Monell’s

Monell’s

family style dining, down-home cooking

By Nancy Tujague

In learning that the mystery business which had taken residence in the old jailhouse on Bridge Street near downtown was to be a new restaurant, I was at once both happy that Franklin would be graced with a new addition to our dining roster and curious as to how the place would measure up in Franklin‘s climate of change.

Then, contentment and curiosity turned into sheer excitement upon seeing "Coming Soon: Monell’s" posted outside the brick building. Watching as new life was slowly breathed into the old and historic jailhouse, my curiosity took a firm hold and I found myself counting down the days until an "open" sign graced the front door.

Having been impressed by the great food and unique setting of the original Monell’s in Germantown (across the border in Nashville), I, like many others in Franklin, anxiously awaited the opening of the newest addition to the Monell’s satellite system. 

Once inside the restaurant, it is difficult not to be amazed at the building’s restoration and interior design. Monell’s, a self-proclaimed family restaurant, does not try to be a fine-dining establishment with expensive accessories and fabrics.

Instead, it goes for a more familiar feel, placing importance on its long wooden tables, carefully appointed antiques, and simple, soothing color schemes. In this way, Monell’s manages to effortlessly recreate the family interior without overdoing it. Adding to this intimate atmosphere are the exposed brick walls, multiple fireplaces, and other subtle elements that harkens back to an age when community was the most vital vein through which society functioned.  

For those unfamiliar with Monell’s, its style of dining is slightly different than most eateries. They serve a set menu that rotates daily and features the kind of food that your mother or grandmother might have cooked. It is a slight variation of the meat n’ three, which, for those of you who are unaware of this southern culinary style, offers you the featured meat of the day along with a choice of up to three vegetables.

At Monell’s, however, things are somewhat different. Two to three meats are placed on your table along with four or five sides, which you pass around to your neighbors at your table. Dishes like pork roast, mashed potatoes, and corn bread dressing are what you can expect at Monell’s. Fried chicken is a definite staple and is served everyday, along with some sort of greens. Sweet, unsweet, and fruit tea are the only available beverages (and water, of course), but you could not imagine eating a meal like this with anything else.

Another tradition that sets Monell’s apart from the crowd is their seating. Instead of being placed at individual tables with only those with whom you came, diners are grouped together at large, family-style tables that generally seat up to 12 people. With more than a dozen of these tables, Monell’s is designed to really pack them in.

And they seem to do so with ease. In fact, they have yet to do any real advertising for their newest location, allowing the power of the spoken word to do the work for them. Sunday brunch is evidence enough of their success; patrons begin to line up a little after 12 in order to participate in what I consider a massive undertaking of a meal (It’s on par with Thanksgiving as far as fullness goes).

For some, this type of dining may seem uncomfortable, especially if you arrive unaware of the tradition. But, for those who are even the slightest gregarious or outgoing, it is a setting in which friendliness and a sense of willingness to make conversation thrive. Those who tend towards shyness and privacy should certainly not avoid the place, though, as there are enough friendly people there to do the talking for you and to make you feel welcome nonetheless. Whatever your personality, consider Monell’s a good opportunity to enriching your community ties.  

In a time when Franklin continues to expand in every possible direction, community ties have never been more vital to keeping the essence of the town alive. Monell’s, in its simplicity in style and insistence on intimacy, stands for everything that Franklin has been in its past and hopefully will maintain for the future.

The atmosphere seems to capture the qualities of the town that existed before the city was born, the very qualities which have drawn so many of us here in the first place. It is only with places like Monell’s that elements of the old will persevere through eminent change to remain with us tomorrow. 

All of this talk of community doesn’t mean a thing, though, if the food, the real substance of a restaurant, the very thing that brings us together in the first place, is lacking. Fortunately, Monell’s hasn’t the slightest difficulty in proving themselves worthy in this category.

The food is something out of your childhood memories: warm and rich in its taste and deeply comforting in satisfaction.

Getting there…
Monell’s
Bridge Street
Franklin, TN 37064

Notice Change in location to Lillie Belle’s – Effective January 1, 2009
Monell’s at Historic Lillie Belle’s – 132 Third Avenue South, Downtown Franklin

Lillie Belle’s and Monell’s have partnered to bring you the best of two worlds
* Wedding rehearsal dinners, ceremonies, receptions and mouth-watering catering for these special occasions.
* Breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

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