Inside the 1892 Experience in Leiper’s Fork
I don’t know about you but my life has a way of getting incredibly busy, filled with distractions and countless ways to fill my time. When I think about my ideal getaway it involves an abundance of relaxation, delicious food, and very little scrolling and scheduling. If you can relate, then I propose a night out, or even better a weekend away, to the Utopian-like village of Leiper’s Fork, about 20 minutes west of downtown Franklin. I have truly never been anywhere quite like this charming little community. If you decide on an overnight stay, choose from several adorable bed and breakfast options, including a dreamy little spot known as the Leiper’s Fork Inn. During your stay, you will find that Leiper’s Fork is everything you dream that a small, country village would be, with the addition of fantastic antique shops, fine art, and 5-star dining at a little gem of restaurant known as 1892.
The experience of dining at 1892 begins long before you walk in the door of this quaint, historic home that was built in, you guessed it, 1892. It all starts when you hop in your car and set out on the breathtaking, short journey through the outskirts of Franklin into Leiper’s Fork. Tuck that phone away, turn on your favorite tunes, and let your hand feel the breeze out the window. Take a few deep breaths, and let yourself fall into the arms of this “safe haven,” as Leiper’s Fork has been referred to for centuries. Soak in the lush green hills, stately country homes, and if you time it right, the incomparable Tennessee sunset. The next thing you know, you will happen upon a quiet, yet lively little road that some call “The Oldest Road in America.” The history is rich, the shops are eclectic, and you might even run across a music star strumming a little diddy at the original Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant. As you make your way into 1892, you’ll be greeted by a cheerful, smiling host that seats you in a room full of vintage eye candy. Antique breadboards and pewter dinnerware hang on the wall, along with other eye-catching period pieces, some even dating back to the 1700s.
When you glance at the menu, you quickly realize this is not your typical country cafe with a meat and three offering. Friend, you have landed in a place that magically crafts together with the rich heritage and the locally grown and sourced ingredients of the area. The charge and vision here are led by native chef, Dylan Morrison, who I believe was destined for this place, at this time. That might sound slightly dramatic but after chatting with Chef Dylan and his wife Jordan, it is hard to believe this place is anything short of fate.
You see, Dylan moved to Leiper’s Fork when he was in middle school. In fact, he drove down this particular road every day to and from high school. His creative passion began at a young age surrounded by world-class musicians after school with his dad at Michael McDonald’s recording studio. His artistic nature and his father’s influence fueled his love of music as an adolescent. As he grew into adulthood, Dylan’s creative drive became directed towards food. A few weeks into one of his first jobs in a professional kitchen at Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork, he met and fell in love with a new waitress, who is now his wife, Jordan. They quickly began building a life together and three kids later the rest is history, as they say. In the meantime, Dylan began working under acclaimed Chef Peter Kizer in Atlanta, until he came back to the Nashville area where he worked in proteins on the third floor of Merchants in downtown Nashville. Dylan and Jordan both joke that he could cook a perfect steak blindfolded, with one hand tied. During his time moving up the ranks, commuting, and working tirelessly in Nashville, the couple couldn’t help but wonder if there was something more for them.
It was at this point that an opportunity arose in The Fork. Dylan was asked to craft a menu and prepare a special farm to table dinner that was arranged for several influential leaders of the Leiper’s Fork community. It was at that dinner, that everyone realized what this little neck of the woods needed, and the community was in agreement that Dylan was the chef for the job. The vision for a fine dining restaurant in the heart of the village emerged. The Morrisons along with town leaders began putting together ideas, dreaming about what this oasis of a restaurant could be. Their concept was to remove all of the elements of distraction, to create an escape from the modern-day hustle and bustle we find ourselves in when dining in the city. The couple use the words “safe haven“ often as they describe this community and their restaurant, and they both agree that feeding people in this environment is a privilege. I don’t know about you, but in this day and time, a safe haven is where I am drawn to. Over the last two years, the staff has become a family, and Jordan proudly declares herself as the “staff mom.” These are the intangibles that you sense as you’re being welcomed into what feels like their home, through the doors of 1892.
Dylan describes the offerings at 1892 as being rooted in something that is real and good. Most of the fruits and vegetables are grown right down the road at Athenas Harvest Farm. Dylan prides himself on using locally sourced honey from Williams Honey Farm, and he is passionate about incorporating even the comb and bee pollen into the dishes. When it comes to meat, the restaurant has a focus on using the whole animal, with a zero-waste policy. Once again they are sourcing from local growers and farmers, such as Freedom Run Lamb in Kentucky. Of course, the menu is constantly evolving and changing based on the seasonal inspiration, but a recent favorite of mine is the Smashed Pea Toast.
I adore the simplicity of the freshly baked bread from Village Bakery and Provisions in Nashville, lathered with house-made ricotta, then the bright, clean flavor or the fresh smashed peas, all laced with thinly sliced, brown butter-fried shallots and lemon oil. Dylan says his goal is to put things on the plate that people really want to eat without cutting corners, and I say mission accomplished! It’s simple, yet nuanced in the competitive world of fine dining restaurants.
I couldn’t let our time together pass without asking both Dylan and Jordan what their menu recommendation would be. With Dylan’s extensive experience perfecting the art of preparing flawless steaks, he suggested the bone-in New York Strip which is dry-aged for two weeks. It’s served over whipped potatoes with a demi-glaze and a tarragon and shallot béarnaise. The steak is accompanied by a side of hand-cut french fries and a light, mixed green salad dressed with a small mustard vinaigrette. On the other end of the spectrum, Jordan’s current favorite menu item had my mouth watering as she described it. This vegetarian option is a spaghetti squash stuffed with spicy house-made ricotta cheese, ball pasta, and sautéed fresh veggies from the garden finished with a balsamic drizzle, fried shallots then baked to perfection. Sign me up for one of each!
After dining at 1892 and listening to the Morrisons regale me with this fairytale story in a storybook setting, I was filled with anticipation and even a zeal for life. You see, when you visit a place that was once someone’s dream, a brilliant idea that actually comes to fruition, it’s inspiring to say the least. 1892 is a setting to linger in, not to rush passed in an attempt to move on to the next order of business. Perhaps it’s the place where you will sit across the table from someone you love and discuss your own grand ideas, daring to wonder over a plate of Smashed Pea Toast if there might be something more around the corner.