Art of Food
It’s been said that word of mouth is the best form of advertising, and that’s certainly true of the new La Casa Mexican Restaurant on Ft Campbell Blvd.
After hearing rave reviews from Q108’s Ryan and Gretchen in the Morning, I decided to try a taste for myself and invited several co-workers along.
I’ll say here what I told some other friends afterwards; “We have a new Mexican Restaurant to go to.”
(SEE ADDITIONAL PHOTOS HERE)
Located just this side of Dover Road, this intimate place would be hard to miss if not for the attention grabbing sign out front that reads “.99 Cent Tacos.”
“That’s our specialty,” said Beth Tejeda who operates La Casa with her husband Juan. His authentic cooking and her personal service really give the La Casa dining experience the feeling you might get at a roadside eatery in Mexico. The tacos? Not the usual, according to Beth. “When people think of tacos they think of the crispy tortilla shell with some ground beef, lettuce and cheese, maybe a soft tortilla. In Mexico they very rarely eat ground beef and they certainly don’t eat tacos on a flour tortilla or a crispy taco shell.” La Casa’s .99 cent tacos come on soft white corn tortillas, your choice of any of their ten freshly prepared meats, onions and cilantro - just like the tacos found at taco stands in Mexico, Texas and California. Beth is very enthusiastic going from table to table helping diners make their selections based on their likes and dislikes.
La Casa aims to be different than other Mexican restaurants in Clarksville, “Our goal was to introduce Clarksville to truly authentic Mexican food and that means having things on the menu people have not heard of before or that are prepared in a way they are not familiar with.” Juan hand-carves all meats and blends each of the seven salsas in the kitchen. Guacamole is prepared when it is ordered, there isn’t a fresher guacamole in town.
Another popular item at La Casa that is not standard for American-style Mexican food is the Grilled Torta, a Mexican sandwich on a soft bun filled with your choice of meat and beans, lettuce, onion, avocado, cilantro and mayonnaise. “Many people are unaware that Mexicans eat a lot of sandwiches, but they do. It’s common there and that’s why we offer them.” Beth said.
La Casa also offers tamales, gorditas, and sopes, all made from scratch with masa - tortilla dough. “It’s something like a corn pancake, though not sweet.” Served with beans, meats, lettuce and cheese, gorditas and sopes are made to order. Tamales are also made in-house, often with customers ordering them by the dozens.
Perhaps the best way to experience La Casa is to go in and explain what you like and have Beth make suggestions as she did for our visit. I brought five guests that were new to La Casa, and from Beth’s suggestions, they ordered pork tips, .99 cent tacos, of course, mini chimichangas (the platter includes one each of chicken, beef, chorizo and shrimp served with cheese dip, lettuce, sour cream, tomato and pico de gallo), gorditas and Pollo Monterrey. The verdict was unanimous for every dish; “every item on my plate had a distinct flavor, you can taste every bite,” “you can taste the difference of food made fresh, like this” and again, “fresh, awesome…the best in town.”
For an authentic beverage, there is imported Coke from Mexico (made with pure cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup) and Agua de Horchata (rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon) which tastes a little like rice pudding, delicious.
Prices are in the $5 to $10 range for most dishes with chips and salsa at $1.49 and appetizers $3.99 or less.
La Casa Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria
916 Providence Boulevard, Clarksville
Visit them on Facebook.
Food aficionado Art Conn has graciously allowed me, Nicole June, to be a guest blogger for the Art of Food. Never fear, Art will be back next time to tickle your taste buds with his nuggets of culinary wisdom.
As a young, single, over-scheduled woman, it is often difficult to find the time and means to feed myself. I have recently been looking for new establishments to quickly stuff my face, as most of my usual haunts are attached to a drive-thru.
Lo and behold, Clarksville has welcomed a new joint made especially for the stressed and kitchen-illiterate: Wicked Good Sandwiches, conveniently located on College Street across from the APSU campus.
I have personally always felt Clarksville is run amok with chains, so this family-owned business is just what our town needs.
Sarah Copeland and I tried the place out, and we were instantly impressed by the laid-back, quiet atmosphere. (Note: this place is fully decked out in Boston sports memorabilia, so watch what you wear when you go in!)
The three small booths provide an ideal private hangout after a long day of class or work. Two wall-mounted TVs play classic and alternative rock videos, but not so loud as to be distracting.
The staff is friendly and attentive, but won’t intrude on your dining experience. They understand that you want to slip into a food coma in peace.
Oh yeah, the food. The menu is small, which helps people who often pore over a large menu for 20 minutes and eventually get a cheeseburger (you know who you are). These people are in luck, because the menu includes cheeseburgers, as well as specialty sandwiches, fries, egg rolls, and a mozzarella/pepperoni combo inside an egg roll casing. Naturally, I had to order two, and they were beyond delicious, albeit fattening.
Sarah ordered the Philly cheese steak and fries, and I ordered a turkey pesto sandwich. I must say every green flake left in my teeth was worth it. The sandwiches were fresh, hot, and flavorful.
We were most surprised by the cheap prices. The majority of the meals can be purchased for $10 or less, which isn’t bad, especially since we walked away full and happy.
Our consensus was 4 YUMS on the Art of Food rating scale, and we will be dragging Art there as soon as we get the chance. I look forward to getting three mozzarella sticks next time.
The Art of Food – Art’s Day-After-Christmas-Brunch
By Art Conn
Being a bachelor, I don’t do much cooking for myself much less entertaining with my clever ideas for dinner. This could be the reason I go out to restaurants so much.
There is one day a year that I set aside for finding out what the kitchen is all about and endeavor to feed my friends things I think they will enjoy.
For the past 5 or 6 years it’s been a tradition that I serve brunch on the day after Christmas. Most of my friends are well over the ham and turkey feast that have been put before them and welcome something different.
The first year, I took two of my mother’s favorite breakfast recipes and made them for my guests. They all seemed to love it or pretended to so I’ve kept it up each year. Each year I know what I’m making and each year my friends know what to expect.
I’m going to give you the recipes at the end of this. My mother left these recipes in her recipe box that I inherited but I’m sure they’re not original and you probably have ones of your own. But I wanted to share them with you anyway.
I also wanted to share with you the way I pull this whole entertaining thing off.
Since I only have two dishes that I make and by themselves it wouldn’t be a complete meal, I always answer the question, “what can I bring?”, with a list of things they can bring to make the “brunch” complete.
My two dishes are an egg and sausage casserole and a hash brown casserole. I make sure to let my friends bring something that will compliment these. Usually someone brings fruit, orange juice, biscuits or something else.
This way if you’re on a budget, you only have to buy ingredients for two casseroles and you’ve got leftovers for the week.
I try to make the dining room as festive as possible to make the meal seem more expensive and worth the trip to my house for my guests. I keep the Christmas tree and holiday decorations up and then throw a red tablecloth and green napkins on my hand-me-down dining table. It’s a wonder what a cheap red cloth can do for a dining room.
I also inherited a set of REAL silverware and use it on this one special day. That makes a nice impression.
Okay, so the table is set, the friends come and bring food and I serve up my casseroles and take the credit for a glorious After Christmas Brunch.
Here are the two recipes… enjoy!
Dottie’s Egg and Sausage Casserole
1 lb. sausage (fried and crumbled)
6 slices of toasted bread, cubed
1 medium bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
(save some to put on top*)
1 ½ cups of milk
salt and pepper
Mix ingredients in bowl.
Pour into greased shallow baking dish
* sprinkle top with saved cheese
Bake @ 350 degrees for 45 minutes
Serve HOT out of the oven.
Dottie’s Hash brown Casserole
2 lbs hash browns – thawed
1 stick of melted butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp dry onion
salt, pepper, parsley
Mix these together and pour into 9 x 13 dish
Top with 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed corn flakes
drizzle 2 tbsp of the melted butter over the top
Bake @ 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Note: both of these dishes call for 45 minutes at 350 degrees so it’s easy to bake both at the same time and both will come out just right. Trust me.
Have a Happy Holiday!
The Art of Food – Cracker Barrel
By Art Conn
I know, I know, I’m doing another “chain” restaurant. But I wanted to let the people who have never experienced a Cracker Barrel, know what they’ve been missing.
Talk about “comfort food”, this is the place to get it. From meat loaf and mashed potatoes, to pinto beans and turnip greens, this place has just what your mama cooked and made you eat every bite of before you could have dessert.
If you’ve traveled along or lived near any interstate you’ve probably seen one, stopped at one or made it a destination place. It’s just plain good eatin’ at a good price served from friendly waiters.
My lunch partners and I made a date to go this week. (one of them actually moonlights there)
I had my favorite, steak and biscuits with steak fries.
Miss Content Editor (Sarah) had the Spicy Grilled Catfish Filet.
And Blondie (Nicole) had the Grilled Chicken Tenderloin.
My tenderloin was perfect and the biscuits they came on made me wish we had dined for breakfast so I could have gotten the gravy to smother them with. There was no steak sauce needed for these tender and juicy chunks of meat. Delicious!
Blondie scarfed down her chicken so fast I didn’t notice she was already finished by the time I was working on my second biscuit.
Miss Content Editor, who eats her portions individually, finished her veggies and then her fish and immediately gave it 4 YUMS. As did blondie. (they know my scoring system)
The ambiance at the Cracker Barrel is that of an old country store and you can marvel at all the antiques on the wall or play a mind bender game while waiting for your food…which didn’t take long at all.
It’s rather loud in the dining room so if you’re taking your loved one there to propose to, you might want to rethink that. And you don't have to dress up, although a pink feather boa always gets you noticed.
I’m giving Cracker Barrel a definite 4 YUMS. They’re located on the other side of I-24 off exit 4. The wait might be a while but it’s worth it and you can browse the country store while you’re waiting.
The Art of Food – New York Pizza Depot
By Art Conn
Rob Selkow, Digital News Director for 5 Star Radio, suggested I go to New York Pizza Depot for my blog. I told him that I wasn’t a big fan of pizza. He urged me to go with the promise that they also had a great hot dog.
We decided to take our whole Clarksvillenow.com crew with us since, according to Rob, was a great place with great prices.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, the new location on University Avenue didn’t have the great hot dog Rob spoke of, so I decided to join the group in their pizza.
I must say that I was disappointed in the lack of hot dogs, but I wasn’t disappointed with the pizza. I loved the thin crust and the greasy toppings and the cheesy cheese.
They have a special of 2 slices of pizza and a drink for just $3.99. Good deal. And I’m sure it’s going to go over with the college crowd since it’s within walking distance of Austin Peay.
The consensus of Rob, Lee, Sarah and Nicole was 3.5 YUMS. And I agree. If you like pizza, I think you’re going to love New York Pizza Depot.
They’re located in the old Ice House Café building on University. And if you go, tell them Clarksvillenow.com sent you.
The Art of Food – Rudy’s Diner
By Art Conn
A couple of years ago, I was making a weekly stop at Rudy’s Diner on Madison Street. Almost every Sunday morning my friends and I would meet there for breakfast.
For some reason I got out of that habit. I found myself missing the place, so, this past Sunday I went back and decided to write about it.
It was like stepping back in time. Nothing had changed. Even one of the waitresses said, “well, haven’t seen you in a while”. Gee, they remembered me.
I sat down at one of the “spring-loaded” booths and ordered my usual, 2 eggs over medium, bacon, hash browns and a short stack of pancakes. My friends ordered the country ham with their breakfast.
My eggs were perfect, the bacon was crisp and although the hash browns were a little burnt, they were still delicious. And the pancakes looked like the picture on a syrup bottle. Perfection.
I tried some of the country ham and it tasted like it was right off the farm. Delicious.
Now here’s the thing about Rudy’s… it’s a small place. That’s means you sometimes have to wait for a booth or sit at the counter. And when you get that booth you have people standing around waiting for you to finish so they can take your place. So don’t dawdle!
The waitresses know this and they take your order, bring you your food, get your ticket and you’re all set to make room for the next person. It’s not that they rush you, it’s just that they want you to Get In, Eat, Get Out! This is especially great if you’re in a hurry to get to early Mass.
I’ve been there for a lunch a couple of times and their burgers are just as good as 5 Guys (and I really like 5 guys burgers. See previous blog)
So Rudy’s Diner gets a hearty 3 YUMS. Good food. Good, friendly and fast service. They’re located on Madison St. across from Publix… and 5 Guys Burgers.
And, no, they don’t have Alfredo Sauce.
The Art of Food – Five Guys Burgers and Fries
By Art Conn
Well, everyone’s talking about it so I thought I’d go and find out what all the fuss was about.
Yep, I found out. As soon as you walk in the door, you feel like this is going to be something to write about. The atmosphere was fast paced and happy. There were so many people working behind the counter, it reminded me of bees on a hive.
The menu doesn’t take long to survey. Hopefully you’ll want a burger and fries.
I hope they don’t mind me calling them fast-food, because it really was pretty fast, especially during the lunch rush hour. The place was full and my friends and I had to find a table outside, which turned out to be perfect on such a beautiful day.
But I digress. You want to know about the burger and fries, right?
Much to my pleasure, and my friends’, the burger was absolutely delicious. The regular burger comes with two patties of good beef and you get to order exactly what you want on it. These aren’t mass-produced.
I was the only one to order a cheeseburger with bacon. The Bacon was perfection.
After my first bite I was sure I was going to give this place 4 YUMS.
But then I tasted the fries. They were a little too limp for me. I was disappointed. The fact that they load your brown bag with them helped a little bit but unless you like your fries limp and greasy, you’re not going to think they’re the best.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had worse fries but since the burger was so delicious, I wanted the fries to match.
So Five Guys Burgers and Fries gets 3.5 YUMS. And you can tell from the look on my friends’ faces that they enjoyed the meal. So go and try them yourself. You might just disagree with me.
Five Guys is located in the Publix lot on Madison St.
The Art of Food – Publix
By Art Conn
I know what you’re saying to yourself… a grocery store? On a food blog?
Remember, it’s the “Art of FOOD”, not Art of Restaurants.
I am continuing my quest to visit places that were nominated in the March of Dimes Best of Clarksville. So, here’s the back-story.
As a committee member of the Best of Clarksville event, we pick the categories for people to nominate their favorites. Under “places to get sushi”, you people nominated Publix. Ergo, my choice to try them out.
I am not an avid grocery shopper and this was only my second time inside Publix. Nice place. I found the seafood section and then the display with all the varieties of pre-packaged sushi.
Decisions, decisions. I’m not a sushi connoisseur, so I just picked the package that looked the most appetizing.
It was the “Crunchy Roll”. There were 10 or 12 pieces in the package. (I can’t remember exactly because I had eaten a few before I counted them and forgot how many I had already eaten).
They were quite tasty. Better than what you get on the local Chinese buffets. They had a spicy sauce swirled on top of them which was a little on the hot side but tolerable. And it came with a packet of soy sauce which was really good.
I’m giving Publix sushi 3 YUMS. It was really good and more than enough to fill me up and in fact I left two pieces. BUT, for the price of $7.99 I could have gotten the whole Chinese buffet AND sushi.
I just looked at the picture above and realized there were in fact 12 pieces. The label is covering up two of them.
The Art of Food – Relish, A Unique Eatery
By Art Conn
Don’t judge a book by its cover. How many times have you heard that? And how many times does it apply to a restaurant?
I made the assumption that Relish was a small deli style sandwich shop. Was I ever wrong.
When I walked in to the “strip mall” entrance, I didn’t expect to see such an appealing décor. And my questioning of how they were nominated for best Italian Restaurant in the March of Dimes Best of Clarksville Event was dispelled when I looked at the menu. It is indeed an Italian inspired eatery.
The menu boasts lots of pasta dishes and pizza and Italian sauces. My appetizer was a basket of delicious bread with three dipping sauces, Italian oil, Marinara and yes, my favorite, Alfredo sauce.
Since it was lunchtime, I ordered the egg salad sandwich and a side of pasta salad. My friend, Sandra, ordered a bowl of Tomato Soup and half of a chicken salad sandwich.
Since I haven’t had an egg salad sandwich in a very long time, I was looking forward to the promise of homemade egg salad. And I wasn’t disappointed. I even asked the owner if she had indeed made the egg salad herself and she guaranteed it. It was delicious.
Sandra raved about her chicken salad, especially about the grapes that were added to the mix. She loved the sandwich and was impressed with her “extra creamy” tomato soup.
This was a good lunch.
So don’t let the exterior fool you. You must try Relish for the first time or go back and try it again if you went before the remodel.
I’m giving Relish 3 ½ YUMS. And I will go back for dinner and try the more Italian fare.
And I must add a special “Happy Birthday” to my friend Linda Cunningham, who was celebrating her day at Relish while I was there.
Relish, A Unique Eatery, is located at 149 Kender Rhea Ct. next to Appleton’s on the by-pass.
The Art of Food – Woody’s Hand Tossed Pizza
By Art Conn
Another week and another category of the March of Dimes Best of Clarksville restaurant nominees. This week it was Best Place to get a Pizza and with a new Pizza place opening up, I decided to kill two birds with one pizza.
The new Woody’s Hand Tossed Pizza opened up right across the street from me so it was a no-brainer. BUT I’m not a big fan of pizza so I was glad to see a pasta list on the menu.
I decided to take two friends who I know liked Pizza to give me their input. One actually worked as manager of a local pizza franchise, so I figured I could get a good comparison.
The Woody’s in Sango has the luck of having chosen a strip mall with a round turret as its focal point. This makes for a really nice dining room. The décor is festive and fun and even though they have a bar and serve beer, it’s okay to take the kids.
Now, on to the food. I ordered the linguini Alfredo and I must say it was the best Alfredo sauce I’ve had. I want them to sell it by the bottle. It was bubbling hot and was served with 2 large slices of garlic bread. Delicious.
My friends each order a small pizza. One veggie and the other one a Bacon Double cheese Burger Pizza. They both said they were delicious. Even the experienced pizza maker said you could tell the dough was made fresh and it had the perfect sweetness.
And by the way, you can watch your pizza being made and actually see them “hand toss” the dough.
He also added that they didn’t scrimp on the toppings. Unlike most franchises where they count the pepperoni and then take a few off to save money, these pizzas were loaded. Even the veggie had a lot of veggies. Although, why you’d want all that many vegetables on a pizza is beyond me. But to each his or her own.
Now here’s the kicker. When the check arrived, I thought they had made a mistake. The total bill was half of what I expected. Hurray! A nice place to take a cheap date!
(yes, I meant to say that)
All in all it’s a great place for dining. Great food, great wait staff, and the ambiance is fun and upbeat. I’m giving it 3 ½ YUMS!
Woody’s Hand Tossed Pizza is located on Madison St across from the Sango Wal-Mart and they have 3 other locations around the city. They’re open from 11am to 10pm weekdays and 11am to 11pm on Friday and Saturday.