Lunch at Monell’s was like another Thanksgiving feast, except with strangers. My wife and son and I arrived in Nashville an hour before he was to catch a ride back to school. Fortunately, there was no wait for a table on a rainy Sunday while the Titans played across town. We sat at a long table for ten where everyone passed the meats and sides to their left.
The suggestion to eat at the family-style restaurant came from Mary Constantine, the food writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel. She responded via Twitter to an inquiry I had posted on Saturday. Mary promised that they would have excellent fried chicken, which they most certainly did.
Last year my family had a family-style meal at The Loveless Cafe, which still had the feel of a restaurant. At the Loveless, we sat at our own four-top table and chose meats and sides from a menu. Monell’s feels more like you’re visiting someone’s home. Unless you show up with your own party of ten, you’ll sit with some people you don’t know. There is no menu; you eat what’s on the table. The meat selection varies by the day of the week but skillet-fried chicken is served at every meal. Everything was tasty. I liked their fruit tea, which was made with sweet tea, orange juice, apple juice and pineapple juice. I also liked their banana pudding, which was so fresh that the Nilla Wafers still had some crunch.