Your Guide to Great Outdoor Eats and Drinks
It's that time of year folks! During these warmer months, there's nothing I enjoy more than outdoor dining, hence the name of my cookbook, "The Outdoor Table." I simply adore the inviting, laid back ambiance of eating out on a patio table or picnic blanket, with a beautiful spread of food and a chilled glass of wine or cocktail. The casual nature of dining alfresco encourages us to take a deep breath, slow down, and savor the experience, which I believe we all need a little more of right now. Here we have outlined some dishes and cocktails in our neck of the woods that are the perfect complement to outdoor dining.
One of my favorite scenic spots to picnic during the spring and summer months is the lovely Arrington Vineyards. Known as Tennessee's version of "wine country," Arrington Vineyards is situated on a breathtaking hillside in Arrington, Tennessee, just outside of Franklin. The winery includes a tasting room as well as a retail store, and the best part is picturesque views of Tennessee's rolling hills at sunset. Okay, well, maybe the "best part" is actually the fabulous wines offered at Arrington Vineyards, which is sold by the bottle or as a wine flight for tasting a variety. For the white wine drinker, the Stag's White wine is the most popular white offered at the vineyard, made from grapes grown primarily onsite. This is comparable to a Pinot Grigio with hints of pineapple, nectarine, and green apple. As for red wine, the Red Fox Red wine is a blend, similar to Chianti. Red Fox is ideal for warm days since it is a medium-bodied, very approachable, fruit-forward red wine. Lastly, Encore is a port-style wine that is made with Chambourcin grapes grown 100% onsite. The Encore is a delicious, sweet dessert wine with a higher alcohol content, meant to be savored right where it is produced. This is also a fantastic outing to bring small children along, with plenty of fresh air and room for them to play!
What's more refreshing on a hot Tennessee day than a cold beer on tap? Well, Americana Taphouse, formerly known as Puckett's Boathouse, is a beer-forward eatery with ample outdoor seating. With 24 beers on tap, there is a brew for everyone here, including some locally made ales. For the light beer drinker, try the Puckett's Brew, a light lager known as the "house beer" at the Taphouse, which is produced by Blackstone Brewery in Nashville. Another local favorite is the Chicken Scratch, an American Pilsner that's light and refreshing with a hint of sweet corn. Fun Fact: Chicken Scratch is also made locally by Little Harpeth Brewing Company, named after the Harpeth River, which runs throughout Franklin and next to Americana Taphouse. How about some Shrimp and Grits Hushpuppies with a mango pepper sauce to go with that local brew? Just be sure to order two plates of these, they will be gobbled up in no time! Another favorite here is the Hot Chicken PBLT. It is the restaurant's take on a hot chicken sandwich, with the addition of pimento cheese and bacon, served on Texas toast. Is your mouth watering yet?
Herban Market To-Go at Smith Park
Herban Market is a real treasure in our community, a local husband and wife duo took a chance and opened this "real food" market and eatery in 2015. Even if you aren't a health food nut, it's well worth a try, because the menu is full of delicious and unique offerings. Herban Market is the ideal market to grab lunch to take to beautiful Marcella Vivrette Smith Park, located only about 10 minutes away. However, this won't be your typical turkey sandwich and potato chips sack lunch. Upgrade your picnic with a Quinoa Power Bowl featuring spinach, quinoa, roasted pears and mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, sage and mushroom olive oil, and fig balsamic vinegar. Talk about a tasty power lunch! Wash it down with some Kombucha on tap, and you're ready for a gorgeous trail walk or bike ride. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Smith Park in Brentwood for the first time, and now I'm hooked on this stunning park with a pavilion, soccer fields, and more than six miles of rugged hiking trails. Not only will you see abundant wildlife on the trails, but the park is situated around the historic Ravenwood Mansion, which has been fully restored as an event space. Whether you are having a romantic day date or bringing the kids along, this gem of a local park will fit the bill.
JJ's Wine Bar
If you're a wine enthusiast meandering around downtown Franklin, JJ's Wine Bar is the place for you. Situated right in the heart of downtown, with plenty of outdoor tables, JJ's has created a fantastic atmosphere for a fine glass of wine and hors d'oeuvres. Not only can you order wines by the bottle or by the glass, but there are also wine stations at JJ's that make for a one of a kind wine tasting experience. These are basically an adult vending machine with high-quality wine, how fun does that sound? Amid the long list of incredible wines on the menu, a new addition is the Historic Franklin Wine Collection, which includes a Carnton Cabernet Sauvignon, Cotton Gin White Blend, and Eastern. Flank Pinot Noir. Pair one of these beautiful wines with Truffled Cashews and Prosciutto and Gouda Pizza for a delightful dinner on the patio.
Pork Belly Farmhouse
In the quaint town of Nolensville, there is a fantastic small town food scene, including the contemporary, southern style Pork Belly Farmhouse. With a balcony of outdoor tables and elevated southern style dishes, this is a fine dining hot spot for eating alfresco. Kick off your date night with Pineapple-Jalapeno Margarita made with tequila, pineapple/jalapeño shrubs, lime juice, and Cointreau. Another refreshing option is the White Wine Sangria, which features white wine, peach and orange shrubs, peach liqueur, orange juice, and lemon juice. In case you're wondering, a shrub is a concentrated syrup that combines fruit, sugar, and vinegar to make a robust mixer for the fresh cocktails. I love a tasty appetizer alongside a cocktail, and you can't go wrong here with the Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates, wrapped in country ham. For the main course, try the Roasted Pork Belly with a mustard glaze, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and creamy Gruyère mac and cheese. And this southern dining experience just isn't complete without an order of the fresh strawberry shortcake, sign me up!
Tito's & Whit's
Now, I ask you, what is summer without a margarita on a patio with chips and salsa? Of course, we have many fantastic options around town to satisfy this craving, but my personal go-to is Tito's in the Berry Farms Community. With a large patio and homemade, six dollar margaritas, you'll be in your happy place in no time. If you want to get a little fancy, try the Queso Fondido, a rich Chihuahua cheese dip with grilled chicken, spicy chorizo sausage, and Bacardi 151 set ablaze and served flaming! The owners of Tito's also own Pueblo Real, a local favorite a little closer to downtown Franklin with a similar menu. Top off your meal by walking down the street to Whit's Frozen Custard for a creamy, frozen treat. Now that is my kind of summer night!
There are so many outdoor dining destinations to choose from around here, whether you are ready for a romantic date night, afternoon picnic, or a family dinner out on the town. I don't know if I could choose a favorite season to visit Franklin, but it sure is hard to beat these warmer days and the ability to dine alfresco with these delightful options.