My Stand Up Gig

A couple of weeks ago, during Spring Break, I took a vacation day and Leah, the kids, and I went to Chattanooga for the day. Chattanooga has revitalized itself recently, especially the area between the aquarium and the kids’ museum, but it has always been one of my favorite places. We made trips to Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain when I was a kid and out of school for AEA week. Sometimes I throw “AEA Week” in to a conversation just to see if I’m the oldest one in the group. Or perhaps the only one from Alabama. (100 years ago, “Spring Break” was the week of the Alabama Education Association annual conference, hence AEA week. #themoreyouknow)

We arrived in Chattanooga around lunchtime, parked the car and headed to a little pizza place named Lupi’s. It’s long, narrow, funky little joint where you stand in line to order, then go find a table or booth to sit and wait for your food. Easy enough, right?

Except it never is in these places. A group of people, more specifically a party of 10 or more, will come in behind you and send one person through the line to order while everyone else goes ahead and claims every available table and booth, even though the poor soul tasked with remembering everyone’s order is at least 15 minutes away from ordering, so the group is about 30 minutes away from receiving whatever the poor soul tasked with remembering everyone’s order actually ordered for them. (That was a long sentence, but I was on a roll.)

Well, that’s what happened to us. Just before we ordered, a large group came in and claimed every table and booth while some guy stood in line to order. It worked out, though, as we found bar stool seats along a counter in the restaurant and enjoyed lunch. I still gave the grandma with the group a look of, “I saw what you did, granny. Not cool!”

We spent the day at the aquarium, which is very cool. It’s probably not up to the level of the Atlanta Aquarium, which has a dolphin show and a Beluga Whale but is also more crowded and located in Atlanta. The Tennessee Aquarium is easier to get to and from for us, with driveway to parking lot time being right at 2-hours for us. Penguins, sharks, alligators, butterflies. Jack and I sat and watched the salmon try to swim upstream for about 20 minutes. Hilarious. I’m glad I’m not a salmon. People have enough trouble with J-a-m-m-y.

After the afternoon at the aquarium, we strolled in the rain down Broad Street and found a Ben & Jerry’s and decided that ice cream was in order. Honestly, when is ice cream not in order.

We walk in to Ben & Jerry’s and move to “Line Starts Here” sign and stand in line to order. There are about six tables in this place and, though not as long as the line at Lupi’s, this line moves much slower. Of course, as we’re standing in line next to order, a group consisting a multiple families walks in. The respective dads are sent to the line while the moms and the kids play Fixer Upper on every available chair and table in Ben & Jerry’s. They slide chairs and tables around with reckless abandon until they get them just like they like it and then nestle in for the wait. I’ve been where the dads are in line. These people are at least 30 minutes away from whatever ice cream the dads thought they remembered that the kids liked.

We got our ice cream and found a recently vacated table, covered with spilled chocolate ice cream, but having no chairs and we stood there and ate our ice cream. I’d like to say that I didn’t make a snarky loud enough for them to hear when Jack said, “this place needs more chairs”, but I don’t want to lie this early in the morning. Layne didn’t seem to mind, and Leah’s much too nice to let you know if it bothered her. “It’ll be fine,” she says.

You know what? It was. Both situations turned out fine. We ate pizza, we ate ice cream, we had a good day.

That’s just one of my pet peeves. You got your list of things that get under your skin. People doing 55 miles per hour in the slow lane. People walking diagonal across traffic lanes in a parking lot. People taking the inordinately slow elevator in your building up one floor instead of taking the stairs.

Whatever it is, recognize it today and don’t let it ruin the moment. It’ll be fine.

Enjoy your day. Smile, be nice, be kind.

Before I go, if you haven’t registered for the No-Longer 5k, and I have not yet either so you’re not the biggest slacker, do it today. Go to no-longer.com for details or click here to register.

That’s it. Have a great weekend!

Answering Bryson’s Question: HUSK Nashville

“So, how did we compare with HUSK Charleston”, asked Bryson, our waiter on our recent visit to HUSK Nashville.

Bryson is from South Carolina and has long hair with curls that I’ve never been able to make work with my mane. When he’s not being awesome at HUSK, he’s a singer-songwriter and a student at Belmont. Though we were the last seating for Saturday brunch, Bryson never rushed us and our water glasses were never empty.

Two of the more prominent families in Charleston are the Rutledges and the Middletons. Story is that a leaf on a branch of the Middleton family tree contains Kate Middleton, so there’s that. It’s kind of funny – because Kate may one day be queen – that HUSK Charleston is located on Queen Street. More interesting still is that HUSK Nashville harkens back to HUSK Charleston as it sits near the corner of Rutledge Street and Middleton Street. I love stuff like that.

Like HUSK Charleston, HUSK Nashville is located in an old house. The Nashville house was built in the late 1800s. It was actually the home of Nashville’s mayor in 1897. You would never go there and not eat, but it’s fun to go through the old house and feel the history in the building. The chandeliers in the lower dining room are a little “southern Liberace”, or maybe a little “Gracelandish”, but it’s a great setting.

Now to the answer to Bryson’s question. We only had the brunch menu to choose from during our Saturday visit. Missing from the brunch menu are the fried pig ear wraps, the cornbread, and the chicken skins. We were not disappointed, though, by the sweet potato doughnuts. Served warm, drizzled with bourbon caramel sauce and dusted with powdered sugar, I could have eaten all six of them by myself. The pimento cheese was also very good, but I would have preferred it to be served with bread instead of the wafers. I just ate it with my spoon because, well, I’m kind of fancy like that.

On the brunch menu, because it’s probably the most requested item at both HUSK locations, was the cheeseburger. Depending on who you ask, only 90% to 95% of the patty is actually beef. The other 5% to 10% of the patty is bacon, because why not, right? Instead of adding a couple of slices of bacon to the burger, HUSK actually adds the bacon in with the beef while running it through the grinder. It’s beyond tasty, which makes me wonder why I didn’t order it. Three of the six people at our table didn’t overthink it, though, and went with the burger. Smart decision.

I over thought my order and went with the shrimp & grits. I didn’t get the shrimp & grits at the Charleston location. Let me remind you that Charleston has claimed for itself the title of Shrimp & Grits Capitol of the World. If I wouldn’t order shrimp & grits at HUSK Charleston, why did I order it at HUSK Nashville? Because I think too much, and because Leah ordered the cheeseburger and I knew that she wouldn’t eat the whole burger and I would get a bite or two of her burger. The shrimps & grits were good, very good actually, but on a menu for full of creation, I’m just disappointed in myself for not trying something different.

Kip went more traditional brunch and ordered the country fried steak over potato hash with sausage and topped with a fried egg. A perfectly fried egg I should add. When pierced, the yolk of a perfectly fried egg oozes – rather than runs – over the egg white and becomes like a gravy. That’s how HUSK fries an egg, but the real unheralded star of Kip’s dish was the sausage. I don’t know what was in it, but it was outstanding!

Rounding out our table was the plate of southern vegetables. This is not your mom’s shoepeg corn, fried okra, and turnip greens. I really don’t recall what all was on the lazy Susan style platter, there was cabbage – maybe, but in the center was a concoction of grits served with an egg. The egg was served at 62 degrees which, unless we were eating at one of the south’s best restaurants, may have been cause for concern. It’s amazing what you’ll try, though, when the food is created by a culinary genius.

As I’m writing this, I wonder why I didn’t take photos of the food. What a rookie.

What stood out to me most about HUSK Nashville was not the awesomeness of the building and its furnishings. It was not the incredibleness of every bite that we took. It was not even Todd’s hat – which was the star of every other stop we made in Nashville. What stood out to me was, though HUSK closes at 2:00 before reopening for dinner service, and we were the 1:30 reservation, the hostess still smiled and greeted us warmly, Bryson was friendly and treated us like we were friends in for the day, and the kitchen turned out works of art for both sight and taste. Everything was still spot on. That says something about the pride HUSK Nashville takes not just in their creations, but in their guests also.

So, Bryson, HUSK Nashville is step-for-step with its sister location in Charleston. You guys are doing a phenomenal job in one of the hottest cities in the country. If you can’t tell by now, I am a huge fan and I’ll definitely be back. I may even bring Todd’s hat.

Click here for my Charleston post, which includes a similarly glowing review of HUSK Charleston.

Freestyle Friday: Three Thursdays in Chattanooga

School stars for Jack next Wednesday. May seems so long ago. June and July are over. Jack made the comment last week that this summer has flown by because he has “been so busy.”

It has been a busy summer. Vacation Bible School, beach trip, and basketball camp in June. Soccer camp, football camp, tennis lessons, and three trips to Tennessee in July. Jack spent the last three Thursday of July in Chattanooga.

His first trip was with my parents to Lake Winnepesaukah, or Lake Winnie for short, billed as The South’s Favorite Family Amusement Park. Jack reports that Lake Winnie has bumper cars, a log ride, two roller coasters, a train, and other family rides. His favorite part of Lake Winnie is probably all the carnival games. You know, like shoot the water in the clown’s mouth until your balloon pops or your horse crosses the finish line.

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With a name like Lake Winnie, you need to have an actual lake on premises, and Lake Winnie does. Jack and my dad took a pedal boat for a spin.

Lake Winnie has rides for the entire family. Jack wouldn’t go near the Cannon Ball Roller Coaster or the OH-Zone ride, but he had a great day and can’t wait to go back.

Jack’s second pass through Chattanooga was the following Thursday as we made out way to the Gatlinburg area for a couple of days of hiking and eating and shooting bb guns. We didn’t stop in Chattanooga on that trip, except on the way back at the gas station, but Three Thursdays sounded better than Two Thursdays in the title.

Jack’s third and final trip to Chattanooga was with Leah and her parents, and they packed in the adventures over the course of two days.

Day one started at Ruby Falls, which Jack has not stop talking about.  “You’re walking on level ground, but you’re actually getting deeper IMG_1136in the earth because the mountain gets higher”, really made an impression on him. After Ruby Falls, they visited Coolidge Park for an afternoon of outdoor fun and frozen bananas. Then, to top off the day of adventure, a duck boat tour of Chattanooga. We love a duck boat tour.

Day two started with a trip to Lookout Mountain and Rock City (http://www.seerockcity.com). The kids were both impressed that IMG_1893.JPGyou can see seven states from the top of Lookout Mountain. I don’t know if that’s really true, but it’s been said for so long that people just accept it without question. I’m sure there is some truth behind the claim, I just don’t know that it’s ever been tested. Either way, the kids loved Lookout Mountain. After Rock City was a ride on the Chattanooga Incline Railway, a train ride straight up the 72% grade of Lookout Mountain.

And with the train ride down the mountain, the sun set on Jack’s three Thursdays in Chattanooga. But he’ll be back. “Dad, we could drive to Chattanooga, spend the day, and then be home in time to sleep in our own beds at night.” You really can. It takes just over two hours to drive to Chattanooga, and it’s a trip that you should consider, especially if you can find a day in July when the high temperature is an autumn-like 81 degrees. If you haven’t been to Chattanooga in a while, take a nice drive and visit what is, in my opinion, one of the south’s better cities.

Thanks to the grandparents for making the visits to Chattanooga possible, and thanks to all of younfor stopping by. I hope you have a great day and a great weekend.