5 Great Seafood Dishes to Try in Nashville This Lent

5 to try: Fish Fridays

“Fish heads, fish heads/Roly-poly fish heads…” Do you remember this song? I don’t mean to imply that I included fish heads in this week’s column (I didn’t) or that I myself enjoy eating fish heads (the only heads of things I I eat come from chocolate bunnies), but a seafood theme reminds me of the song. In this Lenten season, many of us do not eat meat on Fridays, but compensate by eating seafood. True seafood lovers, of course, are not limited to Fridays. Or Lent. And that’s why I went fishing for some of the tastiest…ah, sorry about that. You deserve better. Here are your 5 to try.

—Ellen Margulies, for The Tennessean
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Clam pizza at Nicky's Coal Fired.

Nicky’s Charcoal Pizza

5026, boul. centenary
nickysnashville.com; 615-678-4289

Listen, America: we still need coal, if only to light the pizza ovens at Nicky’s. Baking pizza in thousand-degree charcoal ovens is an age-old Italian-American tradition, and Nicky’s continues that tradition with an oven called Enrico (really!), named after the owner’s great-grandfather. Sure, you could get a creature-free pie, but why would you when you can get authentic clams from Sapelo Island, Georgia? With Calabrian chiles and rosemary almond pesto, your artisan clam pizza made from a dough named Bert (really!) is the perfect answer to all your seafood pizza dreams.

Following:What’s on the menu at Nicky’s Coal Fired

Grilled catfish dinner at Loveless Cafe.

coffee without love

8400 Tennessee Highway 100
lovelesscafe.com; 615-646-9700

The catfish is the Southern Not-So-Gentleman Lawyer of the Waters, hanging out at the bottom of the river bed with his little whisker. I can almost imagine his little top hat and monocle, since he’s obviously not from that era. And, land attorneys, I’m not talking about all of you. Why, some of my best friends are lawyers (really). And even though avocados often grill people on the witness stand, I would never grill you with spicy Cajun seasoning and plate you with hush puppies and tartar sauce. If you want this kind of treatment, you have to go deep underwater, get caught, and end up in Loveless.

Following:Whether it’s cookies or beer, it’s all here at Loveless Cafe

Hot Shrimp Avocado Benedict at Fin & Pearl.

Fin & Pearl

211 12th Avenue S.
finandpearl.com; 615-577-6688

Hot Shrimp Avocado Benedict seems like a speakeasy password or Secret Service codename for someone who is both simple and complicated. But instead, it’s a way to do something different with avocado toast as well as a new take on Nashville Hot Chicken, a trend that, let’s face it, has seeped into other proteins in various ways. It’s OK; hot fish in Nashville is about as traditional as hot chicken, so why shouldn’t shellfish get in on the action? At Fin & Pearl, they do – on a toasted baguette with smashed avocado, curried chickpeas, mango, zucchini and ricotta salata.

Following:Fin & Pearl hooks in restaurants

Entree of scallops at Sinema.

Sinema

2600 Franklin Pike
sinemanashville.com; 615-942-7746

When I googled scallops, since I don’t know much about them, I learned the following. They are found all over the world. They reproduce by spawning, and you can look at a scallop and tell if it’s male or female (unless it’s wearing underwear). They swim by snapping their little bivalve shell halves together, though they only cheer. They have eyes. About 60 of them, and they’re a nice blue color. Yet we insist on eating them anyway, perhaps because they are so good with spinach orzotto, black garlic, browned butter, fried capers and lemon reseda. I will never be able to look them in the eye again.

Following:Sinema’s Richard Peterson on cheese, wine and Nashville

Smoked white fish at Kuchnia & Keller.

Kuchnia + Keller

1300 Third Avenue N.
kuchniaandkeller.com; 615-610-3384

I see no reason not to include certain Jewish specialties in this Lent column. My people know food. Although I am not Jewish myself, I come from a long line of Jews and proudly claim this part of my heritage. And, yes, I may be a bit of a meshuga, but it comes from both sides of the family. Just go to K+K and try the smoked white fish with a schmaltz hash brown. For you goyim, schmaltz is melted chicken fat that makes everything crazy and delicious. Eat a little. You’ll feel better, believe me. And call your mom from time to time. And if you think that warning comes from my Jewish side, know that it comes from my very Meshuga, very Southern Baptist mother.

Following:Review: Kuchnia + Keller Channels Comfort Food From Eastern Europe, Through Wisconsin

Dino S. Williams