Just down the street from Wendell Smith's is Swett's Restaurant. While these places exist in the same category, there are stark differences between the two. First and foremost, Swett's revels in its reputation as the meeting place for various Nashville political "movers and shakers." Think: Dixie-fried fat cat Southern politicians with seersucker suits and big husky drawls who split their time evenly between dabbing the sweat off their foreheads with a handkerchief and downing giant tumblers full of sweet tea. And once you have that image in your mind, dial it back to reality. This is Nashville in 2015, not O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Secondly, Swett's has attempted to keep things a little more spacious and clean. Plenty of natural light comes in to brighten up the place. They have gone the extra mile with regards to branding, stamping the "Swett's — Fine Food since 1954" brand on their cafeteria-style trays, plates, and most open wall space. It's a good thing to know that if you ever bump your head at Swett's and black out, upon regaining consciousness, it will only take a glance in any direction for you to identify where you are.
Swett's Restaurant is a combination of soul food and “meat and three.” Every day is a good day for their turnip greens, and occasionally they have pig's feet on the menu, a Southern soul food delicacy. On this particular day, I took the opportunity to ask the kind woman behind the counter, "What's good today?" She replied in typical Swett's fashion, "Honey, everything's great!" I'm left feeling that somehow this can't be mathematically quantified, but I'll take her at her word.
Sadly, there were no pig's feet to try today, so I opted for a more traditional entrée: meatloaf. As a side note, here's a quick little tip for figuring out if a restaurant has great meatloaf: First, if the texture and consistency is uniform throughout, then you know they know how to cook it. Second, if it's not dried out on top or at the ends, then you know it hasn't been sitting out all day. That usually means it's a popular dish that the locals know to order when available. Swett's meatloaf was perfectly consistent throughout, with not a crusty burnt end in sight. In addition to creamed mashed potatoes and corn, I choose my favorite "vegetable" on the meat and three menu: mac and cheese.
Swett's Restaurant is considered by many to be the best in Nashville. I can't argue with that. It’s a textbook traditional meat and three in every way, but the area where they truly separate themselves is friendly service. Southern hospitality, whether you believe in it or think it's a myth, truly exists within the confines of these walls.