Aside from a few scattered restaurants that have stood the test of time, the city of Belle Meade in West Nashville has, for the most part, lacked the range of dining options to entice Nashvillians to cross neighborhood limits for a meal out.
That is until Noelle Restaurant opened at 106 Harding Place one year ago.
Owner Dewayne Johnson—who’s been in that location since 1999 when it was PJ’s 106 Club, then the Belle Meade Brasserie and most recently Whitfield’s—bought into Whitfield’s in 2009, and he and his wife Wendi acquired the restaurant in January 2012. Recognizing the need for a more contemporary destination, the two reinvented the Harding Place location and opened Noelle, named after their youngest daughter, in April 2014.
“Acquiring Whitfield’s as the sole owners was only one piece of the puzzle in our dreams of owning a successful restaurant,” says Dewayne. “We wanted to create a place that was unique, with a chef-driven menu in a more contemporary and casual setting that would allow us an opportunity to service the community with the values we set forth in our family. We took a look at the demographics in our area along with the current culinary dynamics in Nashville and paired them with our goals and created what we felt was missing in the West Nashville area.”
“Noelle is a much better reflection of what we enjoy and what we see happening in West Nashville,” adds Wendi.
The modern interior, sizeable bar and outdoor patio mirror what we’re already seeing trend in some of Nashville’s more foodie-driven neighborhoods like East Nashville and 12South. But the aesthetic appeal alone isn’t what brings customers in each night—the food does.
Executive Chef Don Pritchett came on board at Noelle just a few weeks ago, but is already making big changes in the kitchen. Working on what he calls a “why not” principle, the menu changes frequently to utilize fresh, seasonal produce and sustainable meat offerings like bone marrow, veal tongue or a Mediterranean bass served with squid ink butter.
“Seasonality is very much a part of what we do, but our menu doesn’t necessarily have one particular style,” explains Chef Don. “It’s forward-thinking cuisine. We’re not as concerned with what’s trending as we are about exploring where we can go next—where our customers are willing to go next—and what we think works best for the ingredients of the day.
“This head-to-tail movement is about being economically and socially responsible, and if done right, can open people up to entirely new experiences. In fact, we served a salmon tail last week—just the tail—and I had to tell people to trust me. But when they did, they loved it!”
Chef Don can tell you firsthand the reactions of Noelle’s diners, as he’s as much present on the floor as he is in the kitchen—he says a big part of a chef-driven restaurant is embracing the people and earning their respect and trust.
And don’t be surprised if he comes to your table with a spoonful of something he’s thinking about putting on the menu tomorrow night, just to get your opinion.
“I’m in the dining rooms and present with our guests so I can experience everything about the food I prepare, from what goes on behind the kitchen doors to in the dining room when they taste the food,” says Chef Don.
In addition to the main menu, guests can enjoy a bar menu with approachable dishes that reflect the same creativity and seasonality (think a reinvented lobster roll with a Southern spin).
Noelle will also begin offering monthly community events—educational wine tastings paired with unique food samplings, or a weekend chef’s table—to give diners the opportunity to broaden their palates and learn more about sustainable eating.
It’s restaurants like Noelle that are finally putting Nashville’s Westside on the city’s culinary map.
“On average, people will eat more than 90,000 times in their lifetime using four of their senses,” says Chef Don. “Noelle offers an opportunity to try something you’ve never tasted before and challenge yourself. Great food is great food, and that’s what you’re going to get at Noelle. Every time.”
Noelle is located at 106 Harding Place in Belle Meade. Their hours are Monday and Tuesday, 5-9 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday, 5-9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 5-10:30 p.m. The restaurant is also available for private events. Visit their website at www.noellerestaurant.com to learn more.