When I approached Angel and Becky about my next dining experience that I wanted to share with my readers, I was concerned because the restaurant was not located in Wilson County. But when I explained that the owner and chef, Tully Wilson, had Wilson County roots along with a surname that helped the cause, they readily approved.
Tully’s Bistro is located just north of Wilson County in Hartsville, Tennessee. It is situated in one of the oldest homes in Trousdale County, a beautiful “salt-box style” two-story home constructed of solid wood cedar logs. The house dates all the way back to the late 1700’s. The Wilson family purchased the house in May 2006, and after a major restoration that lasted just under one full year, Tully’s Bistro opened for business.
It truly is worth the trip to Tully’s if only to experience the charm and history of this magnifi cent home. And visitors will certainly feel right at home. When I arrived, I was greeted by Tully’s mother, ‘KK’, and I had the great pleasure of having a wonderful conversation with another sweet lady everyone referred to as ‘Mommer’, who as it turns out is Tully’s grandmother. As I sat at my table, a lady came through one of the many entrances to the restaurant to ask what the dress code is, stating that her husband was embarrassed to come in wearing overalls.
Without hesitating, Mommer stated emphatically, “Overalls were good enough to build and restore this house, and overalls are good enough to dine here.” And though the restaurant DOES abide by Mommer’s very liberal dress code, most visitors to Tully’s dress much more apropos to the beautiful surroundings inside. From white tablecloths, to fine china, to a beautiful Murano chandelier imported from the famed glass-blowing island situated a short boat ride from Venice, Tully’s is a unique combination of fine dining with a wonderful down-home feel.
Though the running of the restaurant does take a total team effort, make no mistake about who is in charge … Executive Chef Tully Wilson. Chef Tully came from humble “culinary” beginnings which includes helping to start Lebanon High School’s culinary program. While a student there, he quickly rose up the culinary ladder after graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York City in 2004. And after stops at Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World and Clipper Cruise Lines, Chef Tully fulfilled his dream of owning his own restaurant when he opened his Bistro in Hartsville. Just being around Tully and his restaurant for a couple hours made one thing very clear: this man NEVER slows down. Between taking the time to talk to me and pose for pictures, he intermittently would head back to the kitchen to create another wonderful dish for me or one of the other patrons. And he must have taken three different calls from people wanting him to cater a special event. He would spout off the top of his head the specific menu that he recommended for each caller, no two menus being exactly the same (and he did this all without writing one thing down)!
I have saved the best for last – the food. To just call it food seems almost an insult to the wonderful dishes Chef Tully creates. I started with a cup of the best French onion soup I have ever tasted. Most French onion soups are just way too salty, not Tully’s. The secret he said is that he makes his own stock for all his soups. His imagination showed in his next offering to me. I am not much of a salad fan, but he brought a salad that was adorned with mandarin oranges, craisins, and little pieces of candied pecans. Now here is where he separates himself from all others – the dressing was homemade eggnog dressing, and it was out of this world. I took a couple of bites, and then passed it on to let my photographer, Donna Neely, sample it. Needless to say, I never got it back. She said it was probably the best salad she had ever eaten. Another unique dressing Tully has is pumpkin dressing. Mommer served me some of this dressing to try without a salad in addition to a big plate of Tully’s fresh-cut sweet potato fries. And I promise you, these are the best sweet potato fries you will ever taste, and that’s without the dressing. With the dressing, it is indescribably good. They then served a plate of the “lunch special” for that day. It was a big, thick slice of city ham with what Tully calls his apple pie glaze, which consists of whole grain white wine, Dijon mustard, brown sugar and apple pie liquor. And yes, it tasted as good as it sounds. I wanted to try one of his many wonderful sounding chicken dishes. There is Merlot, Florentine, Creole, and of course Southern Fried to name a few. Tully made me his famous Sicilian Chicken, which is a grilled breast topped with a sun-dried tomato basil cream sauce. Donna and I left no evidence of that dish’s existence. (this time, I did the bulk of the damage)!
One dessert Tully’s is famous for is his Chocolate Eruption – ’nuff said. But the one I had the pleasure of trying was his unique and creative version of bread pudding. He bakes it, cubes it, then lightly deep-fries it. Then he tosses it in cinnamon and sugar and serves it over vanilla ice cream with a little apple pie liquor drizzled over for good measure.
If you have never made the short drive over to Tully’s Bistro located on 333 Broadway in Hartsville, please do yourself (or your loved ones) a very big favor and go. If you HAVE been there, but it has been awhile, then you really need to go back because Tully takes pride in changing his menu depending on what items are in season and are the very freshest that he can find. Tully’s is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. And when you go, please tell Mommer that Dr. John says “Hey”!