The Food Biz: A casual French place

New bistro brings the South (of France) to Midtown

A French chef who’s owned and operated several popular restaurants in Atlanta over the years is getting ready to launch a bistro here in Nashville, on Hayes Street in Midtown.

Chef Jacques Hourtal and his son, Phillip, also a classically trained chef, are opening Riviera Provincial Grill at 1812 Hayes St., in the little vintage house behind the Hutton Hotel that used to be Vito’s (and before that, DaVinci’s Pizza). The Hourtals are doing a major cleanup and renovation, including installing a completely new kitchen.

Jacques Hourtal said he got the idea for the project from some friends who run Valentino’s, the longtime Italian spot on West End, who told him the neighborhood could use a casual French place. The cuisine will be primarily inspired by the food of Southern France, but the menu will also include a bit of Northern Italy. (The elder Hourtal is a French native but is of Italian descent on his mother’s side, and spent a lot of time in the Piedmont region growing up.)

The younger Hourtal did his culinary studies in Europe but was actually born in Dallas, where his dad worked at the posh Mansion at Turtle Creek restaurant in the 1980s. In Atlanta, Jacques Hourtal’s projects included Anis, a popular cafe that he launched in 1994, Soleil and Gauguin. He eventually sold his interest in those restaurants.

As for the new place, the menu is still under construction, but Jacques Hourtal said diners can expect “French comfort food” at an affordable price.

“We don’t want to be the stereotype of a French restaurant like in New York or Chicago. You should be able to get a bowl of mussels for $8 and a glass of wine for $5,” he said.

Riviera French Provincial Grill will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, presumably aiming to snag nearby hotel guests and health care workers in the Midtown neighborhood. And don’t forget West End Summit, the large office tower complex in the works a couple blocks away at the West End-Broadway split, which will house two HCA Corp. units.

Jacques Hourtal said the opening date is still tentative, but the team is shooting for mid-February.

 

Riffs Fine Street Food, the popular food truck run by B.J. Lofback and Carlos Davis, has a lot of new things going on, and perhaps most intriguing is the launch of weekly Sunday brunch service in the Grow Local Kitchen inside the Nashville Farmers’ Market.

Lofback said they plan to serve brunch every Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the market at 900 Rosa Parks Blvd. (The first installment was Jan. 6.)

The menu changes weekly, but will include a balance of sweet and savory items and ingredients from local providers, including breads from the wood-fired oven at Bella Nashville in the market, sausage from Porter Road Butcher and cheese from The Bloomy Rind. Look for items like savory bread pudding and stuffed French toast.

Lofback says that as with the Riffs truck, the menu is always open to improvisation based on ingredients and the chefs’ whims. “We’re playfully keeping it ambiguous,” he joked.

Meanwhile, Riffs will do two other interesting events: a Cooking With Beer dinner at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at Yazoo Brewing Co., and a unique pop-up restaurant Feb. 1 in collaboration with Shane Autrey of the Smoke Et Al food truck. Check riffstruck.com for details.

 

Speaking of brunch, J. Christopher’s, an Atlanta-based franchise specializing in fresh breakfast, lunch and brunch fare, is hoping to open soon in Nashville. It already has a J. Christopher’s location on Frazier Drive in Cool Springs.
We hear that J. Christopher’s officials are working to possibly secure a high-profile location in a popular Nashville neighborhood. We’ll keep you posted.

J. Christopher’s locations operate 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, a fairly rare chain concept that skips dinner entirely. The website touts “house-made favorites” like Blueberry Crunchcakes, strawberry waffles, burgers and French dip and club sandwiches. Seasonal items include pumpkin pancakes and gingerbread waffles.