Nashville quickly and quietly has become one of the most desirable domestic destinations for its Southern sensibility, iconic music industry and burgeoning foodie scene. The most coveted reservation in the nation’s latest It city? The Catbird Seat.
Made famous by acclaimed chefs (and former Minnesotans) Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger, the 32-seat eatery has been a media darling since opening in 2011. Its well-deserved accolades include a best new restaurant nomination from the James Beard Foundation and nods from the likes of Food & Wine (Best New Chefs), Bon Appétit (America’s Best New Restaurants) and GQ (10 Best New Restaurants in America).
The concept? An always-intimate, oft-interactive experience with patrons situated around the U-shaped kitchen watching as the next delicacy of a multi-course tasting menu is prepared.
Before heading to Music City, Anderson saw his share of success here in Minneapolis, himself nominated for a James Beard award while chef de cuisine at Sea Change. The Guthrie Theater’s restaurant is just one of the many popular eateries where he worked alongside his now fiancée, Jamie Malone (herself a culinary talent with impressive accolades of her own). Anderson is a Twin Citian once again and with Malone will open the highly anticipated Brut in the North Loop this year.
The departure of the Catbird Seat’s founding chefs opened the door for Ireland native Trevor Moran, who took over the kitchen in 2014. He spent four years at Noma, the Copenhagen eatery that’s no stranger to best-restaurants lists. Moran is making his mark, infusing a Scandinavian sensibility to the ever-evolving, modern, seasonal menu.
The Catbird Seat’s format encourages experimentation, and the affable new executive chef certainly seems to be enjoying himself. Case in point: A silverware-free salad inspired by the flavors of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. Dry-aged beef tenderloin tartare with roasted ancient grains. PBR-spiked fondue in a cone made from crushed bar nuts. Diners don’t know what awaits them and don’t see a menu until they’re handed one as a souvenir following the final course.
“Someone coined the phrase ‘fine diner’ to describe our food, which I like,” says Moran. “It’s kind of a joke, but it does sum up what we’re doing. I think the food should be informal and a fun, interactive experience. Really, we just want to hang out with people for a few hours.”
The cost? $115 a person plus beverage pairings ranging from $25 (nonalcoholic) to $75 (reserve). Reservations can be made up to a month out, and the three-hour experience is worthy of penciling into your calendar that far in advance. With chef Moran’s star on the rise, it’s a safe bet the Catbird Seat is destined for even more accolades and will long enjoy its rightful place as Nashville’s hottest ticket.
Read this article as it appears in the magazine.