Michelle had never heard of Hillstone Restaurant Group before reading this month’s feature article in Bon Appétit Magazine. This “non-chain chain” is reportedly adored by such culinary luminaries as Danny Meyer and David Chang. As she read, Michelle felt a jolt of familiarity when she saw that HRG “started in 1977 with the opening of Houston’s in Nashville.” 1977, it seems, was the year Michelle and her college girlfriends also landed on Nashville’s West End Avenue, becoming a part of the beginning of what Andrew Knowlton, the article’s author, calls the “best-run, most-loved, relentlessly respected restaurant [group] in America.”
So many memories arose out of a shared Facebook chat. The quiche! The ferns! The preppy waiters! The ice cream drinks! The spinach salad with bacon dressing! As noted in Bon Appétit, the folks behind Houston’s “identified and then filled a void in the American dining scene. It wasn’t fast-food burgers, but it wasn’t fancy European-style dining either.” Indeed, for Michelle and her friends, Houston’s bridged the gap between fancy places that one’s parents would have to pay for (like Mario’s and the fusty French Julian’s) and the cheap-but-still-tasty spots such as Rotier’s and Elliston Place Soda Shop able to be frequented by college students whose monthly allowances were running out.
It seems the Nashville Houston’s closed in 2005, and there are no outposts of any Hillstone Restaurant Group brands located near Gourmandistan’s current lodgings—which is too bad, because the food featured in Bon Appétit looks really tasty and made us want to visit one. To continue her trip down memory lane, Michelle instead adapted this recipe for Chicken Waldorf Salad, based on what we had around the kitchen. Our salad featured watercress, pea shoots, shredded roast chicken, currants, toasted nuts (walnuts, cashews and almonds), chopped hard-boiled eggs, crumbled blue cheese, sliced radishes and grated apple. It may not be quite the same as Nashville 1977, but our version of Houston’s bacon dressing is indeed utterly delicious—and for some, nostalgic.
(adapted from Hillstone Restaurant Group as printed in Bon Appétit Magazine) Mix ingredients together in a covered jar and shake well.
BACON SALAD DRESSING
(adapted from Hillstone Restaurant Group as printed in Bon Appétit Magazine)
Mix ingredients together in a covered jar and shake well.