The rebuilding of the East side of town has been a constant process of change over the last decade. Some of the freshest food and many of the eateries that are at the forefront of the “Eat Local” movement are based on that side of the river.
The Rosepepper Cantina is one of those trendy, but not pretentious, eateries on the East side of Nashville. It has the place of pride as one of the instigators of the rebirth of this side of town. In fact it has watched in bemusement as Rosepepper has become the center of a renewed neighborhood that is “THE place to be” according to restaurants website.
The chef explains that the Mexican tradition behind Rosepepper is the Sonora style of cuisine. This melds the traditional Mexican and Native American staples of beans, corn, potatoes and peppers with a healthy dose of influence from Spanish and French cooking. According to Rosepepper’s description, this style eliminates the heat but leaves all the flavor.
I have been twice recently, and my tendency when I eat Mexican is to gravitate towards pork dishes. I think pork carries the mix of flavors in Mexican food better than beef or chicken. I grew up in New Mexico and lived along the Rio Grande for 20 years so I consider myself to have a very well educated palate for this kind of food.
The inside has the feel of a beach side dive with a large bar area, some inside seating and a large covered patio. Strings of Christmas lights and delightfully tacky Mexicana gaudily but proudly mark the walls in a sort of tongue in cheek self mockery. They won’t win any awards for the decorations but they will definitely make you smile.
They serve chips and salsa (of course) but they serve three kinds of salsa. A salsa verde, and two kinds of red, one of which I think is a based on a smoked chile and has a deeper flavor. All are very good and not overly hot.
The first time I was there I had the classic pork carnitas which were well prepared and served simply with corn tortillas, rice and beans and a small guacamole and pico de gallo salad. The pork was done perfectly and full of flavor.
The second time I started with the queso blanco with chorizo before moving on to lunch with my companions. This appetizer should come with a discount coupon for a cardiologist but it was oh SO tasty.
My companions opted for the burritos, which they raved about, but I saw the phrase muy caliente on the menu and I was drawn into the challenge.
The Chile Verde is a spicy cauldron of pork and green chile sauce served with a side of flour tortillas. The pork is slow cooked to tender perfection and even with my iron clad palate the heat was palpable. I broke a sweat even with a cool wind blowing across the patio. I also ate every single bite!
The serving sizes at Rosepepper are indecently huge and the fact that none of us asked for a doggy bag is only a testament to the gluttony we showed that day. Most normal human beings should plan on taking a box home.
This native New Mexican HIGHLY recommends Rosepepper and I am already plotting my next return trip.
1907 Eastland Avenue
Nashville, TN 37206