Tennfold tempts with pizza and beer, surprises with creative entrees

Nancy Vienneau
Special to Nashville Tennessean, USA TODAY NETWORK newsrooms in Tennessee

The opening of any new food business can be tumultuous. For Tennfold, a locally owned brewery and restaurant in Donelson, that would be an understatement. Its launch occurred in the aftermath of the tornadoes and just as the pandemic forced a halt to indoor dining. “We had to learn to pivot from one week to the next,” recalls Dave Evans, general manager and partner. Curbside pickup. Canning supply shortages. A dearth of staffing. More than a year later, it is thriving hub for friends and families to gather over pizzas, brews, and more.

Peppadew and mushroom pizza

While they call themselves “pizza-forward,” Tennfold is not just a pizza and beer joint. To be sure, they serve an ever-changing variety of ales and lagers, (often with a saison and gose in line up) all crafted in house under the leadership of head brewer, Chad Mueller. Step inside, and you see a long bar, the line up of taps, the stagger of wood-topped tables and stools throughout the expanse, and the area housing the fermentation tanks where the magic happens. With the clamor of folks talking and music playing over the sound system, Tennfold has a real beer hall feel.

Flight of beers, a tall pour of Howling Winds Scottish Ale

The food menu has a lot of items you might not expect. Edgar Pendley consulted in its creation, and Van Corpuz ably oversees the execution. Under Pizzas, you’ll find both New York and Neapolitan subheadings. Topping can range from traditional to unusual: Salami Picante to Cheeseburger in the former and Margherita to Thai Pork in the latter.  We enjoyed the New York style Peppadew and Mushroom pie, baked with tomato, mozzarella and a hint of smoked garlic. Were the slices foldable as New York slice should be?  Yes, indeed.

Hickory smoked wings with celery and blue cheese

There’s a tempting array of small plates for starters. And, for their succulent char and tang, the hickory-smoked wings are not to be missed. Crisp, lightly breaded cheese curds, served with Green Goddess dip, are a guilty pleasure. In similar indulgent crispy-fried vein, cuffs of calamari are served with Old Bay aioli, peppers, and charred lemon. Some in our group relished the pork rinds dusted in tajin (chili-lime) seasoning, but after sampling wings, curds and calamari, that was a step too far for this diner. If you want to sidestep fried fare, order the white bean hummus. It is assertively spiked with lemon, garlic and sumac, pooled in good olive oil. You’ll like the flatbread strips (likely made from the pizza dough) to swipe it up.

Salads are noteworthy. From the four options, we chose Mixed Greens. The basic name belies its sophistication, the lettuces folded with julienne apples, walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and crispy bits of country ham in tart apple vinaigrette. For an up charge, add a protein, and the salad becomes a complete, delectable meal. Word: the blackened shrimp is terrific.

We were all pleasantly surprised by the quality and creativity of the entrees. It’s rare to find, say, Grilled Salmon in fennel cream sauce over farro with sweet peppers and kale at your local brewhouse. This is as delicious as it is eye-appealing. The Bone-in Pork Chop, served over carrot butter with grilled rapini and smoked apple chutney is succulent—prepared first sous vide and then char grilled. Slices of cast iron seared New York strip steak, planked over fingerling potatoes, and asparagus spears, get a jolt of chimichurri sauce.

Bone-in pork chop over carrot butter, with grilled rapini and apple chutney

Head brewer Mueller’s goal is to have a tap for every palate. The staff is well versed and happy to guide you.  It’s also fun go to “Flight School”—assemble your flight of 4 or 6 different pours. These arrive in a handy carrier, labeled in the recommended order to drink. On one visit, we sampled Paparoni Italian Pilsner (clean and refreshing dry-hopped brew) easy-drinking Feast with Friends American Lager, Southern AF Saison (hazy like summer),  and the fruity-sour Blackberry Gose.

Tennfold’s opening months were fraught with challenges, but the team’s transformation of what had been a van rental place into a community driven brewhouse with good food and drink is taking hold. Plenty of folks have come into the ‘fold.

Tennfold brewing and restaurant

2408 Lebanon Pike, Donelson


Food: American

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Monday

Alcohol: Full bar, but beer driven

Cost: Small plates: $5-$14; Salads: $7-$11+; Sandwiches/Burgers: $12-$13; Bowls: $10-$15; Entrees: $14-$24; Pizzas: $14-$26; Sides: $1-$8

Parking: On-site lot

Kids menu: Yes