Fish Out of Water – our experience at the Edley’s East Meet, Greet, and EatEdley’s Bar-B-Que 908 Main St. East Nashville Edleysbbq.com Words and images by Josh & Ben Dined 10/18/13
(Josh) When I got word about all you can eat catfish at Edley’s, needless to say I was skeptical. What would a BBQ place – albeit one of the good ones – know about catfish? On the lure of free beer, I went.
Fellow EIT challenger Ben and I strolled into Edley’s East. I’d never been. The atmosphere was welcoming and friendly. A musician was setting up, of course – it is East Nashville.
We were greeted by social media expert Mary Elizabeth, an Atlantan. We sat at a high table and were immediately welcomed by a veggie pizza. Again, interesting for a BBQ joint. We had an opportunity to meet Chef Tuck, who brought out a fried green tomato topped with pimento cheese. The Chef was engaging and attentive. He exuded the down home atmosphere, yet refined sophistication and attention to detail that Edley’s is going for. Hesitant of the FGT, we dug in. The cheese was spicy and warming, and had a fantastic level of heat – coming from the idiot who got the hottest level spice during the hot chicken challenge, this is a true compliment. The tomato was excellent, the breading did not fall off, and paired perfectly with the cheese. Chef Tuck shared his secret to the spicy dollop – no mayo and all cream cheese. No wonder. But this makes it even more impressive that the heat was able to shine through. We had to go back for seconds. And Thirds. Next came a basket of perfectly fried okra with a jalapeno ranch dipping sauce. This might as well have been green popcorn. I could have eaten it all day – definitely one of the best. One fellow diner compared it to home cooking – a true compliment.
So we’re at a BBQ place and have had three vegetarian dishes. What was going on? It was definitely impressive. As a recovering vegetarian myself I’m sensitive to this stuff. It’s harder to make good vegetarian food. Carnivores just slap a piece of bacon on something. A great steak needs few enhancements. With veggies, you need to do something to make the dish interesting. Frying definitely helps, but not all things fried are created equal. The experience so far was definitely like seeing a fish out of water – exciting, unexpected, different, but a really cool and special experience.
We also got a chance to meet the owners – Will and Catherine. They thought up Edley’s while Will was in law school at The University of Alabama (obligatory Roll Tide for Clay’s wife, Britney) and Catherine was working in corporate America for a pharmaceutical company. With no experience as restaurateurs, they opened the 12 South Edley’s, and their brand of BBQ and southern cooking has been a hit. They were welcoming, down to earth, and exuded a southern charm that matches their restaurant perfectly. They have a real passion for the business, the BBQ, and for serving interesting and quality food.
(Ben) After talking with Will and Catherine, it was time for the main event. As we were immersed in appetizers and interesting conversation, the dining room had slowly started to fill. I got in line to try the catfish and filled a plate full of hot catfish, grilled cornbread, grits, greens, and banana pudding. Simply put – the catfish was excellent. I’ll admit I was reluctant to try the hot catfish. I don’t love fish and despite the Hot Chicken Challenge, I still get nervous when I’m confronted with something spicy. There was no reason to be nervous as this had a sweet heat that took time to build. I easily finished off all but the last bite before I needed a drink to wash away the heat, but by the time I felt the heat it was the numbing burn that hot chicken heads crave. The grilled cornbread was a perfect side. It was sweet, crumbly, crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. I could have eaten several more pieces. And to top it all off was the creamy banana pudding. I’d have been happy with an entire plate-full of the banana pudding (and some of those FGT – and the cornbread – I like food, ok).
(Josh)This event really brought out the local community. Early on, it wasn’t the typical east Nashville crowd. There were many families and a welcome (to me) lack of hipsters. After the event wound down, I got to be a regular diner. I ordered one of my favorites – the wings platter. They are sweet, spicy, smokey, and well cooked. The wings are a great portion size and they are big. These aren’t your wing-restaurant tiny wings. They might even come from small turkeys (just saying). But the flavor is what really does it. They are slightly grilled and smoked. They are crispy on the outside and not at all over cooked. I’m a huge brisket fan, and Edley’s brisket is some of the best I’ve had in the state – outside of anyone’s mom’s – but the wings are a must get.
Dining with me was my brother-in-law from out of town. He ordered the Tuck Sandwich – a Chef Tuck creation. After meeting him, this sandwich mirrored his profile. Brisket, sauce, pimento cheese, pickles and an egg over easy. The runny yolk left a pile on the plate in which to dip the ends of the sandwich. Truly delicious and truly unique. We sat outside on a great night. The East Nashville BBQ joint’s patio is a great place to relax, sip a beer, eat, enjoy the night, or listen to music (or all of the above). Speaking of music, as you recall, there was a musician setting up. A young-ish white guy with thin blonde hair warmed up the keyboard and you guessed it – sang the blues. His voice was deep and raspy. He could have come from another place and time. This put the experience over the top, and he really summed up the night – unexpected greatness and a unique find that was akin to finding a fish out of water.