I have memories of 5th street. New York, East Village, slinking across Houston from our apartment on the Lower East Side before a show at Mercury Lounge. Cold, maybe. Rainy, sometimes. If snowing, definitely. A little ramen noodle shop called Minca, nothing more than a sliver, really; all light wood and vinyl flooring, a kitchen that was the restaurant that was the restaurant that was the bathroom. That was New York, I guess. Those toothsome Japanese noodles were so good before a night of music – filling, quick, ready and willing to sop up four rounds of cheap beers and even more (not so cheap) Jack and Cokes at the bar right after. I never could get the slurping right; sometimes the broth would splatter across my shirt like dots on a Pollock painting. No matter. This was not a time for neatness nor propriety, this was time to get down to business. How I missed those bowls when I moved here to Nashville.
And then, came Sarah Gavigan. Before she became the queen of ramen she was known as an award-winning music supervisor and founder of online educational resource Get Your Music Licensed. What started with one pop-up night turned into a phenomenon known as Otaku South. Like me, Sarah spent some time living in Los Angeles growing to love the breadth of Japanese cuisine (OK, she lasted seventeen years to my 1.5) and acquired (unlike me) the ability to cook it with delicious expertise. Since she began Otaku South last year she’s hosted nights at the Catbird Seat, Silo, 12 South Taproom and many more (always including her musical roots – Brendan Canning of Broken Social Scene even DJ’d her event at the Stone Fox).
Now, I get to return to my tradition of mixing music and noodle on Record Store Day, when Sarah and four other acclaimed chefs – Guy Wong (Miso Izakaya, Atlanta), Akiko Moorman (The Gohan Society, New York), Phillip Foss (El Ideas, Chicago) and Dennis Lange (Den-Chan, Atlanta) – will take over Marathon Music Works from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. on 4.20 for a massive (it’s dubbed “Extra Large“) day of ramen, yakatori and other breeds of Japanese fun. It’s the perfect pit stop between your RSD event-hopping (we’ll be bringing you a gameplan for that later in the week, including noodles, naturally) or just to hang around for a while with the family – naturally, there will be some music there too, via DJ. Admission to the event is free, with food tickets available at the door for $12 as well as a full cash bar. The menu and info is here.
To celebrate, we asked Sarah for her Nashville Five, focusing on music and food. Because what else is there?
By Sarah Gavigan
* Vinh-Long ::: It’s true, I am partial to noodle soup in any form, and this place has the best Pho I have found in Nashville. It’s off the beaten path for sure, but the vibe is honest and the family that owns it really notice their regulars and make a point to connect. I love that. Once you have that trust with a restaurant owner, you begin to vere off menu. The best dished are always off menu. Oh and the soup……spot on yumminess.
* Ovvio Arte ::: One of my favorite Nashville couples, Theo and Veta own this really special little art and performance space over by the Sounds Stadium on Chestnut. One part Artists (Veta was a professional window dresser in NY and fine artist) and one part Production Company (they direct videos for local artists Those Darlins) and one part sultry lounge, whenever they have events my husband and I try to get there. I love the building and the fact that you hang out by the train tracks when you step outside to have a smoke. That view IS Tennessee to me.
* Seoul Garden ::: Only second to my noodle soup addiction is my Korean BBQ addiction. What is more perfect then a marinated piece of beef that is tender on the inside and crispy on the outside in a lettuce wrap with assorted kimchee and spicy miso paste? Scalding hot stone pot filled with rice and veggies? Cold draft beer? 2 Nothing I tell you…nothing. We are almost always the only white people in the place…which I love and the fact that they have K-Pop running on the big screens and two kareoke rooms, makes me feel right at home. Just like K-town in LA, where I will freely admit I spent most of my money and time in my late twenties in LA. Nashville has not discovered the trifecta of beer, Korean bbq and karaoke yet….but it’s coming.
* The Basement ::: The first time I set foot in the Basement the Greenhorns were playing a sold out show and it was nose to nose in there. This is the perfect music venue to me. I KNOW that place…it’s so intimate and cozy that you cant help but love it. Plus the sound is incredible with those thick stone walls. I live really close by, so I find myself hitting shows there often because I can catch a show on the fly and still get a decent nights sleep! I love the proximity of everything in Nashville. Makes enjoying life so very much mnore fun. 8:45pm on a random night” Want to meet me at The Basement for a show at 9pm?” “YES! I’ll change out of my pajamas and see you in ten minutes!”
* Hattie-B’s ::: I am coming out of the closet with my fried chicken addiction. You will find me at Hattie’s every couple of weeks. Always by myself because I havent even admitted to myself that I eat fried chx for lunch this often. So if you see me, dont talk to me, because I am not REALLY there. But I do love the hot fried chicken at Hattie’s. Its less greasy then most I try and it has great flavor. No one said living in the south was low fat. Clearly I have embraced this notion.