DINING: Tin Roof raises expectations

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Dining - A&E

When a youthful bar/restaurant dares to open downtown along the path between Scotty’s and Kilroy’s, you have to admire its guts. Sure, density of nightspots helps everyone, but the new Tin Roof (36 S. Pennsylvania St., 951-2200), part of a Nashville, Tenn.-based chain making a push north, has to do something to stand out. And this one tries to by cultivating a fun atmosphere (including Jenga games to play at your table), presenting live music, and serving food that the signs declare isn’t “bar food.”

Tin Roof Yes, that’s peanut butter holding together the signature sandwich at the new Tin Roof. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

No, we didn’t find hamburgers or pizzas. Look elsewhere for a tenderloin sandwich or wings or nachos … wait, there are wings and nachos. And French fries. And maybe the menu at Tin Roof isn’t that different after all.

Still, a boast like that raises a different kind of bar—one that, on our visits, Tin Roof met halfway.

Oh, sure, the Do-It-Yourself Nachos pad is a playful way to decide what you want on your chip platter ($6.95 for an order for one that easily could serve 2-3 as an appetizer). And it did come with nicely marinated steak (a $2 upgrade) and other quality ingredients. But the chefs didn’t bother melting the cheese and the result felt like an ingredient pile rather than a crafted dish (see what happens to expectations when you brag?).

Quesadillas and Pizzadillas dominate the menu—the latter a not-very-innovative use of Italian ingredients in traditional Mexican flour tortillas. The Devine Street Devil ($8.95) came loaded with pepperoni, green and banana peppers, bacon, tomato sauce and cheeses, and it tasted fine—but not much better than if we had declared taco night at home, realized we were short of the requisite makings, and made do with what we found in the fridge.

The signature sandwich, The Tin Roof ($8.95), was initially interesting but, despite fresh Po’ Boy bread, the dense peanut butter-and-honey mix overwhelmed the chicken it was meant to team up with. To their credit, both sandwiches came with the option of a side salad, which was certainly an upgrade over the standard iceberg-and-some-tomato-if-you’re-lucky fare found elsewhere. Here, romaine lettuce, cucumber, sautéed onions, plenty of olives, and more indicated that some care was taken.

Maybe there are chefs in the kitchen after all. I just wish they had more to do.•

—Lou Harry


First in a month-long series of new-in-the-neighborhood restaurants.


  • Tin Roof
    This place has been great every time I have been there! The food is good in my opinion. Yeah it's not Mo's but I'm pretty sure the owners don't want it to be, and others shouldn't expect it to be. It's a BAR that happens to serve good food. The main attraction is the live music with quality acts that no other place downtown can provide. It's "A Live Music Joint" after all! Every time I'm there I find myself dancing to great music all night long. Much better atmosphere than Kilroy's where people just sit around and chat about the politics or the weather.
  • Tin Roof
    I didn't actually mind the tin roof. I didn't have elevated expectations due to its proximity to a steak restaurant though.

    For what it is, the food is better than pearl street pizza, it doesn't feel closed in and really has the potential to liven up an otherwise somewhat dull corner.
  • bad food + bad service
    Stopped in during the Pacers playoffs for the first time and I hope to never go back. Service was horrible and food was not much better. Someone ordered a pizza and it came as a quesadilla. Had to flag the server down for anything and everything. Even when she did stop by the table she never offered to get us anything. Maybe they will be a hit in that area with college kids, but having a fine steakhouse across the street, I was hoping for better.

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