605 8th Ave. South
I’ve previously written about that middle-Tennessee institution known as “the meat-and-three.”
But it was time to quit fooling around and review the pinnacle of meat-and-threes – the granddaddy of them all – Arnold’s.
What makes Arnold’s the greatest?
It’s simple – really, really good food.
Trust me, it’s not the atmosphere, service, or the location.
Literally on the wrong side of the tracks in a rundown industrial section of south Nashville, Arnold’s is mobbed for lunch 5 days a week by perfectly respectable businessmen, cops, and record company executives.
(Okay, you’re right, there’s nothing respectable about Nashville’s record company execs, but you get the idea.)
While the staff at Arnold’s is as Southern-friendly as can be, the service is pretty much cafeteria style.
First, you stand in a long line that often stretches all the way to the front door.
As you contemplate what slow-cooked Southern comforts you want to eat while you inch along in the cafeteria line, you pass by the pies—always first in a real meat-and-three.
Once you tell the man behind the counter which three vegetables and meat you want, you slide your tray to the cash register, pick out your sweet tea and pay the lady.
Then the real adventure begins—finding a table to sit and eat in the packed dining room.
If you’re solo, you may need to share a table.
But don’t worry about awkward conversation starters with total strangers.
Everybody’s too busy enjoying the hearty Southern goodness on their plates.
So why do so many Nashvillites endure this hassle? The trek to the wrong side of town, the long wait, the table sharing?
One bite of Arnold’s fried chicken and you know why.
The food here is so good, I’d travel from anywhere, even across country, just to get a whiff of the collard greens. Seriously.
Come to think of it, I DID travel across the country to get here.
And my chosen three? Green beans, turnip greens and – in a nod to the fall season – stewed apples.
The beans and greens were full of bright and juicy flavor. You know from the first bite these vegetables have never darkened the inside of an aluminum can.
The fact that they weren’t loaded with spices or bacon made them even more impressive. These vegetables were so good, they stood on their own.
And the stewed apples were excellent. Unlike the syrupy mush you get at some Southern restaurants, these apples were still tart and tender.
I also enjoyed the variety of cornbread served at Arnold’s. As something of a cornbread connoisseur, I consider Arnold’s to be among the best.
On a small side dish, you get one traditional corn muffin and a small pancake of cornbread known around these parts as a “flap jack.”
If you’re lucky enough to grab them fresh out of the kitchen, they might still be warm enough to melt your pat of butter.
But what about the meat?
Okay, okay, I’m getting to that.
This is the BEST fried chicken I have ever had in my life!
There. I said it.
My words may cause some issues at home, but it just can’t be denied.
My fried chicken was the moistest, most tender, juicy, and flavorful piece of bird I’ve ever bitten into to.
But best of all was the fried chicken skin. Crispy and packed with powerful seasonings in every nook and cranny, it was a party in every bite. I couldn’t stop eating it – I even ate the crumbs.
The batter was fried perfectly – not dry, not greasy.
This was fried chicken nirvana.
After such a meal, you’d be okay if the pie was a bit anti-climactic.
But not at Arnold’s.
My chocolate meringue certainly didn’t look like much. The meringue was limp and leaning to one side like it may slide off at any moment.
But looks can be deceiving.
The chocolate was light, but packed an explosion of sweetness. And you don’t just taste the sugar. You can feel it on your tongue.
And a great way to end one of the best lunches to be had in all of America.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!