Pivoting in Nashville: State Fair Menus and Staycation Dinners

Adele's State Fair Menu elevated fair food that everyone craved but couldn’t enjoy this year, as the state fair was cancelled due to COVID-19. (Adele's Nashville)

Nashville, Tenn. restaurants and bars have pivoted, like most restaurants around the world, by rolling out innovative programming to drive customers – demonstrating why Nashville's food scene is so worthy of the attention that it receives.

New city restrictions started last month, and capacity is currently restricted to 50 percent with social distancing for bars and restaurants, and 10 p.m. is the last call for food and drinks (as of press time). All gatherings are restricted to eight people at a restaurant.

Restaurants and bars may continue seated-only service at bar counters with social distancing between parties, and standing at the bar counter is not permitted. In December, local officials and the Metro Health Department will reassess and determine if a new order needs to be issued.

Here are a few unique offerings that Nashville-area restaurants are offering in response to COVID-19:

State Fair Menus
Adele's State Fair Menu elevated fair food that everyone craved but couldn’t enjoy this year, as the state fair was cancelled due to COVID-19. The menu ran this fall, alongside the restaurant’s regular menu. The menu items were decadent and could be paired with one of the special State Fair Cocktails – all of which were inspired by and named after different rides and attractions found at the fair. 

"We wanted a menu that was a play on all the fun and interesting foods that people love and crave from the state fair – that was canceled this year due to COVID – so we took Adele's, which is a fairly sophisticated environment, to create some fun for our guests in such stressful times," said Howard Greenstone, founding partner of Red Pebbles Hospitality, the group behind Adele’s.

Staycation Dinner Series
The 404 Kitchen launched a Staycation Dinner Series over the summer and it’s currently serving its last menu. During a time when travel has largely been put on hold, the staycation series highlights different food cultures through a collaboration with executive chef Matt Bolus and another celebrated (and sometimes celebrity chef). Participating chefs included Marcus Samuelsson, Andrew Zimmern and Carla Hall. Running alongside the seasonal dinner menus, all menu items can be ordered for dine-in and takeout. 

"When coming up with the Staycation Dinner Series, we really wanted to provide guests with a safe dining experience where people can experience multiple cuisines and chefs, while not having to leave their city," said Greenstone of Red Pebbles Hospitality, which also runs The 404 Kitchen.

"The impact on our business has been outstanding,” added Executive Chef Bolus. “Not only has it kept our regulars coming back more often, but it has helped us attract new guests that have always wanted to try the guest chefs’ food. It’s been a fun time for guests and staff alike."

The 404 Kitchen Nashville
The 404 Kitchen in Nashville launched a Staycation Dinner Series during the pandemic.

Virtual Pizza-Making Classes
Emmy Squared Pizza – a Detroit-style pizza restaurant in Nashville – partnered with Goldbelly to host online pizza making classes with founder and namesake Emily Hyland. Participants registered online and were overnighted the needed ingredients to execute a signature pizza, the class cocktail, the frico crust dough and a Detroit-style pizza pan.

Scheduled classes are held monthly but are also available for a private session and a great option for virtual birthday parties, online corporate team building and other gatherings while staying safe. 

"During the pandemic economy, restaurants have had no choice but to adapt, evolve and become agile,” said Hyland. “At Emmy Squared, we began hosting online pizza-making classes as a way to build a bridge towards guests in their homes and give them the opportunity to interact with ingredients and flavors that make their favorite pizza. This has turned into an unexpected avenue of interest for our clients and a fun way for me to ‘touch tables’ from a distance."

Emmy Squared Pizza Nashville
Emmy Squared Pizza partnered with Goldbelly to host online pizza making classes with its founder.

Watch for more articles in Bar & Restaurant’s “Pivoting” editorial series. How are you adapting, surviving or innovating? Let us know. Email Aaron Kiel with the Questex Hospitality / Bar & Restaurant editorial team at [email protected].