Belle Meade Cafeteria
Lime cream salad…need I say more? This cafeteria is a serious period piece, from the elderly clientele to the large smoking section to the nearly all black waitstaff. Initially, I was a little intimidated as I always am in a point and pick situation. Unless you're a regular, it's hard to know what's what, prices, how much to order, and the procedure in general.
For instance, here you choose your food, it gets handed to you, you put it on a tray, and then you end up where you'd think a cashier would be, but it's just a woman asking what you'd like to drink. You leave your tray, and one of those aforementioned black people carries it to your table. (The South is so weird that way. Sure, in NYC, service workers also tend to be minorities, but so is a bulk of the clientele. It's more mixed.) It flustered me a bit, do you tip then and there? I figured you'd just leave money on the table like in any restaurant, but later I noticed people handing the tray carriers money. Oh well. I also noticed women with four glasses of sweet tea in front of them. I guess this maneuver was to preempt the need for refills (which are nonexistent in NYC, but a given everywhere we visited in Tennessee and Louisiana).
I picked out fried chicken, fried okra, mashed potatoes, lime cream salad and coconut cream pie. It was probably a little much, but the green jello, cottage cheese delicacy had to be ordered simply for effect.
You pay upon leaving, and there's the other anomaly. Many of the food servers (not tray carriers), and the cashier were Vietnamese (and that's a whole other deal, 99% of the servers at Caf Du Monde in New Orleans were also Vietnamese. You'd think they'd have really good Vietnamese food in The South. Maybe they do, but I didn't seek it out) I don't think I'd ever heard broken English with a southern twang before, there's a first for everything.
Belle Meade Cafeteria * 4534 Harding Pike, Nashville, TN