Local Dish: Nashville Omni Hotel and the Food Bloggers Event

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I’ve never really wanted to be famous.  I like being able to do normal things, like go to the grocery store without having my picture taken, and I am very aware that my wardrobe is not photo ready at all times.  That said, there is something to being treated like you’re famous!

I recently got a taste of being a celebrity at a complimentary Food Blogger’s Dinner hosted by the new Omni Hotel in Nashville.  The staff definitely pulled out all the stops for this gathering, providing a multi-course dinner and goodie bags, followed by drinks at the bar.  Now I am not going to pretend that the 5-star treatment didn’t impress me, but I would like to think that I can still give a fairly balanced review and opinion.  In fact, Amy and I agreed early on to be as unbiased on the blog as possible, and we decided to only feature products/places that we truly like and want to promote.

There was a lot to like about the Omni.

For example, their emphasis on local products.  I love to shop local.  I just feel like it’s become so trendy that some businesses use the idea as a marketing ploy.  The Omni doesn’t come off this way.  They seem to be aiming for a real Nashville feel, not a manufactured one, and they wisely realized that this means hiring local staff and using local products.  For example, the majority of the art in the hotel is made by Tennessee artists, but there is not a huge sign proclaiming it.  This theme is carried over into other decor elements (the candleholders on the tables are Tennessee sipping cream bottles) and use of local ingredients in the kitchen (Nashville Jam Company’s jams), coffee bar (Bongo Java products), and bar (Cosairs spirits).  The move of the historic Hatch Show Print from it’s previous location on Broadway to a corner of the property also connects the hotel to Nashville’s history, which is nice.

So how about the food?  Well, we started the evening at Kitchen Notes, the hotel’s main restaurant, and the appetizers started rolling in.  There was a lot of food, including

  • Fried green tomatoes
  • Pate and homemade pickles.
  • Salad with cornbread, fresh fennel, and house-made green goddess
  • Deviled eggs with bandied bacon and pickled okra
  • Grits cake with homemade pimento cheese
Grit cake

Everything was good, but the one item I’d order again was the grit cake.  In fact, I’d even skip the cake and just get something with their pimiento cheese.  It was quite tasty.  The biggest disappointment was the salad.  It looked so fresh and tasty, but there was too much fennel for my taste. 

Then we moved on to entrees.  I was already starting to get full, but had to try everything including

  • Shrimp and grits
  • A lovely fish entree with fingerling potatoes and roasted tomatoes
  • A huge platter of tritip steak
  • Sides of whole fried okra and assorted biscuits

The shrimp and grits had a super cute presentation, and the shrimp itself was awesome.  It was grilled to perfection.  The grits were less successful – too soupy with large chunks of greens, maybe spinach?

Okra

The whole fried okra was my favorite dish of the entire night.  This was awesome! I want all of my okra to be fried whole from now on.  The chef also gave me some other great ideas for ways to prepare okra at home.  I always get a lot in my CSA box, so I am eager to try them out!

Biscuit bar

And then there were the biscuits.  The Omni cooks pride themselves on their biscuits – made with butter, not lard.  They even have a biscuit bar featuring several Nashville Jam Company jams and a variety of biscuit flavors that change daily.  The daily selections were feta, sun-dried tomato, basil and pine nut, and the traditional buttermilk – and they mentioned that they had recently made a blue cheese and bacon version.  The biscuits were a bit on the salty side, but still oh so tasty.

We were stuffed, but they served dessert.  And the mini desserts were just so adorable served on a cute wooden tray, that I had to try them all:

  • Banana pudding
  • Pecan pie
  • A cupcake filled with salted caramel
Pie

I was most excited about the cupcake, but it was unfortunately too dry.  I was least excited about the pie, as I typically do not care for pecan pie.  This one may have changed my mind.  It wasn’t overly sweet, so you could actually taste the pecans, and it may have had the tiniest hint of salt.  There was a blogger at my table who had previously won a pecan pie baking contest, and he agreed that it was excellent.

To end the evening, we all moved to Barlines, were they made everyone one of their signature cocktails, the Maple Smash.

Omni Drink

Also tasty.  Kind of mojito-like, but with maple syrup for a different flavor profile.  The bar has lots of TVs, live music, and large garage doors that open up in better weather.  A great stop to get a drink downtown with lots of nice custom cocktails and a good selection of local/regional craft beers.  Most of the other downtown bars cater so much to tourists that I avoid them.  Even though the Omni is a hotel, it somehow felt less touristy.

Overall, I think this hotel is an excellent addition to Nashville.  Since we’ve had a number of really good restaurants open up recently in the area, I am not sure I would seek it out for dinner, but I might go back for brunch and will likely revisit the bar.  And I would recommend it for out-of-town guests looking for a place to stay.  The Omni is right next to the new convention center, so they’re guaranteed to get plenty of traffic.  The company could have opened up a generic hotel and served just OK food and done quite well in that location, but they did more.  They really tried to make the Omni feel like a part of Nashville, and I applaud their effort.