From the Ashes: A New French Market is Born

By Joe Nolan

Table 3 brings French bistro food to restaurant-goers and home-chefs alike for the second time around.
Nashville foodies know all about the fire that brought Table 3 to an abrupt end only months after its 2010 debut. It's been just over four months since their last run and the place has something to celebrate. In addition to its comeback, Table 3 is a truly unique restaurant and market combination bringing classic French cooking to Nashville's slow food community.

When Wendy Burch and Elise Loehr bought F. Scott's restaurant in 2003, Table 3 Co-Proprietor and Executive Chef Will Uhlhorn had been working at former Nashville landmark The Wild Boar. At the time he had recently moved from Boston to Nashville. Uhlhorn was eventually brought on board as the chef at the new F. Scott's and the trio immediately began to talk about opening up a bistro space. Burch and Loehr were inspired by their travels in France. Uhlhorn's motivations were more directly connected to food. "I'd done French bistro cooking in Boston," he explains. "As soon as I started working with the menu I was like 'This is the food I want to cook.'" Will describes bistro style cooking as "rustic classic French cooking. It's traditional French cooking without the frou-frou of French fine dining."

Table 3 introduced their take on French comfort food classics like steak frites, ratatouille and coq au vin in September of 2010. The anticipated spot made a big splash with Green Hills restaurant-goers and local food writers alike. However, Table 3 barely got through autumn before their space went up in flames in early January. The fire, which gutted the kitchen and spread through the building, still remains a mystery. Thankfully no one was hurt. Uhlhorn explains that the blaze was ultimately blamed on "the spontaneous combustion of the kitchen linen." Table 3 reopened in September of 2011, almost a year after its original debut.

In addition to its dim, warm dining room and no fuss bar seating, Table 3 also offers a small market for diners looking for a grab-and-go option. Home chefs searching for hard-to-get ingredients for their own French classics can find those items here. "At the same time we were talking about opening the bistro, we were talking about opening a market," explains Uhlhorn. "This place was big enough for us to do both. "In the restaurant's first incarnation, the market had just been finished and supplied before the fire struck. For the 2011 re-opening, the market was ready to go on day one. Market customers can peruse a variety of sandwiches and dishes or opt for the fresh baked treats, breads and pastries. It is an eye-popping display. One chewy granola bar combines peanut butter and cranberry in a snappy mouthful and the cinnamon twists are just exactly sweet enough. Cooking gear like Le Creuset brand enameled cast iron kitchen wear is available at the market along with difficult to find ingredients like special salts, truffle oils and duck fat. Duck confit and chicken stock is prepared in the kitchen and packaged to be added to a customer's own homemade cuisine. The market also carries local delicacies like Olive and Sinclair chocolate bars and Humphreys Street Coffee.

While the restaurant's size and relatively modest prices don't always make sourcing of local ingredients practical, Uhlhorn doesn't miss a chance to collaborate with nearby growers. "We buy as much as we can. We'll buy a whole animal and break it down," says Uhlhorn. The chef gets his pigs from the Jolly Barnyard farm in Oldham, KY and Ecotone in Joelton, TN. Ecotone also supplies Table 3 with some fresh ducks and both locations are happy to sell Uhlhorn less mainstream offerings like the offal cuts that are used in many traditional French recipes. The chicken feet the chef reduces to make his silky stock.

The bistro's core menu always lists familiar offerings. For Uhlhorn, one of the key ingredients in a comfort foods menu is availability. "I want people to know they can come to the restaurant any time and order cassoulet or boeuf bourguignon," he explains. The way the menu specials fluctuate during spring and summer produce booms remains a mystery for the time being. "We've never been open in the spring or the summer," Uhlhorn laughs. Both of the restaurants' runs have seen them open from September into "brown months" like January when the variety of available, local produce is at its lowest point. Here's looking forward to the coming of the spring produce season and the great flavors it will add to Table 3's tasty menu. From the looks - and tastes - of things at the bistro, they'll be sticking around for awhile this time.