Thursday, May 25, 2017
The Pie Wagon (Nashville, TN)
Truth be told, The Pie Wagon was not my first choice for lunch today. But when life hands you lemons, throw them away and eat barbecue. This cafeteria-style "meat and three" only has pulled pork on Thursdays, with its normal meat offerings looking more like chicken fried steak, pan fried catfish, meat loaf, and salisbury steak. Since the place has been open in one form or another for just shy of a hundred years, I thought I might as well give The Pie Wagon a shot.
From the outside, The Pie Wagon looks like a sleazy old nightclub. On the inside, it looks like a sleazy old cafeteria. At least there's a little consistency there I guess. As close as this restaurant is to booming areas of Nashville like Vanderbilt University, Music Row, and the Gulch, The Pie Wagon seems as though it hasn't gotten a facelift in decades. Sadly enough, the restaurant moved to its current location a mere fifteen years ago, so I guess the "1970s charm" was intentional. I think going back to The Pie Wagon's original trolley car version from the twenties would have been a much better choice. After all, hipsters love retro.
I went with The Pie Wagon's classic "meat and two" option with smoked pulled pork, green beans, and mac and cheese. I could have added on an additional meat and gotten more side dishes, but honestly not much else looked appetizing enough. Their plates also come with your choice of bread, for which I picked the jalapeño cornbread.
My cornbread was a tad on the dry side, but otherwise was pretty tasty. I found actual corn kernels scattered about, plus the unmistakable fire of jalapeños. The pan of mac and cheese that I saw in the serving line had a good burnt cheesy crust on it, yet somehow none of that made it into my helping. It was run-of-the-mill elbow macaroni and cheese sauce of the Kraft variety. Sadly, the green beans tasted about the same. They could have easily been dumped out of a can, and although there was a nice saltiness to them, there were no other noticeable flavors. I'm not suggesting that The Pie Wagon can't use canned side dishes as a base to start with, but for crying out loud add some boiled bacon and onions to the green beans so customers can at least pretend they're eating homemade food. I don't know for certain whether their sides were homemade or canned, but you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.
The pulled pork was a little watery for my liking, likely a byproduct of hanging out in the warming pan for a little too long. It was tender though. There were slight vinegar overtones to be had, and every now and then I caught a faint hint of smoke, but there wasn't a lot of either flavor to go around. I didn't see any bark at all, not that I really expected to find any here. Barbecue sauce probably would have helped I suppose. It wasn't the worst pulled pork I've eaten by any means, but it wasn't exceptionally good either.
Overall impression, The Pie Wagon struck me as the sort of place you'd take your grandma for lunch if you just needed to feed her but didn't really care whether she enjoyed her meal or not. Well, at least it was only $10.00.
The Pie Wagon
1302 Division St
Nashville, TN 37203