Elevate your holiday leftover turkey sandwich with Nashville’s Levon Wallace
FatBelly Pretzel was born, like many of Nashville’s latest ventures, during the pandemic. The shutdown forced chef Levon Wallace into a job-less moment, during which the restless creative got busy in the home kitchen, cooking for his wife, Kim, and two kids. He started playing around with pretzels just to put a smile on their faces, which soon led to an obsession with perfecting the dough and technique.
With a recipe and a whim, Levon and Kim decided a bake sale might be in order. It led to another, then to a short residency in the parking lot at Margot Café. Soon, FatBelly pretzel was a fixture at several area farmers’ markets, shelling out warm, face-sized pretzels (the pretzels’ fat bellies instigated the name) to hungry patrons. Already a pro at craft sandwiches (he had been the chef at the now-closed Nashville location of Cochon Butcher, where the muffuletta was a best seller), he was soon applying his newly acquired dough skills to sandwich breads and stuffing them with an array of combos, which became immediate sell-outs.
Four weeks ago, Levon and Kim opened their brick-and-mortar FatBelly Bakery & Deli in East Nashville, where the pretzels are on display, Kim is taking orders, and Levon and team are constructing a menu of standout sandwiches in the back. And while their story might be quickly wrapped up in a few sentences, the larger truth is that this self-made business, Levon and Kim’s first, was a series of moments when the couple let the universe take charge—from right-place, right-time conversations to sitting back and letting go until the answer arrived.
“FatBelly is a whole vibe—a wild-eyed, optimistic, positive vibe,” Levon says. “Seeing not just a few, but many faces light up at the idea of a fresh pretzel, which brings up memories for so many, or, you know, ‘here’s a sandwich that weighs a pound,’ made me realize, this is what I want to do for a living.”
One of their biggest recent hits was the Gobbler, an ode to the holiday season feasts. It’s stuffed with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and sage mayo. We asked Levon for a quick lesson on sandwich construction for all those Christmas dinner leftovers—or you could keep an eye out for the Gobbler, back on the menu soon. @fatbellypretzel @fatbellydeli615
Levon Wallace’s Tips to Build the Perfect Leftover Turkey Sandwich
“There has to be some thought to the main attraction [more below] but for something like the Gobbler, which has soft mashed potatoes, soft stuffing, and turkey, you want something that’s not too soft, but not too crusty, and it should have a little chewy, like a good Italian or French loaf.”
“You have to think about the textures, the mouthfeel: As you bite through, what layers will you be getting? For the Gobbler, the turkey should be a mix—we use a blend of pulled thigh meat and thin slices of breast meat, piled high.”
“Ask yourself: What role do they play? Are they in the right spot? We do a simple roast beef sandwich [called the Lango] with thinly sliced beef, two types of cheese, and instead of lettuce, we go coleslaw, which brings juiciness and a creamy saltiness to the sandwich. It sits on top to give the bread a little moisture. As you bite through, from slaw to cheese to that sweet, tender beef, it all works. [For the Gobbler], start by spreading the mashed potatoes on the bottom half of the bread, almost like it’s your condiment. Then turkey, piled high, then stuffing. We add a little salad of arugula with pickled onions and dried cranberries, for that fresh salad element, and a sage mayo on the top slice of bread. Then we griddle the exterior of the bread and serve it with a deli container of turkey gravy to dip. Or to sip!”
Eat + Do in Nashville
Now Open: Luogo
Longtime New York restaurateur Anthony Scotto landed in the Gulch earlier this month with Luogo, an upscale Italian spot with a seasonally rotating menu. Count us in for the arancini, filled with beef, peas, and cheeses served with an arrabbiata sauce alongside an Amalfi aperitivo (piedmont amaro, elderflower, sparkling rose prosecco, blood orange and soda).
Stocking Stuffer: Baked Nashville
The Nashville Scene’s latest cookbook is all about the sweets. More than 30 local chefs contributed recipes—that’s 8th and Roast’s bananas foster coffee cake on the cover—for a holiday gift idea that also gives back: 10% of sales through the end of the year will be donated to the Nashville Farmers Market’s Fresh Bucks program. Copies available online. @nashvillescene