Patterson House: Raising the bar

Raising the bar

 With the flick of an orange peel a quick burst of flame flashes above a cocktail glass. I feel as though I have just witnessed a magic trick - backstage at the burlesque show.  As with most magic tricks, there is something to divert your attention from what is really going on - in this case my eyes trail the attractive bar staff, the lush details of the bar, the interesting guests, and on and on it goes.. . The bartender gently pushes the glass in my direction. It is, without a doubt, the best take on a Manhattan that I have ever had. And this, my friend, is where the true magic lies. The Patterson House has been on my radar for a while now. I moved away from Nashville just a few months before The Patterson House opened its doors in the spring of 2009. I heard about it from friends and read about it in national publications. All the buzz was for good reason. The Patterson House offers a unique dining and drinking experience, nudging Nashville ever more forwards into the contemporary experimental dining scene.

Upon arriving I duck under a heavy curtain and into the bar, it takes my eyes a few minutes to adjust. After a few moments the low light reveals dark wooden bookshelves filled with books, bottles, and antique barware. Tin ceilings meet and greet lavish wall paper, modern chandeliers twinkle just above intimate booths, and the floors have a gentle give reminiscent of a secret attic.  The atmosphere of The Patterson House meets my expectations and gives Nashvillians the ideal space to come sit, chat, or contemplate as you get tucked away within the diverse history of Music Row.  We are lucky to have such a haven, and I hope it inspires further experimentation for future Nashville bar and pub endeavors.

 The menu reads like an invitation- a hand writing inspired font invites you to read the poetic listings of ingredients.  Organized by liquor type, it keeps you grounded as you float through the ethereal realm that their ingredients span. With about thirty signature drinks and twenty more classics, I suggest asking a few questions of the bartender. They can quickly steer you towards whatever drink you are in the mood for. I tried the Juliet and Romeo first. Our bartender, Doug, refers to this award-winning cocktail as a “gateway drink.” He explains further that a lot of customers come into Patterson House with a preconceived notion of which spirits they do and do not enjoy. The Juliet and Romeo will often catch a non-gin-drinker by surprise,  should they give it a chance. It is smooth and summery-  delicious and almost too easy to drink. The 75th of May, another gin-based cocktail, delights with hints of jasmine and lavender. The aforementioned Reelfoot Manhattan was dark and sweet with the bitterness of burnt orange rounding it out. Note: the Reelfoot Manhattan is no longer listed on the menu. However, once cocktails are taken off the menu they remain available. This is just another reason to converse with your bartender before making a choice.

Though the food menu is small, it is not merely an afterthought. There are appetizers, paninis, flatbreads and desserts. We had the deviled eggs and tater tots.  Two drinks in, I mentally begin scheming how I might campaign for all bars to offer homemade tater tots.  I consider myself somewhat of a novice expert in salting and at Patterson House the chefs found the perfect balance.  In contrast to the sweeter drinks I was sampling, the airy, lightly sea-salted tots was a particularly apt choice.  The real standout was the donuts. They struck the perfect balance between salty and sweet. The dough falls in-between morning biscuit and popover pastry.  Cocktails are $12 and worth it- but be warned- you will never want to order a cocktail anywhere else. 

1711 Division St (at 18th Ave S)
Nashville, TN 37203
$ $ $