Thursday, June 27, 2013

Music City Flats: In The Kitchen at Music City Flats

In The Kitchen at Music City Flats

Music City Flats recently underwent some changes, most notably, a change in ownership. The restaurant which was started as a franchise of a national chain is now a locally owned restaurant. A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Mr. Henry Hillenmyer, owner of Music City Flats and Ben Lowe, Director of Operations, to learn more about the recent changes and the great, new dishes you will find at this Gulch staple!!

Dr. April: This restaurant recently underwent some changes from being a chain restaurant to now being an independently owned restaurant under a new name - Music City Flats. Can you tell me about that?

Mr. Hillenmeyer: Sure. We recently underwent a change in ownership. We started out 4 years ago as Urban Flats and that was a franchise out of Florida. When we opened, we were the 10th Urban Flats restaurant in the country. We had the option after 3 years to leave that franchise. We decided that we could do a better job for the Nashville guests by becoming independent and allowing guests to make it what they wanted it to be instead of going with what was prescribed out of Florida. The Urban Flats concept was based around whole wheat flatbreads. When we changed it to Music City Flats, we kept the flatbread focus, but we upgraded everything. We upgraded the flatbreads from 75% to 100% whole wheat and we have upgraded the toppings. We can now become whatever we need to become.

When we changed to Music City Flats, we brought in a consultant Chef out of Atlanta who developed all the recipes. We made the switch last fall. What we have discovered since then is that 75% of our business is women. The problem with that is..........

Dr. April: There’s a problem with that? LOL!

Mr. Hillenmeyer: {Laughs} Well, the problem is that we see an even number of men and women at lunch, but we don’t get a lot of men at dinner. The comments that I was getting from some of my lady friends in town is that “I love your place, but I can’t get my husband to come with me!” It’s hard to sell men on flatbreads for dinner. So, what we’ve just done is add a complete line-up of new entrees to the menu which includes some nice heavy dishes that men like. We hired a full time Chef about two months ago who is just terrific and he is the one who came up with all these entrees. We will have a constant development of our menu now because of our in-house Chef, David Gordon-Somers. Ben Lowe is the director of Operations and he really runs the place.

Dr. April: So you have had roughly 38 years of being in the restaurant industry, correct?

Mr Hillenmeyer:
Yes, I have owned numerous other franchises including Wendy’s. At one point, I owned 65 Wendy’s franchises. 35 of those 65 were in middle Tennessee and the rest of them ran down through Chattanooga and north Georgia.

Dr. April: Tell me about the Music City Flats Experience.......

Ben Lowe:
Well, there is a different experience depending on whether you come in for lunch or dinner. We have people that come in for lunch and lunch meetings during the day. We have a private dining room as well that is utilized for various different groups. The private dining room seats 14 people comfortably and has it’s own TV, hook-ups for A/V equipment to do presentations, etc. At night time, the restaurant really transitions into a nice atmosphere with the high ceilings and soft lighting. There’s a nice warm feel to the place.

Dr. April: Tell me about your wine selection......

Ben Lowe: Everything is available by the glass now. We have over 55 different wines that range from less expensive to the more expensive wines that you may not get to try often. We also have our weekly “Wines-day” events. For $20, you get 8 drink tickets. Each ticket gets you a half glass of wine. We bring in 6-8 different kinds of wine that we don’t normally carry. The $20 includes a food buffet as well.

Dr. April: I was here quite a few times last summer for the "Wines-day" event on Wednesdays. I really enjoyed tasting such a variety of wines!

Are there any other new things that you all are integrating into the restaurant since it has become independent?

Ben Lowe: Yes. We are still re-connecting with our Nashville market. 7 out of our 10 draft beers are all locally brewed whether it be from Yazoo Brewing, Fat Bottom Brewing, etc.  Some of the liquors we have, such as the Belle Meade Whiskey, are locally made. We carry wines from Arrington Vineyards. So, we are becoming more and more involved with the local suppliers for not only our food, but for the bar as well.

Dr. April: I like that you all are using more many locally sourced products. Great way to support the local economy!

Mr Hillenmeyer: Yes, it’s one of the positive changes that we have been able to make by becoming a locally owned restaurant. We don’t want to change too much because we have a good thing going here, but we are making small changes to improve upon what we had before.

I agree that they are making some great steps to improve on an already great concept. The heavier menu items are definitely a draw for those with heartier appetites. Check out some of the great dishes below:

Butternut squash - oven roasted butternut squash, caramelized sweet onions, Applewood bacon, fresh mozzarella chunks and shredded Parmesan cheese garnished with fresh oregano leaves

The Butternut Squash is extremely fresh and add a light, fresh feel to this flatbread. It's great :-)

Blackened steak- seared steak with blacking seasoning, fire roasted red peppers, spinach, shredded mozzarella and crumbled blue cheeses with balsamic drizzle

This flatbread is a bit more "robust" than the Butternut Squash and was excellent! The seared steak was savory and the balsamic drizzle was a nice contrast.

Osso Bucco - lamb hind shank slow cooked for several hours with white wine, homemade tomato sauce, carrots, celery and Onion served with sweet basil risotto

This is one of the dishes that you never would have found on the menu under the previous owner. However, the current creative team of Music City Flats has added heartier dishes such as this one and it has been a big hit!

The Elvis - Creamy Peanut Butter, bacon crumbles, chocolate chips, caramelized bananas with chocolate drizzle

How cool is this dessert covered in peanut butter, bananas, bacon and chocolate chips, drizzled in chocolate and named "The Elvis"?!?!?

Your flatbreads are cooked in a large open oven....

You can find Music City Flats at

610 12th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-6614
(In the Gulch)

-- Dr. April