A honky-tonk recently moved into Old Town Scottsdale with Kool-Aid fried pickles, a great patio and attitude to boot.
Thanks to Mike Haley and executive chef Samantha Roberts, Belle’s Nashville Kitchen opened in November, during the height of the pandemic.
“Old Town has that old cowboy vibe, and I felt that it would be the perfect place to open a honky-tonk,” Haley says. “The building we are in used to be the old Lulu Belle back in the ’50s and ’60s.
“I originally wanted to call it Belle’s Honky Tonk, but since we wanted to be a restaurant, we wanted to have it saying we were a restaurant in the name as well. Nashville is kind of synonymous with honky-tonks, and we wanted to say kitchen so the tourists and people walking by don’t think it’s just a bar and come in and enjoy some great food.”
Armed with 20 years in the culinary business, Roberts curated the menu from appetizers to dessert.
“We wanted to have the famous Nashville hot chicken, so it worked perfectly with the name,” Roberts says. “That’s kind of a new trending item the last couple of years. The Nashville hot chicken has been like a big thing, so we wanted to make sure to bring that to the Valley, since there is only a couple of places serving it.”
That chicken is the major staple at Belle’s. The Nashville hot chicken is available as a sandwich ($14) or as chicken fingers ($12). The sandwich is served with lettuce and dill pickles on a brioche bun with a side of garlic or plain fries, sweet potato fries or a side salad. The fingers come with garlic fries and housemade ranch.
The grilled mac and cheese sandwich ($13) — with garlic bread, garlic sauce, and mac and cheese in the middle — is one of Roberts’ favorite dishes.
“We also have healthy stuff, which is something you usually don’t see at like a honky-tonk or a Southern bar,” Roberts says. “We have ahi tuna. We have that in a salad or in a poke board, which is really good.”
As for appetizers, Belle’s Nashville Kitchen has taken creativity to a new level.
“We also do something that is really unique, which is the Kool-Aid fried pickles,” Roberts says. “It’s fried pickles, but we actually soak the pickles in Kool-Aid first so they have kind of like a red tinge to them, and then we fry them in the cornbread flour.”
Hayes’ favorites include barbecue baked salmon ($16), served with pineapple salsa and toasted almond rice, and the Nashville chicken fingers, which he called “phenomenal.”
“Another thing that I love and am always snacking on is the dish called Devils on Horseback ($6), which is one of our appetizers,” Roberts says. “It’s basically pimento cheese-stuffed jalapenos that have been wrapped in bacon. They are really easy to snack on.”
Hayes adds the appetizer is “definitely time consuming, but they are worth every bit of it because they are delicious.”
Roberts enjoys being in the business, as she’s able to make connections in and out of the industry.
“You meet a lot of different people, and generally people who are in the restaurant business, they have also done other things in their life,” Roberts says.
“Being able to travel and learn about new food is just something that never gets old, because trends always change. Diets always change. A favorite food for people will always change.”
The COVID-19 pandemic affected Belle’s Honky Tonk similarly to other eateries. All Hayes and Roberts could do was prepare to open and make the location comfortable for diners and staff.
“It’s a very fine line, making sure your customers are safe and your staff is safe,” Roberts says. “You’re doing a lot more cleaning than normally.
“Not only is a restaurant and a bar stressful when opening and busy, but there is a lot more added difficulty when you have to double up on everything you are doing just to make sure you can be one of those restaurants people go to and people feel safe at.”
Because the restaurant doesn’t have permanent outdoor seating, the city allowed them to build a patio out front. Hayes was grateful he could allow patrons to eat outdoors. That, he adds, makes people feel safe.
While the restaurant is getting in the flow of being open, it will soon add meal preps to the mix.
“We thought that that was another thing for customers in Old Town, because they are not going out to eat, so it’s something so they can have healthy meals at home,” Roberts says. “The meal prep is going to be for the healthier items, but it also is going to have some of the Nashville food items as well.
“If there are three days a week that you need to have food and just don’t have time, you can order from us and do that meal prep, which will be healthier. It will be ready for the week. That is something exciting that we are launching that is different, and I hope it goes over well.”
Belle’s Nashville Kitchen
7217 E. Main Street, Scottsdale