As Ms. Cheap, I am always looking for places to get a great affordable lunch. And so today, I am asking for your suggestions of places in Middle Tennessee where we can chow down at lunchtime for $10 or less.
I don’t mean fast-food places. I am looking for locally owned spots that are known for delicious food and decent prices.
So please email me your favs along with other pertinent information about what to order, price range, interesting history or details about the menu items or the owners, or anything else I should know before I go.
I’m hungry for lots of suggestions to feature in my Main Street columns in coming months. I know that with COVID-19 shutdowns and limitations, our restaurants have faced unique challenges.
Letting me know about some of your tried-and-true favorite spots is a great way for us to support local Middle Tennessee restaurants and, of course, enjoy some unique dining experiences at the same time. So please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SATCO a longtime Ms. Cheap favorite
To whet your appetite, I am featuring one of my longtime Nashville favorites, San Antonio Taco, better known as SATCO, the Tex-Mex restaurant that has been a mainstay in the Vanderbilt area since 1984.
There are (at least) three things I love about SATCO: The food is made fresh every day, the price is right (it’s easy to grab lunch for under $7), and the restaurant has outdoor seating, which is always nice but more important than ever these days with continuing COVID concerns.
I am such a creature of habit that I always order the same thing: a chicken fajita taco with guacamole and a crispy beef taco, and then I usually split an order of chips with a lunchmate.
The chips ($1.85) come with complimentary homemade self-serve salsa or the spicier pico de gallo, both of which are addictively wonderful. But every now and then I splurge and split an order of the SATCO queso ($5.49), which is mighty good, too. Either way, you have access to unlimited chips.
The tacos are $1.99 (several varieties) to $3.09 (fish tacos) each, plus whatever 25-cent or 30-cent toppings such as guacamole that you want to add. They are not huge, but two tacos is plenty for me, and the price for my two, including tax, is just $5.33.
That cheap lunch is hard to beat, even for Ms. Cheap. And, of course, I always order water with my meal.
More expensive options on the blackboard menu include the enchilada plate ($7.79), taco salad ($8.19) and the wings, which are $5.95 for five or $10.39 for 10. But that is the top price.
This indoor/outdoor restaurant is set up where you place your order with a pencil and tear-off menu pad, pay at the register, and then pick up your food at the counter when your name is called. Then help yourself to some salsa and take your tray inside or outside to enjoy.
Parking can be a bit of a challenge, but there is some free and some metered street parking on Scarritt Place and paid parking in the Wesley Place Garage across the street. (Watch out for those meters because I got a parking ticket on my last visit, overstepping my allotted time by five minutes at the most and ruining my record for a cheap lunch.)
SATCO is on 21st Avenue South at Scarritt Place, oh so convenient to the Vanderbilt University and Medical Center community, as well as to Music Row and University School of Nashville and any other Midtown business or residence.
When it was first opened by two enterprising Vanderbilt students from San Antonio, there were not many (if any) places in Nashville where you could get a taco or other Tex-Mex fare. But even with the proliferation of taco joints around town in recent years, SATCO has had amazing staying power.
On any given day, you can see a line forming at meal time and the deck active with taco lovers. The beer is a draw, too, with 15 varieties served in longnecks. Plus a bucket of beer, where you get six beers for the price of five, is another good deal for patrons who enjoy getting together with friends on the deck.
The deck, which is said to be the first restaurant deck in Nashville, is spacious, with seating for as many as 140 people, and it has heaters to make it usable year-round. The deck leads you into the indoor portion of SATCO where you order and where the kitchen is located, and which has seating for about 75 people.
The restaurant is owned by Nashville businessmen and Vandy grads Hunter Atkins and Sandy Haury, who bought it from the founders in 1990. The outgoing staff continues to make everything from scratch daily using the same recipes that SATCO started with.
“Everything is made here, except the fish tacos (which comes in frozen to be fried in house) and the lettuce that comes shredded,” said manager Robert Wilder, who said much of the restaurant’s success should be attributed to the hardworking and customer-friendly staff, many of whom have been SATCO employees for 20 to 30 years or more.
“I’ve been here for 31 years,” said Wilder, “and I have two employees who have been here longer than me. The staff is great. They know a lot of customers by name and sometimes even know their orders.”
SATCO is self-described as “low-key,” but it is surely high on my list of fav lunch spots where I can grab a delicious meal on the cheap.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.
Details: thesatco.com or 615-327-4322