The Food Biz: German style

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden aims to tempt all ages. Also: New York notices Nashville’s Catbird Seat

The team behind East Nashville cocktail haven Holland House is poised to open a second restaurant on the same block. The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden is designed to be another convivial spot, but with a very different concept and vibe. It’s a sprawling place, seating close to 300 people, with a distinctive food and beverage lineup: Look for hamburgers, milkshakes, dozens of German beers and at least six different house-made sausages.

To grasp the idea, let’s break down the restaurant’s name. “Pharmacy” is meant to summon something nostalgic and nonpharmaceutical: an old-fashioned drugstore soda fountain, complete with sodas, milkshakes and floats. Owner Terrell Raley, a veteran mixologist, has turned his cocktail skills to crafting these nonalcoholic beverages, and installed an authentic old-school soda counter.

As for the burgers, Raley has set his sights on “classic, old-fashioned recipes, not nouveau gourmet.” Preparation does sound a bit gourmet (in a good way), but perhaps not nouveau: Nearly everything will be made from scratch, with a farm-to-table emphasis on local ingredients. Trent Raley, the executive chef, is a former sous chef at Sunset Grill, and is also Terrell’s brother.

Then there’s the beer. The Raleys grew up around San Antonio, in the part of Texas with a strong German influence. So along with the sodas and hamburgers, there’s an array of 60 beers, most either imported from Germany or made in the U.S. with craft-brewing techniques inspired by German beers.

A German-style beer garden is set up out back, with tables imported from Germany for the correct proportions (8 feet long but just 20 inches across, so everybody becomes close friends very quickly). The beer garden is fully enclosed and surrounded with greenery. It’s sure to be a popular spot when weather warms up.

In the meantime, customers can enjoy a covered patio — that seats 90 and will have heaters — as well as the inside dining room with 12 beers on tap. (The rest are in bottles. Just don’t expect to order any “light” domestic beers.)

And there’s the old-fashioned soda rail. Customers young and old will be able to get sodas inspired by traditional “phosphates,” delivering the zippier carbonation that drinks used to have in the early 20th century.
Terrell Raley worked with chemist/beverage guru Darcy O’Neill to come up with phosphate recipes that approximate the sodas of yore. Syrups are made in house: vanilla, ginger, lemon, strawberry, cinnamon and mint. The latter allows for mojito-inspired soda mixtures.

The ice cream is from East Nashville’s Pied Piper Creamery, and there will be Sprecher Root Beer on draft for really high-end floats.

So much for beverages. What about the menu? Burgers are meant to be big and juicy, with loads of homemade sauces and toppings. The Raleys worked for two months with Kim Totzke at Provence Breads to come up with the right burger roll and sausage bun.

The burgers are certified Hereford beef raised in Tennessee, but if you’re not a red-meat eater, you can opt for ground turkey instead. Or try the handmade black bean burger or falafel burger. Of the beefy offerings, I’m perhaps most intrigued by the Stroganoff Burger, with mushroom-stroganoff-bechamel and Swiss cheese.

As for the sausages, Trent Raley’s list includes bratwurst, jagerwurst, currywurst, bauernwurst, bockwurst and kielbasa. He said the menu came out of a desire to create a family-friendly complement to the adult-oriented cocktail culture of Holland House. (The latter is a famously 21-and-up-only venue. The Pharmacy will welcome kids until 9 p.m.)

“A lot of people have kids in East Nashville. I have a 4-year-old myself,” Terrell Raley said. The new restaurant “caters to the adult sensibility and the child sensibility,” he added. “Take everything you loved as a kid, and add German beer.”

After a couple preview nights, the Raleys hope to open the new venture, located at 731 McFerrin, on Dec. 27. Look for updates at Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden on Facebook.

ALSO: The Catbird Seat, the tiny, ultra-gourmet restaurant above Patterson House, keeps getting more national attention. Just two months after its opening, chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson received a prestigious invitation last week to cook at the James Beard House in New York this February. Meanwhile, The New York Times Magazine ran an online piece explaining (and marveling over) the menu and the unique 32-seat chef’s bar concept.