When searching for an affordable but delicious place to dine, the local Farmers Market or a Kroger occupied strip mall are probably the last two places you would look. But then, how many times have you found yourself saying “It was in the last place I looked?”
Point in case; Bacon and Caviar Gourmet Catering and BBQ, two restaurants opened by caterers Paul Johnson and Ed Smith, one located in Farmers Market (B&C Market BBQ) and the other sitting in the south corner of the Kroger shopping center in Melrose (B&C Melrose BBQ).
While both locations offer a menu that promise good southern cooking with a gourmet flair or “Southern BBQ done right!” and scoop your choices from an on-site steam table, the two restaurants are as different in aesthetics and ambiance as the ingredients that make up their name.
B&C Market BBQ sits in the food court of Nashville’s Farmers Market where customers share dining space with fellow marketers who may choose to eat from a variety of neighboring restaurants, while the B&C Melrose location is a cozy, full-featured restaurant with an generous 50-seat heated patio that offers more of a party atmosphere and Yazoo beer on tap, completely obliterating the feeling of eating at a strip-center locale.
Both locations offer the same incredible aromas, flavors and quality, including pulled pork and chicken, beef brisket, ribs, smoked turkey breast and salmon smoked to perfection. But the main difference between B&C and other BBQ restaurants lies in the various original sauces, including sweet, tangy and hot and the wonderful variety of grits; grits that were voted in 2011 by the Nashville Scene as “Best in Nashville”. Though the grits menu changes daily, you can look forward to something delectably different like Buffalo Chicken Grits, Taco Grits, Jalapeno Grits and Garlic Cheese Grits.
Co-owner Paul Johnson took some time to give insight into how the restaurants were created, why the name Bacon and Caviar and their most popular items.
What lured you into the food world?
We participated in the Memphis in May BBQ cook-off a couple of times and friends began asking us to do little events for them. Our business began to grow out of that and eventually we had enough customers to try it full time. Also, I think we really wanted to do something more creative that we were in control of and cooking (and eating) was always something we both loved to do.
How did you get started?
We began smoking chickens in a big cast iron smoker in the driveway and cooking on a stove that had three working burners. Eventually, we moved to a small kitchen on Davidson Drive in west Nashville, where we were a couple of years before moving to the Nashville Farmer’s Market in 2008. We were the first of the new restaurants to open there as part of the Market’s revitalization). We opened our Melrose location in 2010 and moved the catering business there as well. We are currently looking for both a third restaurant location and a larger stand-alone home for the catering business. We both had unrelated jobs in the corporate world before starting our own business. Both of us have taken classes at Nashville State’s culinary arts program and have also taught ourselves a great deal of what we do.
Why Bacon & Caviar?
We both have southern roots as far as our food palettes go and we’ve aimed for food that was deeply southern in origin but with an upscale modern twist. So “Bacon & Caviar" seemed to fit the bill…at least after a good number of beers. We actually chose the name for our BBQ team at Memphis in May, and it became the name of our company and became a good metaphor for what we do.
Do you participate in community events?
We do not hold anything specific in any of our locations, but we do participate in an extensive number of charitable events and fundraisers (particularly those that help people who are a little bit out of the mainstream and can benefit from some assistance). In the last year, we have participated in a number of events for Nashville Cares, Our Kids, Make-a-Wish, WO Smith Music School, Nashville State Culinary Arts, Matthew 25, Music City Sisters, Nashville Conductors, a number of local schools, and Nashville Public Television. We also donate the food for the annual Wunderlust Party which raises funds for the Brooks Fund (part of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee).
What are your most popular items?
In the restaurant, our pork and chicken are staples and we get much praise for our beef brisket (even from transplanted Texans). Our mac-n-cheese is our bestselling side items, and we are known for our "grits of the day". For our catering business, our cornbread BLT that starts with a disk of our sweet corn bread with a ripe tomato slice, pesto, feta, red onion and of course bacon. We sort of created it by accident; we were short of ingredients for another dish and it was a big hit. We’ve made thousands of them.
You can view menus and find out more about Bacon and Caviar on their website