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The Best Restaurant in the World

July 29, 2009

Last week I loaded up the wife and kids in a Family Truckster™ and went full Griswold on a road trip to visit my wife’s brother and his brood in Nashville, Tennessee.  Of course, compared to my brother-in-law, I’m really more Cousin Eddie than Clark, but I digress.  We’ve been several times before, but it had been quite a few years since our last visit.  And now that our two sons and their three boys are all entering the teen and pre-teen years, we actually were able to get away for a lovely parents-only dinner without having to spring for a pricey babysitter.

Our hosts were kind enough to treat us to an absolute feast so amazing, it’s taken more than four full days for my gluttonous meal to sufficiently digest enough so I can reach the keyboard to type this blog entry.  This epic smorgasboard of which I continue to drool myself to sleep each night took place at a magnificent place called Monell’s, which I am officially naming “The Best Restaurant in the World.”

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For those of you who were raised on Southern cooking – real Paula Dean stuff – you’re already familiar with the family-style dinner, which is also attempted in a much inferior manner by Babe’s.  But if you’ve never enjoyed such a scene, allow me to describe it for you.  The entire restaurant only has like three rooms and maybe 4-5 tables, each of which seats 10-12 people.  So, no matter whether your a party of 2 or 4 or 8, you’ll end up sitting next to complete strangers passing enormous bowls of food to share amongst the table.

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I know such a scenario sends chills down your spine if you aren’t the social type, but believe me, it’s all about the food.  Everything is served in a giant black plastic bowl, no matter if it’s the salad, appetizer, main course, side dish or dessert.  There’s no menu from which items are ordered – you’ll eat what they serve AND LIKE IT.  Our meal began with three pre-meal salad/appetizer bowls: one containing steamed broccoli with pecans and raisins smothered in sweet slaw sauce, another containing the most delicious peas I’ve ever eaten (also smothered in sweet slaw sauce), and the third containing the actual cole slaw from which the aforementioned sweet sauce was likely obtained.

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Next, we were brought bowls containing home-baked biscuits and cornbread, turnip greens, mashed potatoes and green beans.  Every single item had obviously been either freshly homemade or harvested from some sort of magical garden.  And before any of us were even able to mentally process and inventory what had been placed before us, OUT CAME THE MEAT…a basket of fried chicken, a bowl filled with pulled pork so tender it melted in my mouth, a bowl of catfish and hush puppies, and incredible meat loaf.

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By the time I finally had everything crammed onto my plate, I almost had a seizure simply trying to decide what to stick my fork into first.  By the time the dust settled, all I could do was moan with the most pleasant discomfort I’ve ever felt and anticipate the tremendous regret I’d feel mere hours later at actually leaving some of this heavenly feast uneaten.  If you’re ever in/near Nashville – hell, if you even so much as cross the Tennessee state line, you owe it to your taste buds to have the meal of your life at Monell’s.  Tell ’em Bob sent ya!

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