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Take 2 – Franklin Mercantile Deli

February 27, 2012

As with most Friday nights, my wife and I like to keep it cheap. Typical Friday nights include a happy hour pint and a stroll through the Taco Bell drive-thru before heading home to pour the ever-popular Valentina extra hot picante sauce all over our spoils. We do like to venture from the norm every once in a while, though.

This particular date night brought us to downtown Franklin for an event at the newly renovated Franklin Theatre. As we are poor planners, we soon began to realize that finding a table would be a difficult task to accomplish on this particularly mild and clear evening. We walked up and down Main Street with no luck, until we glanced down a side street and found the surprisingly uncrowded Franklin Mercantile Deli. It isn’t what I would refer to as a deli, but more like a hybrid between a cafe and coffee shop with a French-country feel. A 3-piece band with a piano, guitar, and an upright bass was playing quiet jazzy tunes. I don’t know whether or not this is a regular occurrence, but it made for a pleasant atmosphere.

On to the food…we were originally planning on grabbing a bottle of wine and an appetizer, but the server informed us of a special they were offering: an appetizer, two entrees, a dessert, AND a bottle of wine for $40. Winner winner chicken dinner! Considering we had expected to pay nearly $30 for the wine alone, I will call this a modest success.

We settled in on Redtree California Zinfandel. I haven’t mentioned this yet, but wine is not my passion. I enjoy a glass every now and again, but don’t expect professional wine reviews. It’s just not my thing.

We placed our orders shortly after and decided on Shrimp & Grits for the appetizer, Flank Steak (medium rare) and Port Glazed Salmon for the entrees, and Sweet Tea Tiramisu for dessert.

My wife has been heralded for her take on shrimp & grits, so naturally, we wanted to see how their version stacked up. Presentation was nice and it did look like a true-to-form southern dish. It came out in a bowl filled with country style grits topped with 6 grilled shrimp. Around the bowl were simple white bread toast squares. The shrimp had a wonderful flavor of garlic, but I could have used a little more Cajun spice. My disappointment came with the grits. They were just plain grits. I would have liked to have garlic cheese grits instead, but it’s really hard to complain when the price is so good. The best part of this dish is being able to use the bread as a vessel to sop up the grits and shrimp and have one bite of deliciousness. At this point, we knew we would be pleased with our dinner choice.

For our entrees, I ordered the Flank Steak which came with a vegetable medley and hash brown casserole. My wife ordered the Port Glazed Salmon which came with sautéed asparagus and sweet potato pancakes. I regret that I did not take pictures of the entrees or the dessert, but presentation was nice. Unfortunately and as I usually suspect, the steak was closer to well-done than it was to rare. I will give the benefit that the meat did have great flavor. The basil dressing marinade aided the meat greatly. I do wish I knew how the vegetables were seasoned, because they were wonderfully salty. I am a big fan of squash, so I was pleased that it was the star of the medley. The hash brown casserole was what you would expect from a southern style restaurant such as Cracker Barrel – that’s a good thing, by the way. As far as the Port Glazed Salmon, I cannot comment, but I will suffice to say that the plate was clean when it was all said and done.

At this point, the meal had taken a little longer than expected, so we asked for the check and for the Sweet Tea Tiramisu to be delivered at the same time. The server obliged and hurried out with the dessert. I regret that we didn’t get to savor the Tiramisu, because it was delightful and reminded me of one of my favorites, the Tiramisu from the now-closed Caesars Ristorante in Lion’s Head Village. We shoveled it down in about 2 minutes flat and rushed to the Franklin Theatre for our show.

In closing, I don’t know if Franklin Mercantile Deli is still doing the same dinner deal for $40, but if they are, I highly recommend giving them a shot. Not only will you have a nice dinner, but you’ll be able to window shop up and down Main Street in historic Franklin, which is a treat in itself. Franklin Mercantile Deli fits the budget, too.

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