PWI–Parenting While Intoxicated

…on good food, questionable judgment, and making life work

The Pharmacy – A descent into madness


I thought I’d share today one of my most popular sagas on Yelp.  At one point, these reviews had well over 100 Funny, Useful, Cool ratings, which might have been one of the most popular series of reviews for Nashville, but then they changed their format so now it is hard to say.

What is it about, you ask?  The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden, a trendy place in East Nashville run by the folks that created Holland House.

The thing that amazes me about this place is that it is truly a place that I think people want to love, but is truly shit.  And it makes sense, how could you not love a place like this on paper?  Draft beer, house-made sodas and phosphates, sausages and burgers locally sourced etc etc all in a cool setting with a great open air beer garden – sounds amazing on paper.  But in reality, it is a lazy, sloppily-run establishment with poor quality control, uniformly shitty service, and amazing wait times.  But people keep flocking to it, regardless, and it gets rave reviews from people who want it to be good, because it looks good, right?  So maybe the lesson here is make a pretty-looking burger joint in a hip part of town, give a cool name, and staff it with indifferent hipster douchebags, overcook your burgers and serve them on terrible buns, and make people wait hours for it = PROFIT. 

If this makes you laugh, please make sure you click through to the actual review on Yelp and show it the FUC (Funny, Useful, Cool) love!

Visit 1 – January 2012

Came to eat here on a surprise date with the wife.

Really really really want to give this place more stars, but there are number of issues that hold it back.

First of all, LOVE the idea of Nashville having a bona fide Bier Garten! High time and I can’t think of any other garden I’d rather spend my time in. I can SO see spending time here in the back yard while my kids have a blast running around this summer. Sorry hipster douches, my kids will be invading, and you’ll have to put up with his decidedly normal name while he is playing with Stryker, Shiloh, Django, Thelonious, Tennyson, Scout, Odin, Ignatius, Indiana, Myrtle and Nico. Whew. (Hint, it’s a hive of hipstery, as indicated by the multiple empty boxes of American Spirits in the ashtray out front). Really awesome venue though both indoors and out.

Second, I love beer and meat. They have that in spades. Haven’t tried the burger, but did have a chance to try the sausages, and I’ll get to that. And they have fries and tots. Service was pretty good, but not exceptional.

Third, I love the fact that they have a number of vegetarian options. Not just the standard “veggie burger”, they also have a tasty felafel burger my veggie wife enjoyed, although it is missing a key ingredient they list on the menu, more on that as well.

Here’s where they hit the rocks. I got the sausage sampler. The sausages were split and grilled and served with a side of sauerkraut and ‘German’ potato salad. The sausages were ‘ok’, but not the greatest I had ever had, but they were served in a plastic basket on wax paper, which disintegrated as I was cutting them and got mixed up with the kraut, so each bite was a mix of meat, paper, and kraut. Seriously, get a different plate option for your sausages. Second, the amount of kraut was an affront, as I got the sampler, and I swear there was a tablespoon on the plate. Last, the potato salad was OK, but I like my Kartoffelsalat with more vinegar flavor, this was not too far removed from American-style, with the exception that it had bacon.

The other gripe I had was when my wife went there with her team from work. They called ahead and asked if they could get a table for nine. When they got there, they had not a table for that size of a party, even though they said that they would, and they watched as a smaller group was seated at the one large table that could accommodate them. When the issue was raised with the staff, they pretty much blew them off and acted like it was no big deal. The group ended up sitting around the bar, and some of them were stuck behind a giant column. They also screwed up the table service. When one of the group asked about the tabbouleh that the menu SAYS is supposed to come on the felafel burger, the chef came out, said it must be a mistake on the menu, and gave the person who asked some salsa. Fail.

So anyway, the jury is still out on this place, I have high hopes, but I will get back there to give it another shot.

Visit 2 – Summer 2012

ATTENTION NASHVILLE: The emperor has no clothes. Zero. Emperor is naked.


Seriously. I wanted this place to be good. It should be good. It is a beer garden in a cool part of town. I think a lot of the reviews are based on the “I wanted this to be good, but…” basis. We can’t be apologists, we have to tell it like it is.

We arrived here for lunch. I remember thinking outside that “Oh wow, I wonder if they’ve worked out some of the service kinks”, and when I got in, it was crowded, but they had upgraded to a new system that calls your phone when they are ready to seat you. That’s pretty cool, because you can get up and walk around.

But, the heavily-tattooed hostess was more interested in entering phone numbers than making eye contact with customers, and people were standing around the entrance way having no idea where to go or what to do. They really just need to change around the area around the door, because it is just too damn small a place to have people entering, waiting to be seated, waiting on the hostess, and trying to leave.

We got seated and it was a beautiful day. Not too hot, and we had a nice table in the shade of a tree with a good breeze blowing. Our server got with us pretty quickly and beer plus water followed soon after. We got our orders in and that was the beginning of the end.

After about thirty minutes after not seeing our server, we started to wonder. Three of our party were on their lunch break and starting to sweat it. An hour after our orders were placed, around 1:30, our server came by and told us that our order was coming right up. The whole place had started to empty out post-lunch.

We began to theorize what the hell was taking so long. One person suggested that each sustainable grain in the bun was lovingly ground and gently placed into the dough. I postulated that they had a team of Oompa Loompas that gently massaged each leaf of lettuce with drops of spring water, cleansing them with tiny sponges in a circular fashion. Yet another person implied that they slaughtered a cow to order, and it took them a while to break down the carcass.

About 20 minutes later, the server came back with our food, and rather than apologize for the freakishly long time that it took to deliver our food, he scolded my wife about ordering a black bean burger for the kid’s menu, telling us that next time they would have to charge us more. First thing he said. The audacity! Zero emotional intelligence. My response would have been a hearty “Well fuck you, sir.”, but my wife asked wouldn’t the food cost of a black bean burger be cheaper than meat and if that was a problem, they should put it on the menu. No apologies for the world’s longest wait.

Now the food we waited for. The burgers were okay, except for my brother who ordered his burger rare, and they delivered it medium well. All gray, no pink. Didn’t even bring that one up, because if it takes one an hour and a half to mess up the cook temp of the easiest-cooking meat in the world, god knows how long it would take to see what happened to round two. The rolls, I get that they are potato rolls, were a tad undercooked, they should offer a different option on this.

For the sides, Ore-ida tater tots. With favored ketchups. It’s not rocket science. You too can do this at home. The fries were a total wreck all about a half inch to an inch long and one of two things happened:
1. Whomever blanched them put them in a maraca and shook the hell out of them before the final fry. Seriously, you have to be gentle after that first blanch.
2. We ended up getting the dregs of a fry, which would be pretty amazing, since the entire table had the same issue.

To hell with this place. I’m done.

Visit 3 – Summer 2013 The final visit?

I know. Shame on me. What the hell was I thinking?

We were downtown with another couple and the kids, checking out the new “String City” puppet show @ the Downtown Library. As were were wrapping up, the other dad said “How about we go to Pharmacy?”. My stomach clenched, a bead of sweat appeared on my brow. “Um… I have some reservations about that place… I mean, the service…”

Long story short, I called and asked what the wait was (they said “none”), and we headed on out to East Nasty.

When we got there, the wait was up to 15 minutes, and we sidled up to the bar. Got the kids some orange cream sodas, and beers for the grownups. I went for a giant beer, because I had a bad feeling… The service was fine at the bar, and they were fine with the kiddos. Worth noting is that he inside of the place now smells like the French Quarter on a hot afternoon, a delightful melange of garbage, funk and urine.

When we got seated outside, we noticed they had made some changes from the spawling lawn that originally was there – and I swear there used to be a kiddy play area. Now there were rows of spiky holly bushes. Didn’t seem like a big deal, until I realized that the kids were going right for THE POISONOUS BERRIES. I get it, you are trying to corral tourists and hipsters, it makes sense that you would naturally want to enclose people in their eating areas. Oh, yes, and you hate children. Seriously, I’m just going to sit back and eat some popcorn while I wait for the lawsuit to happen. Maybe they could go Walter White-style and just throw some Lilies of the Valley around the landscaping, just to make sure.

Service, was, as usual, shitty as can be. As usual, once our waitress took our orders (and forgot our water), we never saw anyone again, and I do feel they treated us like extra crap because we had small humans with us. I was also really glad I sprung for the giant beer up at the bar, because there was no way in hell we would have gotten more. So seriously, when you order, you better have your shit together, because that is your one chance. The burger was dry, the bun was OK, and the fries were much better this time around. While we were finishing up, the kids started picking up mulch and stacking it on the end of an unoccupied bench, and a much older manager or owner type took the time to come over and made a big deal about that he needed to clean up the mess (we had already planned on doing so, but it sure is nice to have someone scold us; it takes a village).

Overall, I just kept getting the feeling that every customer in this place was a nuisance to the restaurant. I swear to god, they know asshole bloggers and tourists will just keep flocking to this place, so why should they bother? One of the nice touches they’ve added is shirts that say “The Wurst Burger Joint In Town”, which is cute and ironic, because they truly are the worst.

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden on Urbanspoon


About Sparky

Sparky is a salaryman for an unspecified Fortune 200 company. But more importantly, he has a smoking jacket and entertains fellow bon vivants in his secret lair, The Manitarium. He believes in booze, charcuterie, bbq, bourbon, villainy, craft cocktails, ascots, the Oxford comma, and freedom. He is married to a beautiful attorney who is a life-long vegetarian and was raised as an experiment by her meddling nutrition scientist parents. He can be found trying to save his kids from a life of vegetables...

3 comments on “The Pharmacy – A descent into madness

  1. 90mom
    November 5, 2013

    Thank you for writing this. I too had a terrible experience there. A girlfriend and I were walking around her neighborhood and decided to stop in for lunch. I have a 3 year old and an 9 mth old. My girlfriend had a newborn. I thought it would be the perfect place since the last time we had eaten there, they had a playground!!! Well, the hostess, who was pleasant, offered to have one of the staff take our strollers. The owner, I guess, deducted that I asked, if we had somewhere to put them. I did not ask that. He then berates me about it being a small establishment and they have no room. The hostess asked him if he would carry my stroller. Perfect. Not only did he throw my stroller against the fence, it fell. He walked by me and felt the need to say that was a huge effing stroller. Mind you, it rolls. I did not tell him this, seeing as before I could mutter the words, he huffed and puffed off, carrying my huge effing stroller.
    Then we ordered a beer. Guess who brings it to us? The same guy that just threw my stroller on the ground. He literally slammed our beers on the table, So much so they foamed at the top. This is the owner mind you.
    I have worked in the restaurant business for 10 years and have never been treated so terrible. I may not be much, but I will never step foot in any of his establishments.

    On another note, a friend called to complain about the service and was told that they didn’t need their business they were doing just fine.

  2. Sparky
    November 5, 2013

    I feel you. It amazes me that people like this place and think the food is above adequate. The reality: Food is sub-par and the service is insulting.

    But people continue to flock because they don’t know any better, or have accepted the terrible service as the standard.

  3. Pingback: Epilogue – You’re going to be on TV, no really | PWI--Parenting While Intoxicated

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This entry was posted on October 21, 2013 by in Where Are We Eating? and tagged , , , , , , .
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