread, simple in theory, yet deceptively easy to mess up, was obviously bad. Brittle and grainy it stubbornly descended the esophagus, taking various internal tissue samples on its way.
Unamused, I stacked the bowls of sides, silverware, and napkins on my plate and leaned back in the booth sipping my iced tap water. The only time I could ever see myself coming back here, I thought to myself, would be for a 2 AM breakfast, late night “what else can I do?” style. Searching the glass door for an hours of operation decal I discovered that although they do open at 6 AM they are closed by 7 PM. So it doesn’t look like I’ll be making it back to Wendell Smith’s anytime soon. Not to speak ill of the meat and three, how can you? It’s pretty much the blueprint of any classic wholesome American dinner. It’s just that next time I’d rather pay a couple more bucks and wait longer than 2 minutes, in exchange for something involving care and quality.