As any Hollywood director will tell you, remaking a classic while staying true to the spirit that made the original, well, classic isn’t easy. You’ve got to adore the audience, respect the history and stay current—or risk a flop of Wicker Man proportions.
Turns out, the same goes for restaurants.
Few know this better than restaurateur Steven Smithing of Mere Bulles and now, the newly reinstated Green Hills Grille. The neighborhood favorite first opened in 1990 under the direction of Phil Hickey and Mike Huffler, but after an impressive run, shuttered its doors in 2008. Smithing, who had worked at the Grille as a bartender, server and general manager in the nineties, jumped at the chance to claim ownership in 2015.
“I missed it. I missed Green Hills Grille and serving the people who live here,” Smithing explains. “We were such a restaurant of the community … I knew I’d have the faith and patience to settle in and grow its already strong foundation.”
Smithing wasn’t the only one. Four staff members who worked at the original spot over 24 years ago also agreed to come on board and breathe new life into the concept that now features a sprawling 175-seat dining room, 40-seat patio and impressive bar.
It’s a responsible revitalization in that Smithing isn’t trying to be overly trendy or chase James Beard awards with the revamp—though, the new restaurant is a beauty and the menu has some fantastic updates.
“My main goal is to be the neighborhood restaurant of Green Hills and a three-generation restaurant. It seems everyone [in the restaurant industry] is only after the younger crowd, but I enjoy serving mature people and families, too,” says Smithing.
For this reason, favorite original menu items like the lemon artichoke chicken and grilled salmon salad still have their place, but so do newer flavors. Just take the spicy Nashville hot chicken salad served with shredded cabbage and julienne veggies or the chef selection of hand-rolled sushi.
Smithing’s willingness to adapt and truly listen to the advice of his new patrons and regulars is particularly noble. He’s humble in admitting that certain menu items needed tweaks since reopening last September, and how through constant communication with guests he was able to make those improvements.
“We want to give people what they want and are super receptive to feedback,” Smithing notes.
Freshness is a given no matter what’s ordered, and in the spirit of being a restaurant of the community, Green Hills Grille has intentional partnerships in place with local programs Cul2vate and Nourishwise. The new Grille also pays special attention to those with gluten sensitivities and vegetarians. In fact, there is a dedicated gluten-free menu and 15 plant-based options.
“It’s very high-quality food. We get the best produce and we’re focused on serving it in an easy environment … there’s always parking,” Smithing says with a smile.
Ahh. Great food, easy parking and a restaurateur that cares incredibly for the community he’s rooted in. This is the timeless Green Hills Grill we remember and loved—we couldn’t be more thrilled to have them join the Nashville Originals family.
Green Hills Grille is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Images by Danielle Atkins