Call it burgers and steak with a kick.
We're talking about filet mignon, rib-eye and Short Mountain Shine Burgers, all delectable delights awaiting those who beat a path to the Stillhouse Restaurant, which recently became a next-door neighbor to Short Mountain Distillery in the spring-green heart of Cannon County.
The menu, a work in progress, is all about meals crafted from the nearest meats and vegetables possible.
As for the kick to the taste buds, "All the beef and lamb are moonshine-mash fed, free-range, non-hormone, non-antibiotic raised on 300 acres here at Little Short Mountain Farm," said Todd Hollandsworth, proprietor of the restaurant, open Thursdays through Sundays.
Located about nine miles northeast of Woodbury, the restaurant offers more than just a road trip for the tummy.
"When folks come here they will be seeing a jewel set in 300 acres of pristine farmland with an active farm all around us as well as the beautiful rolling hills of Cannon County," says Hollandsworth of the site, about an hour drive from Lebanon.
"Inside will be beautiful local art created by Middle Tennessee artists. So we offer an art menu along with the food menu. People will enjoy a relaxed time with family as they escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy time in the country."
As for that menu, which features everything from fried-green tomatoes, soups, salads and Southern-fried chicken to chicken-fried sirloin, shrimp and grits, fried catfish and boneless pork chops, the owner says, "The food style is elegant Southern with menu items being pulled from the past and the South. I'm using old cookbooks, some of them over 100 years old, finding recipes that people don't cook anymore and trying to bring them back with a little modern flair."
Hollandsworth, who worked 16 hours a day for the three weeks leading up to the May 16 opening, says the debut went well.
"We had a great turnout. We were booked with reservations from 3 p.m. on. So the kitchen got a taste of being overworked a little bit, but they rose to the occasion. It went as smoothly as an opening could go."
Among the first diners to bite into hot dishes that Saturday were Patrick and Annette Keeter of Spring Hill. He had a burger, fries and the quesadilla appetizer. She had pasta and beef.
"It was great. I also had the cauliflower bisque and spinach salad. Everything was so good," said Annette. "We're coming back next Sunday to try the dinner menu."
Connection with local magazine a win-win
Tourists getting a taste of authentic Middle Tennessee products is a good thing, a goal that Lisa Shively, editor and publisher of Local Table Magazine, is pushing as her publication spreads the good news as a local guide to food and farms in the mid-state area. Thus, she is hosting "Local Table on the Mountain" the evening of Saturday, June 6. (See details in info box.)
"I'm so excited we're doing our first farm-to-table event with the folks at Short Mountain and the Stillhouse Restaurant," said Shively, who writes from the Pleasant Shade community of Smith County. "Their practices and aesthetics are perfectly aligned with everything Local Table is passionate about--building community and using local producers. Our aim is to connect consumers with local food and food artisans.
"We chose to partner with Stillhouse because they are a new farm-to-table venture and part of the Short Mountain Distillery. Short Mountain is a working, certified organic farm growing most of their own corn and using spring water for their moonshine. They have brought back a tradition in Cannon County that was once a major piece of the agricultural landscape prior to Prohibition."
Hollandsworth is doing his dead-level best to get fresh foods from farms as close as possible.
"We will be getting local produce out of D&D Farms in Liberty. They planted their whole crop for us. When it comes in, we'll be getting virtually every vegetable we want from them: tomatoes, squash, zucchini, onions, potatoes."
Hollandsworth sees his customer base as being all of Middle Tennessee, from Nashville into the Upper Cumberland area, and is marketing Rutherford, Wilson, Putnam, DeKalb, Coffee, Bedford, Williamson and Cannon counties.
"We're looking to bring in people from everywhere, from a young couple seeking to have an intimate dinner to those celebrating an anniversary and families coming to roam around and enjoy the property. We offer a lunch box for a picnic on the property. We would like for people living in the big cities, who don't get a chance to see how beautiful the country is, to come take a tour of the farm and distillery and then eat with us."
Chef who has worn many hats
As for the eats, the man commanding the kitchen is veteran chef Paulino Solorzano, who says, "I've been dreaming of a farm-to-table restaurant for years. This has been my first time in a while working in environment trying to do locally sourced food and it gave me a chance to design my own kitchen."
The New Orleans native has been living on an organic farm in Liberty for more than 20 years. He served in the U.S. Army for three years as an air traffic controller at Fort Campbell, has worked as a forester and orthodontist and operated the Gourmet Café, a coffee shop in Smithville for a time.
For 10 years the former volunteer firefighter commuted from Liberty to Nashville where he cooked at The Mad Platter and served such luminaries as Gov. Phil Bredesen and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. He hooked up with Hollandsworth by word of mouth.
"Todd had been looking for someone to come in as executive chef. Some folks told him I could possibly be a good source, and it came in at the right time, a blessing," said the cook, who is enthusiastic about serving diners meals made with fresh, local ingredients.
"We have the beef and lamb from Short Mountain Farms, pork products from Wedge Oak Farm in Lebanon, and we're using Pick Tennessee Products... We have lots of the locals bringing us fresh herbs, and as the season picks up, we will be connected to fresh organic foods. The salads will be with all local greens."
Solorzano notes that one of Stillhouse's signature dishes will be burgoo.
"In Tennessee and Kentucky around the turn of the 19th century, people had parties and made stews. They would bring pork and beef and lambs and chicken and boil them in a pot with fresh veggies. We wanted to bring back some old-school local traditions, so we're making burgoo with all local sources: lamb, beef, pork and chicken; and making a nice, hearty, healthy stew, served with rice and smashed potatoes."
Stepping up on his soapbox for a minute, the chef preaches, "We keep hearing about all the droughts out West where most of our fresh foods our grown. We live in one of the most fertile places in the U.S. and in the world. I believe as things change globally and economically, we have to focus on feeding ourselves.
"That's the goal of Billy Kaufman, Todd and myself, to get back to grass roots and change the palate back to what we should be doing in Tennessee: feeding ourselves good, fresh nutritious foods instead of having them shipped in. We can make smaller footprints on the planet by bring what we have here to ourselves."
Flooring as authentic as the food
The restaurant features a spacious dining room with wooden tables and chairs, white walls and windows facing three sides. It seats 86. Additionally, a café, with fireplace, seats 40 and a wraparound deck seats 40 outdoors. All of the handsome facing wood in the bar and stools came from reclaimed Cannon County lumber and were crafted by Woodbury furniture maker and carpenter Daryl Fisher.
The oak tree in the center of the dining room was felled on distillery owner Kaufman's property and has been sanded, bleached and stained the proper color. Hollandsworth recommends that diners touch the oak for good luck.
Local art and crafts, which are for sale, fill the restaurant, featuring the handiwork of artist Helen Minton, soap made by Sisters of Grace in Readyville and Fisher's bar stools.
And most of the 15 employees are local, hailing from the communities of Gassaway, Auburntown, Liberty, Woodbury, Smithville, Short Mountain and Murfreesboro.
Hollandsworth and wife Tracy were born and raised in Murfreesboro, but have claimed Auburntown as their home for years. Both are graduates of Oakland High School, while son Nathan, who works here as assistant manager on weekends, graduated from Cannon County High.
Tracy helps as a host but her No. 1 job has been teaching kindergarten at Auburn Elementary for the past 15 years. Todd, a county commissioner, has worked at General Electric and Nissan. For 15 years he served full time as a paramedic for Cannon County Emergency Medical Service.
"I worked 24 hours on and then 48 hours off, and during those other 48 hours I did catering," he said. "My mother [the late Jeanette Hollandsworth] did catering from when I was 5 years old. She made cakes, and I was in and out with her business, helping with weddings and such. Later I began to do catering on the side.'
Restaurant idea brewed from distiller
Hollandsworth said the idea for the restaurant was conceived during conversations with distillery owner Kaufman.
"Billy had been in business for about a year, and he noticed that after people came and toured the distillery, they were lingering around, usually around lunch, and they were hungry. He tried outside food trucks but that never quite worked.
"After he tried some of my food, we decided we needed a restaurant here. He had a farmhouse on the property, and they had started renovating the house... We decided to start this venture and it kind of blossomed from there. It has taken a little over a year to come to fruition," he said.
"The restaurant is not there just to make money. My main goal is to bring people into Cannon County and increase tourism. But the restaurant is about using whole ingredients and fresh foods, and ultimately we want everything we serve to be raised within 250 miles. It's about local and sustainable.
"We have an artistic community that fits into the picture as well, and that's another reason we advertise other businesses in our restaurant. We use Blue Porch hot sauce on every table, and we serve Readyville Mill Grits. I'm not trying to compete with local restaurants but want people to come and see what a great county we have. Cannon County is a small county, but it's got a lot to show people. That's what I want to do."
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the midst of the beautiful rolling hills of Cannon County, this new restaurant boasts sweeping views from a wraparound porch, the best of local ingredients and Southern hospitality. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, with a Sunday brunch served until 3 p.m. The lunch menu features soups, salads, BLT, bacon Reuben sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, pasta primavera, Southern-fried chicken, Short Mountain Shine Burgers and Stillhouse Meaty Mushroom, with prices ranging from $8 to $14. The dinner menu has such appetizers as fried green tomatoes, chef's choice cheese plate, soups and salsa and features entrees like chicken fried sirloin, Southern-fried chicken, Stillhouse Fried Catfish, shrimp and grits, boneless pork chops, filet mignon, rib-eye, Signature Burgoo and Short Mountain Shine Burgers, with prices ranging from $10 to $28. Please note the restaurant is waiting for a liquor license, expected to come in late June. The restaurant is located at 8280 Short Mountain Road, about 9 miles northeast of Woodbury. Phone: (615) 563-1243. For more details about menu or to make reservations, go online to stillhouserestaurant.com.
Local Table on the Mountain
Local Table Magazine will host its first farm-to-table event Saturday, June 6, on the 300-acre farm of Short Mountain Distillery in celebration of the opening of the Stillhouse Restaurant.
Kicking off at 2 p.m., the day will feature live music, farm and distillery tours. A cash bar Tennessee cocktail hour precedes the five-course farm-to-table meal which will be served at 6:30 p.m. and stars the freshest in seasonal produce from local area farms and meats directly from Short Mountain. The neighboring Short Mountain Distillery produces award-winning small-batch moonshine and other fine spirits, using fresh spring water and local, sustainably grown ingredients. Seating is limited. Tickets for the event, including a distillery tour, farm tour, live music and dinner, are $60. There will be a special menu, plus a swag bag of local vendors (Walker Creek Toffee, Wedge Oak Farm, Spoil Me S'mo, Bountiful Acres and others). To make reservations, go online to localtable.net.