That Which Makes Music City Worthwhile, Vol. I:
Outside the Bound'ry…
The Rose Pepper Cantina (1907 Eastland Ave., 615-227-4777). The lynchpin in the redevelopment of commerce along the Eastland corridor, the Rose Pepper sports an ample outdoor covered deck, quirky yet authentic southwestern recipes, and a Mexican martini which is about the best this side of Austin, TX. You get a selection of three salsas as you're seated (mild, spicy, and verde), and all of the concoctions on the menu which my wife & I have tried are excellent -- both for value and for whallop. The décor is tasteful and modern, with understated lighting and ample seating throughout. Live bands appear occasionally, and its state is normally best described as "packed," especially on weekends. Long-time Nashvillagers will remember this location as Joe's Diner, but it's come a long way since (as has the neighborhood). I believe that the restaurant is the upscaled counterpart to Inglewood dive Es Fernandos (4704 Gallatin Pk., 615-227-3060), which is always worth a stop for massive portions at minimal price.
While you're around East Nashville, and you're in the mood for bar-hopping, check out the Family Wash (2038 Greenwood Ave., 615-226-6070) for excellent crudites and a good, unpretentious selection of beverages. I have yet to visit the 3 Crow Bar (1024 Woodland St., 615-262-3345), as it supplanted the legendary Slow Bar, but it gets a lot of buzz. I don't know if it's well deserved. The buzz about Margot (1017 Woodland St., 615-227-4668), however, is richly deserved. Intimate, upscale, and -- yes -- a bit pretentious, but nothing that they can't back with the menu. Creative, sumptuous specials always available, but expect to spend some money. It ain't food; it's COO-zine. Reservations strongly recommended.