One thing that I love about Nashville is its plethora of hidden gems- places that transform an unassuming storefront on streets crowded with pawn shops and fast food joints into a genuinely great experience. Such is the case with M.L. Rose. Nestled among the, well, pawn shops and fast food joints of the 8th Ave South area (technically Franklin Pike at this juncture) exists what this reviewer believes to be in the running for Nashville’s best burger and beer restaurant. The slogan, Craft Beer and Burgers, sums it up perfectly. Starting with the beer, as most meals here will, the patron need not fear for options. There is a wide variety to choose from, with about fifteen on draught and just under one hundred overall. To the average occasional beer drinker (I will have to use my imagination here) this may be mind-boggling. Thanks to good design, though, the beer menu is easy to navigate for even the most uninitiated. Headings like “Smooth Approachable Hops,” “Refreshing Wheats and Lighter Beers,” and “Throwbacks and Beers You Know,” give verbal indication as to what can be expected to those who don’t know what hops are exactly. For the more experienced, it makes finding your next favorite beer, or just what you are in the mood for at that moment, a breeze. Though the beers come from all over the U.S. and beyond, I found the local offerings to be some of the most compelling. The Thunder Ann APA from Nashville’s Jackalope Brewery had a nice kick of orange zest and a deliciously bitter aftertaste, while the rotating from Calfkiller Brewing Company fell somewhere between a hefeweizen and a Belgian white, sweet and perfectly refreshing for a summer afternoon. That these guys from Sparta are sending totally unique kegs on a regular basis only makes the decision to return that much easier. In addition to the extensive beer menu, there are a few well-chosen wines and ciders, and even some specialty drinks that are not on the menu… more on that later. On to the burgers. Responsibly-raised-beef patties, locally baked buns, fresh ingredients. All of this doesn’t matter unless it all comes together to deliver on the promise of the great American burger. I tried one of the popular favorites, the Bleu Cheeseburger. Despite coming out a tad too well done to be called medium-rare, the flavors were amazing. The tangy bleu cheese, perfectly cooked bacon, and sweet caramelized onions really worked some magic here. My husband ordered the turkey burger five alarm style, which offered just the right amount of heat with its combination of five-alarm sauce and pickled jalapenos. We split a small order of fries served with cheese, fresh tomato, and ranch sauce. The small order was plenty for the two of us, and the fries, though not the best I’ve tried, were very good, crispy and golden. Not usually a ranch fan, I have found an exception to the rule. Theirs is less mayonnaisey than what I am used to. It is as though they are using whipped cream as the base. It is so good and a soothing (and addicting) compliment to spicier entrees.
The menu does not venture much beyond the expected borders… quesadillas, buffalo chicken, a few salads and wraps… it would be great to see some more culinary risks being taken. The ambience of M.L. Rose seems to be neither here nor there. I actually mean that in a good way. It is not too hip nor too sterile, not too elegant nor too careless. A crossroads of sorts. Flat screen TVs float above booths amid rows of vintage music and movie posters. A digital jukebox sits out front while hunting and hoop-shooting games crowd a hidden corner. Having just moved to Nashville from Texas I was excited to see the “Biergarten” sign hanging outside. Upon further inspection I found a nice little outdoor seating area with picnic tables, which shouldn’t necessarily be called a “biergarten.” I returned to my seat to find a small glass full of what appeared to be a milkshake. It was in fact a frozen Irish Car Bomb, part Jameson, part Guinness, a deliciously sweet twist on a milkshake. This is not on the menu- yet- but will most likely be included in a small menu of specialty drinks in the near future. Speaking of near future, M.L. Rose will soon be opening a second location on Charlotte Pike, near the intersection of 45th Avenue North. I, for one, am excited to experience the opening of what will surely be regarded as one of Nashville’s new hidden gems.