Swetts opened in 1954 as a small soul-food meat-and-three café, it became a large, modern cafeteria, burnt down, and was built again.
Its not a BBQ place, but I wanted to review some of the famous meat-n-threes that are so popular in Nashville. I grew up in North Florida and South Georgia and was raised on southern cooking - REAL southern cooking. I know what it is and I know what it isn't. I know what good sweet tea is supposed to taste like and I know when Collards come from the can! I have several generations of women in my family who were and are the iron chefs of southern cuisine and this has been verified by many people outside our family. So yes, I am a self-proclaimed expert. The real fact is, about all I know how to do right is eat. I can't do much else. In fact, my job is the tear up stuff (really) so eating and tasting is about the only constructive thing I do. And therefore I am obligated to tell the truth about all this food, even if my review is less than flattering.
With that, let's move on to Swett's. A partner in crime as well as myself descended upon this place at lunch. Its a cafeteria style serving of southern food. You go down the line and tell them what you want and they ring you up at the end of the line. This is very typical for a mean-n-three in Nashville. My friend got the beef and I got the chicken (baked as I am trying to cut back). Usually I get the fried chicken but I just wasn't in the mood.
I am sure it is hard to get the "down home" flavor of good southern cooking in larger amounts. People in Nashville will go out to eat at the drop of a hat and they will go anywhere it reminds them of home. The problem is that there are a lot of people who were raised elsewhere who now make Nashville home who have no idea was southern cooking is and they will rave about a place like this because it has been opened so long and they think this is how it was in years gone by. What you actually have here is decent, but nothing special, southern style food. Its about a half a point better than something you might eat at a Shoney's buffet. I have no problem eating that kind of food. But when they rang me up for my meal it was almost $13.00, which I think is a little high to be paying for this quality of food. The tea was OK, the cornbread was OK, and the food at least had flavor. But Swetts is not a place that I am going to go out of my way to eat at again. I would not use it as a place to bring an out of towner to show off Nashville's best southern cooking. I think many of these resturants have a legacy, much like the music people here. After a while it gets blown so out of proportion that old automatically equals good. There are some examples of that (Bobby's Dairy Dip), but it ain't always so.
And while I am at it, let me take this opportunity to say the music industry sucks and I wish I could slap a few people in it.
Back to the review, the greens needed more fatback and flavor in it. Any southern cooking resturant in South Carolina could blow these greens away. The corn, again, it'll do. I think there are probably a couple of meat-n-threes that might beat this and I aim to find them.
I'll give Swett's a 5 on my relative, self-ordained scale.