The opposite of local
The night before I started my trip into the Eat Locally experiment, I was so scared of giving up the complete opposite of local. I wanted to eat out for dinner, and the most opposite of Eating Local I could think of, without completely going fast food, was the Fifth Quarter off of Murfreesboro Rd and East Thompson Lane. The Fifth Quarter was born in the 1970s in Nashville, then 2 others opened in Charleston WV, and Louisville. The Fifth Quarter Steakhouse was built in a way to mimic the Brown Derby, sort of, but with wood paneling and vinyl instead of cherry wood and red leather. The concept of this 1970s restaurant is completely like the Steak and Ale, or other 1970s mid-range steakhouse accessible to the masses. Today, the Fifth Quarter has not really received any updating. The wood is worn, the tiled and carpeted floors have been walked on for 30 years. The salad bar still has a lot of canned fruit and chow mein noodles to put on refrigereated pewter plates. The rolling seats are worn 1970s cream colored vinyl. This place is a complete throwback to the 1970s. Everytime I go in to this place, I feel nostalgic for my childhood. When it was my birthday, my parents let me choose my birthday dinner. One year, in the 1970s, I picked the Brown Derby. For whatever it is worth, the Fifth Quarter takes me back to that time.
What I also remember from the 1970s, as a child in Southern California, is that it was the 1st time I heard about globalization of food. I remember going to lunch at a little soup and salad place in Brentwood, CA (aka the home of O. J. Simpson) and they had a fresh artichoke salad all year long. My mom was in awe, and said that she did not realize artichokes were in season. The cafe owner said they they import the artichokes, so they were able to serve this delicious dish all year long. Isn't it funny how now California is not leading the Eat Locally movement, after leading the globalization of food movement back in the 1970s.
Anyway, back to present time, I doubt that the Fifth Quarter has one local source supplier, and most of the food is probably canned and provided by some food service like Sysco, the leading food distributor in Nashville. I am sure that there has not been one local strawberry, or one fresh peach in this place. The lettuce has to be from far away lands. The beef, probably from the industrial slaughterhouse in Colorado, as written about in Fast Food Nation. This is as far opposite as I could think of for anti-local eating, while still having a decently prepared meal with tasty food.
The salad bar at this place is so old school, and completely 1970s. They still use pewter plates, which I hate the feeling of forks rubbing against the pewter. I usually ask for a regular plate, but this time I went "all in" with the pewter. The salad bar has canned fruits, canned olives, canned beans, creamy potato salad, pasta salad, cubes of cheese, sunflower seeds, industrial bacon bits, and iceburg and romaine lettuce. Most of the dressings are the old school ranch, blue cheese, thousand island and a cesear to go with the "make your own cesear salad" section of the salad bar.
Here is my main entree. I got a very rare prime rib plate with a baked potato with extra hydrogenated oil compound (they called it butter, but I think it was whipped margerine) and sour cream. The reality is that the Fifth Quarter does make a good prime rib, and probably one of the best in town. I have gone to a few other steak places in town, and the Fifth Quarter is the tastiest. The service is all very Nashville. There always seems to be earnest college aged servers who are very friendly in a Nashville kind of way, and they are in the uniform that was probably 1st agreed upon by the owners during the 1st day they were opened.
I ate my meal, relishing each bite. I was thinking that I would have to give up beef, sour cream, potatoes and the 50 item salad bar. I was certain I would miss the beef and salad bar. Little did I know, there is a local beef supplier that sells at the Franklin Farmer's Market, and there are plenty of tasty veggies grown locally for me and I do not miss the crazy salad bar toppings.
What is in store with my frequenting the Fifth Quarter? I probably will again. They are the only place in town that does serve a really rare Prime Rib. I mean, cold and red in the middle, not pink and medium done, I mean nearly mooing. I probably won't go there again this year, but 2008, when I want to get that 1970's feeling again, I will go back.