• Timothy Davis

Wendell Smith's, the legendary Meat-and-3, is a time capsule

407 53rd Ave N, Nashville, TN 37209


In the heat of the lunch rush, I looked over the dining room, searching for an empty spot

within the sea of gray hair (and no hair). I soon located a stool at the bar, and weaved my way

through the cluster of old folk waiting for their to-go orders, to claim it. I shoved aside the menuand got straight to the point: double cheeseburger with everything on it, a side of fries, and a Dr. Pepper, please.




I may have been quick about the order, but only because I know exactly what I want at

Wendell Smith’s; I was in no hurry. As hungry as I was, I didn’t mind the wait because the

interior of this restaurant is a view that I always find myself in awe of. All surfaces are honestly

worn from decades of intense use, probably continually serving loyal crowds of the same size

that I witnessed that Thursday afternoon. The formica counter on which I rested my elbows,

contained various patches where the wood grain pattern was entirely worn through, and the

particle board underneath was beginning to show; it’s a kind of natural wear that could raise

theories of what continuous task/motion could result in such damage. The light brown linoleum floors further embrace the original 1960’s features in the dining area. The wood paneling looks bleached from years of sunlight through the panoramic front windows. These visual details of Wendell Smith’s, humbly breathe ‘if it works, don’t change it’





My gaze at the walls, covered with country music memorabilia, was interrupted when the

ceramic oval containing my order slid in front of me. The hight of Wendell’s Smith’s double

cheeseburger might lead someone who’d never eaten there before to believe they had received a triple cheeseburger. But under the top bun is a slab of onion (that’s right, a slab, not a few rings) that makes it extremely difficult to take a full bite of the burger. However, with enough patience and a firm grip, the grease will eventually soak into the bun, compacting it and reducing the overall height. Now at this point, it is necessary to eat with haste before the bun completely falls apart into the pool of grease on the plate. You might get the pace right on a second visit to not have to use a fork to finish the remains of the sandwich. The patties are a decent shape; not so thick like the gourmet style burgers, where the cheese is barely tasted among all the meat, but just enough to appropriately match the thick slice of cheese on top. Whether the fries initially come out crisp is not easily known because they soak up the grease the rains off the burger; it all collectively builds an absolutely delicious (and filling) meal. When in Nashville, Wendell Smith’s is the ideal choice for satisfactory meal (or “fine

food” as the neon sign brags) that involves a unique eating experience in a completely, original unchanged dining atmosphere.


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