The Curmudgeon Reviews…Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Look ma, no lines!

In a perfect world, people would apparently shop at Walgreen’s and we would not be told which restaurants are good by a testosterone-fueled southern dudebro who thinks that rolling pulled pork inside a sushi roll is a good idea.

Despite the fact that perfect is not on the map, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, one of Nashville’s oldest and most venerable meat-and-three institutions, seems to have mostly weathered their mention on Guy Fieri’s flagship program changing little either for better or for worse. Perhaps this is okay.

At any rate, The Curmudgeon had the occasion to lunch at Arnold’s again for the first time in a few years, and decided to look at the menu with a more critical eye than in his halcyon youth.

Since The Curmudgeon does not think much of food photography, he entered Arnold’s armed with naught but a healthy lunch time appetite, and decided to dine on pecan pie (a long-time Curmudgeon favorite), mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet tea, and the ever-present roast beast.

Allow The Curmudgeon a moment to take an aside and marvel at how deliciously ingenious Arnold’s is for putting the dessert as the first thing in the line, instead of last as in most traditional meat+3 counters. This allows the diner to see and desire their sweet tooth first, before they’ve piled high their plate with other goodies and can more easily decline the sugary confections with polite refusals of “I’m just watching my figure” or what have you. The Curmudgeon admires the marketing prowess of such a down-home establishment with this maneuver.

At any rate, after ordering the rest of the food — with “au jus”,1 of course – The Curmudgeon dug in.

The Green Beans

Despite growing up in the South, The Curmudgeon does not hold any particular fondness for foods that have been cooked in a gallon of butter for roughly 17x longer than necessary to fully cook them. Any food receiving this treatment loses any individual flavors or components it may have possessed and all ends up the same unappetizing army green with a taste reminiscent of, well, every other vegetable cooked that way. Perhaps The Curmudgeon is a bit old fashioned, but he prefers his green beans to taste different from, say, his broccoli or his lentils. Arnold’s may very well be serving rag weed or dyed mouse intestine as green beans for all you can tell based on that cooking. The Curmudgeon did not finish the beans.

The Mashed Potatoes

The Curmudgeon does not consider mashed potatoes to be a terribly difficult dish to make. You boil potatoes with plenty of water and salt, you mash them with more salt and pepper, and various and sundry dairy items. Or chicken stock if you’re dairy-free. Or soy milk if you hate yourself and feel you deserve to be punished. At any rate, they are not particularly taxing, yet many places fail to even master this basic. Arnold’s is definitely included in that category. Gummy and dense are the two words that sprung forth in The Curmudgeon’s mind as he ate. Bland was also fighting for attention. The Curmudgeon did finish the potatoes, but only with the aid of the aforementioned redundantly redundant “au jus”.

The Roast Beef

This is one of those things that The Curmudgeon has a hard time being very curmudgeonly about. It’s tender — a rarity in the meat+3 world — spicy, and flavorful. It’s delicious. It’s actually cooked to a decent temperature. To top it off, it’s sliced in front of you as you order it. The Curmudgeon did, in fact, finish the roast beef.

The Pecan Pie what is this i dont even

After tasting the pie The Curmudgeon wondered if he had somehow offended the staff of Arnold’s, maybe by running over someone’s mother or foreclosing on their house or something. He was appalled at what they passed off as pie so cleverly foisted upon him. Good pecan pie is rich, and has a depth of flavor in which the pecans play an important role. The crust is flaky and not too sweet, since sitting inside it is a mixture of mostly butter and sugar. But this…this was an abomination. Cloyingly sweet and tasting of nothing of corn syrup with an insipidly-sweetened gummy crust to match. Although The Curmudgeon was looking at pecans, and ostensibly eating pecans, he did at no point actually taste pecans. He wondered if perhaps Arnold’s employed a manually deft Nicaraguan in their prep kitchen who spent most of his day carving Styrofoam packing peanuts into intricately-detailed facsimiles of pecans. It is hard to imagine this is actually cheaper than purchasing the admittedly pricey nuts, but it is hard to ignore the evidence. This is not a good way to end a meal. The Curmudgeon did not finish the pecan pie, and in fact gave the cooks a dirty look when he left the building. That’s right, you know what you did. Be ashamed!

All in all, Arnold’s was a passable way to spend lunch. Perhaps they should focus on being a meat-and-meat. The business world values those who understand their core competency and stick to it.

  1. au jus is naturally French for “with juice” (or sauce), and being asked if one wants something “with with juice” is the kind of thing that makes The Curmudgeon go all WHAAARGARRBL []
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