Silver Sands Café, 937 Locklayer St., in Nashville.
Silver Sands Café is unashamedly old school. The historic Meat and Three serves up soulful food that has stood the test of time for over 75 years.
In addition to the much-loved fried chicken, corned beef and turkey with dressing, Silver Sands offers lesser-known items such as tenderloins, pork feet, pork loins and neck bones. His menu is deeply rooted in black comfort foods made tender and delicious despite the circumstances. The fact that they’re on the Silver Sands menu is a testament to a history that has shaped what we know as Southern food.
Silver Sands is in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood just a few blocks from the Nashville Farmers Market. The orange and white checkerboard exterior invites you into the cozy, wood-dominated interior with a solid line of diners heading to the steamy tables on the buffet line. The menu changes daily, but always has superb fried chicken, roast chicken, beef, pork chops and catfish fried to order.
It’s worth checking the restaurant’s website for daily specials. You’ll want to rush in on a Sunday, Thursday, or Friday for the oxtails. They are meltingly tender and enveloped in a deeply flavorful sauce. Likewise, on Sundays and Fridays it’s a good idea to try their turkey served with a comforting, moist dressing.
And now a few words about the countries. More specifically, the macaroni and cheese. This is the best mac and cheese in Nashville, maybe in the state. The baked casserole is intensely cheesy with perfectly al dente noodles. It is seasoned liberally and topped with a layer of crumbled cheese before going into the oven. When scooped into a serving, the bites of the cheese-drenched noodles and the crunchy cheese topping blend together for the perfect marriage. This is perfection. Other options available daily are apple fritters, silky braised cabbage, buttery mashed potatoes, okra, butternut squash and sweet potatoes.
Silver Sands is one of the few restaurants in Nashville that offers cornbread with hot water. A staple of church socials for decades, hot water cornbread is made using boiling water in the dough. The individual cornbread cakes are fried, not baked, resulting in a super crispy exterior and fluffy interior.
The cafe serves breakfast Tuesday through Friday and is worth an early morning stop. Common offerings include biscuit sandwiches and breakfast platters, but you can also get apple fritters, salmon croquettes, fried bologna and rice. The basic cooking is done well.
It’s almost a miracle that Silver Sands is still serving food. In March 2020, the catastrophic tornado that hit Nashville ripped the restaurant’s roof off. Just a few weeks later, the pandemic shut everything down. The double whammy caused Silver Sands to close for a bit. But the community—including some very influential chefs in Nashville—rallied together to raise money for renovations, and Silver Sands reopened to serve the community it has embraced for more than seven decades.
A sign at the front of the restaurant reads “Good food for your soul.” Yes, it is, indeed.
Kathryn Mayhew is a former restaurant critic for The Charlotte Observer, cookbook author and master barbecue judge. Follow her @thesouthinmymouth on Instagram to see what she’s eating and email her at [email protected] with suggestions for your favorite restaurants and food trucks.