Tacos, Pho and Bibimbap on Charlotte Pike
Few entrees are quite as compelling as dolsot bibimbap, a sizzling stone bowl filled with rice, sautéed vegetables and shredded beef — capped with a fried egg, sunnyside up. A savory crust forms in that oven-heated bowl, and as you fold the meat, vegetables and egg into the rice, the yolk breaks, spilling over the mix, creating a marvelous harmony of textures and tastes. Squeeze some gochujang — red pepper chili sauce ever-present on the Korean table — over everything to crank up the heat.
At Korea House, they’ve been treating customers to such soul-satisfying fare for close to 20 years. There’s much more to explore at this modest family-run establishment. Add kimchi, spicy cucumbers, or pickled radish to the barbecued beef short rib called galbi, (wrapped together in a lettuce leaf) and make all your taste buds sing.
Grilled pork sandwiches on crackly baguettes, turmeric-tinged rice flour crepes filled with shrimp, vegetables and fresh herbs, fortifying beef noodle soup: Kien Giang was the city’s first Vietnamese restaurant to introduce Nashvillians to the delicacies of the cuisine. We’re lucky — within a few years many others opened along Charlotte, affording diners the opportunity to compare, form opinions and pick favorites. You would be happy eating at any of them. But in terms of ambiance, execution and ease of payment, we recommend Miss Saigon.
Miss Saigon is a neighbor of Kien Giang, Lucky Bamboo and the ever-intriguing K&S Market, all in the same shopping center. Ah, the pho. To call it a beef noodle soup is an understatement. Its clarified broth is made from long-simmered beef bones, scented with ginger, star anise, cinnamon, black peppercorn, and then poured over rice noodles. Tender shavings of rare beef cook in its heat. When you stir in ingredients from the plate of garnishes — cilantro, scallions, beans sprouts, chiles, lime — the pho becomes revelatory. Miss Saigon offers ten variations of the soup, including a new one for vegetarians. Ask for #33 — the clear, fragrant broth is terrific, layered with tofu, fresh vegetables, vermicelli, and all the items from the garnish plate.
TAQUERIA LA MULITA EXPRESS #2
A friend of mine has a rule: he won’t buy tacos unless they cost a dollar each. No splashy taco joints for him. Not a problem! Around town, there are taco trucks aplenty that meet his requirements — it’s been his mission to try them all. And those in the know agree with his assessment: Taqueria La Mulita Express #2 on Charlotte serves some of the best. Parked in a small lot by the Super Mercado, this truck is much loved for its 99-cent tacos, plump tortas, and namesake griddled mulitas. (like baby quesadillas, but made with corn tortillas—delicious.) The menu is in Spanish and English, with a straightforward listing of meats and combinations. You can go with the usual: carnitas (fried cubes of pork,) al pastor (marinated roast pork,) pollo (chicken) or asada (grilled steak), or you stretch yourself, choosing the uncommon cuts, such as buche (pork stomach) tripa (beef tripe) and lengua (tongue.) Here’s the truth: Me gusta la lengua!
Tacos come with the traditional dress of cilantro and diced onion, each plate strewn with slices of radish, pickled carrots and a wedge of lime to further brighten your bites. And, two distinctive salsas are on offer — brick red and creamy green. Watch out, that green is fiery good.
Korea House 6410 Charlotte Pike Suite108 Nashville TN 37209 352-2790
Miss Saigon 5849 Charlotte Pike Nashville TN 37209 354-1351
Taqueria La Mulita Express #2 6317 Charlotte Pike