By Paige Atwell
From the lively night life to the exceptional hospitality, there are few spots that compare to the downtown Nashville dining scene. Likewise, rich with history and exuding decadence, there are few restaurants that compare to The Standard at the Smith House.
If you think the name sounds familiar, you’re probably right. The Smith House has remained a downtown staple since it was first built in 1840. Standing opposite of the abundance of new downtown construction and high-rises, it has certainly earned its place in the Nashville social scene over the years. In fact, it is the only grand townhouse remaining in downtown Nashville.
The home was originally owned and operated by the Claiborne family, who ran a boarding house that is said to have played home to some of Nashville’s most prominent citizens. In 1881, the home was purchased by prominent Jewish banker Julian Sax. A few years later, he leased the building to a social club named “The Standard Club,” an affluent social club that was home to members of some of Nashville’s most high society. In 1898, the home was purchased again by Dr. Giles Savage, who ran his medical practice in the building. It remained as such until it was bought again in 1980 by John W. Hunt and David Nelson, who turned it into a bed and breakfast.
In 2005, the home was purchased by the Smith family, who are responsible for its return to the original, Victorian glory that it is today. After running a successful real estate business, their son, Joshua, came up with the idea of running a restaurant in the downstairs portion of the house. Fast forward to today, and that ‘little restaurant’ has quickly flourished into one of Nashville’s premiere dining experiences. On the first floor, you’ll find a highly-rated, full service restaurant and bar open to the public. Also featured is a courtyard bar, perfect for after-dinner cocktails and cigars. Upstairs houses a private members club. While you don’t have to be a member to enjoy The Standard dining experience, being a member certainly has its perks. Along with the same prime cigar offerings, decadent interiors and bar services that all guests can enjoy downstairs, the club hosts a multitude of events for its members throughout the year in its grand, upstairs spaces. These include exclusive, high-end wine tastings, live boxing matches, holiday parties and more. In 2012, The Standard Club was named one of the top five cigar bars in the country.
Throughout its 179-year history, The Standard has taken on several faces, but the one thing that remains is the sheer opulence of the home. When you step through the door
of The Standard, you’re stepping into an old-world experience. From the parlor rooms and grand chandeliers, to the smell of divine cuisine, classic cocktails and premier cigar selection, it can only be described as something Fitzgerald himself would have dreamt up. When you walk through the doors, you’re greeted by a grand staircase and the one-of-a-kind hospitality of Mrs. Smith. According to her son, Joshua Smith, she’s part of the experience. “I love to come in at night and meet and greet everybody,” says Mrs. Smith.
As you head into the dining room, formerly used as a gentleman’s parlor, you’re met with white linen table cloths, striking chandeliers and the twinkling lights of the Nashville cityscape peeking through the grand windows. Everything about the look and feel of the house exudes splendor.
Thanks to Executive Chef Joe Shaw, the food is no exception. Like any true fine dining experience in the south, we started off with cocktails, and the Old Fashioned was the obvious choice. With its rich, Bulleit Rye bourbon, hints of cherry and a smoked orange to top it off, these combined flavors made for a warm, smooth classic cocktail. There is not a dish on the menu I can’t imagine it pairing well with.
While there was a plethora of delicious, southern-inspired appetizers to choose from, I had to go for the fried green tomatoes. There is nothing I love more than good fresh, produce, and these did not disappoint. With my first bite, I could instantly taste the warm, crisp corn meal in the batter. Topped with fresh crabmeat, this appetizer was a win-win.
I can easily say I was most excited for the main course. With all the great options on the menu, ranging from hearty steaks to fresh sea bass, it was nearly impossible to pick just one. Lucky for me,I got to pick two. The first one I tasted was The Standard Filet. According to the Executive Chef, The Standard only serves the freshest ingredients, and their meat is some of the finest USDA prime on the market. I have to say, I’ve had a lot of steaks, but this had to be one of the best. Not only did it have a lot of flavor, something that can be difficult to accomplish with a filet, but it cut like butter. It was accompanied with a truffle hash cake, The Standard special sauce and topped with crisp, fried sweet onions. Truly, does it get any better?
Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure. That is, until I got to the second entrée. I’ve never been much of a lamb eater, but the Leader’s Choice Grilled Rack of Lamb was phenomenal. Served on the bone, the meat had so much flavor. It was accompanied by peach preserves and a corn and okra succotash. Combined, it tasted like southern comfort on a plate.
Last but certainly not least, I finished up with one of their famous desserts. After all, there is always room for something sweet, right? Holding its own to its preceding dishes, The Standard Chocolate Mousse Cake was like heaven on a plate. The smooth slice of chocolate has a rich, chocolate crust, topped with chocolate mousse, caramel and chocolate drizzle and, because there is no such thing as too much chocolate, topped with chocolate candy pieces. It was smooth, rich and absolutely worth every bite.
To put it simply, The Standard is a five-star experience. From the service, ambience, history and incredible cuisine, it was unlike any other restaurant I’ve visited. “We want to give everyone a dining experience, and we want them to take their time. We don’t want to rush. We’re not perfect, but we try to do our very best for each customer,” explains Mrs. Smith. “We consider this our home, and we plan on it being in our family for a very long time.”
To learn more about The Standard, visit them at smithhousenashville.com, or give them a call at 615.254.1277.