Sometimes personalities come along that change a city. In unfortunate cases, they can have negative impact. But, when the newcomer is an extraordinary culinary talent with a sparkling smile and a personality to match — the positive influence can be infectious. That is exactly what has happened over the last few months as chef Robbie Wilson has taken on the role of culinary director for the four restaurants that make up Music City’s most diverse and interesting independently held dining group.
After honing his skills at Nobu and developing a fun and eclectic menu at Aspen’s Junk, he headed back South (Wilson is an Austin native) to shake up the restaurant scene. After just a few months in Nashville, he has shown incredible skill and invention with the opening of some of the city’s most exciting eateries. (Left, Kayne Prime's heirloom tomato salad courtesy nashvillelifestyle.com)
The newly relocated and expanded Virago is soaring after his creative additions to the menu, wowing visitors with experimental Asian influenced dishes. A block away, he also launched Kayne Prime — the city’s first modern steakhouse concept. It is here where he showcases wagyu beef presentations with sides ranging from corn crème brûlée to what is possibly the most addictive mac and cheese variation in the state.
Celebrities lining up for his team’s creations on any given night range from Reba McEntire and Martina McBride to the band members from Kings of Leon. One thing on the menu that famous faces and locals alike can’t get enough of is the black kale salad. At Kayne Prime, it is mixed with the best olive oil, pine nuts, and currants. At the more casual Tavern (another M Street outpost), the same kale salad is served with almonds… and (on request) for a stronger burst of protein it's topped with a skewer of well-seasoned chicken. It’s a daily meal for many of the town’s movers and shakers. In fact, it is so wildly popular that the staff of Nashville Lifestyles — the magazine of Music City — reports having this super-food sensation at least twice every week. For me, sometimes it's three. (Photo courtesy Katie Horrell)
But, it is at Tavern’s Saturday and Sunday brunches where Wilson really spoils patrons with multiple egg dishes, red velvet waffles, and pretzel pancakes with maple fondue. On most weekends, tables are packed with faces recognizable from CD covers and ESPN reels — it’s the ultimate casual gathering spot for high-profile residents.
Old Forester Bourbon with apples and cinnamon.
The same is true for Whiskey Kitchen. Signature pizzas loaded with locally-grown ingredients are a late-night favorite while the lunch crowd lines up for seared ahi-tuna wraps and the area’s best fish tacos. (Above, an Whiskey Kitchen's spin on an "Old" favorite, photo courtesy Tennessean)
If you’re planning to visit Nashville, a stop in to at least one (if not all) of the restaurants that Robbie Wilson oversees is an absolute must. Come for the people-watching and stay for the food. I travel all over the world (eating mostly) and am thrilled to report that the best dishes I’ve tasted are coming from his kitchens. For menus and details on all of the restaurants, visit Mstreetnashville.com.
Stacie Standifer is the Editor of Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, nashvillelifestyles.com.