When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Not just a bit of sage advice given to young adventurers traveling abroad for the first time, it’s an unspoken rule we beseech visitors of Nashville to follow who don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb traipsing down Broadway in a pair of studded cowboy boots carrying a Hard Rock Cafe doggy bag.
When in Nashville, do as the Nashvillians do. Visit one of our beautiful parks, attend a concert somewhere that’s not Bridgestone and indulge yourself in an unforgettable meal at one of the many locally owned restaurants stretching from Franklin to East Nashville.
And let us be the first to suggest Tin Angel.
Owned by husband and wife duo Rick and Vicki Bolsom, Tin Angel has been a comfort and a mainstay to Nashvillians since 1993—back when locally owned restaurants were hard to find and, the good ones, were treasured.
The two previously owned and operated another Nashville favorite, Cakewalk, and had recognized in its success a growing demand for other contemporary restaurants in Music City.
Before it was Tin Angel, the old brick building at West End and 32nd Avenue South was a drug store-turned beauty salon and neighborhood bar called Bishop’s Pub. The bar, a beer-and-burger joint with pool tables, foosball, and great live music became the neighborhood hangout for many of the surrounding residents—including a young Rick Bolsom who’d recently moved to Nashville to work in the music industry and was living in the Westboro apartments across the street.
Bishop’s Pub eventually evolved into more of a restaurant renamed Bishop’s Corner with the brick archways opened between the bar and the salon, the game room gone and an expanded kitchen.
After another owner and name change, the restaurant went up for sale in the early ‘90s, and that’s when Rick and Vicki bought it, revived it and reopened it as Tin Angel, an homage to another favorite Greenwich Village hangout of Rick’s, immortalized in Joni Mitchell’s song of the same name.
Much of the original framework from Bishop’s Pub is still there—the broad brick fireplace that welcomes diners with a glowing fire, the exposed brick walls and archways that seamlessly connect the three dining rooms, the expansive wooden bar and the floor made from bricks that were saved after the original Church Street downtown was torn up and paved.
“At first we designed the restaurant as a contemporary meat and three,” says Rick. “It was a place where you could pick your meat and sides, but it was all fresh, creative and chef-made.
“It may have been too ahead of it’s time, but as soon as we realized that concept wasn’t working, we redesigned the menu, moved forward with it and the rest is history.”
Today, much like it was in the ‘90s, Tin Angel is a place where people of all generations and tastes come to enjoy a really good meal at a really good price. The menu boasts classic, contemporary dishes from house-smoked duck prosciutto with pâté and a hard-boiled egg to beef tenderloin or a bacon burger, each plate as delicious and unassuming as the next.
“The challenge local restaurants and businesses have today is to jockey for and maintain their position in this crowded market full of chains and big businesses with big advertising budgets,” he says. “The way we’ve done it is by focusing first on the local community. My prime customer lives here, and ideally I know their face and I know their name. Everything you do in the travel community and special events is icing on the cake.”
The menu consistently delivers on food that is fresh, contemporary and creative. It’s grounded in regional America but utilizes French and Italian techniques, and it’s not trendy for trendy’s sake.
“We have a really nice hamburger,” says Rick. “It’s there because we can do it well and I like hamburgers.
“I’m totally cool with people doing things with foam and nitrous whatever—things that you can’t pronounce but are brilliant to put into your mouth—but we’ve learned what we like to do, what our customers like to eat and how to do it well, consistently.”
Not to mention well priced. Try and find another restaurant of the same caliber that offers a perfectly cooked pork chop on sautéed spinach and a vegetable cous cous, roasted lamb and pasta or a variety of other exceptional dishes for under $20.
The next time you go out for dinner, do as the Nashvillians do—visit Tin Angel.
Tin Angel, located at 3201 West End Avenue, is open for dinner seven days a week from 4:30 till 10 p.m. with complimentary valet parking. Learn more about Tin Angel at www.tinangel.net.