The Wild Cow — Nashville, Tennessee

A community-oriented vegan/vegetarian restaurant in East Nashville that pleasantly surprises meat-eaters, The Wild Cow plans to expand into breakfast and bar food.

Go hungry…or open a restaurant

Melanie and John Cochran went vegan in 2009 and found they had almost no restaurant choices in their home town of Nashville. Both had restaurant experience, so they decided to start their own. Despite Nashville not being a particularly vegan-friendly city, the Cochrans were confident they'd get a fair shot at success in the community-oriented neighborhood where they live, East Nashville. The Wild Cow opened its doors on Eastland Avenue in December 2009.

Casual atmosphere and welcoming dishes

Imperial Bowl

Imperial Bowl

John and Melanie wanted the restaurant to be inviting, informal, and family-friendly. They keep prices as low as possible without sacrificing the use of high-quality ingredients, especially local fruits and vegetables. The menu changes with the seasons, and they feature many daily specials to take advantage of the freshest, most plentiful ingredients. The menu has expanded over the years to include more sophisticated approaches to familiar dishes, but they strive for a range of offerings to suit different tastes.

Omnivores surprised at how good vegan dishes taste

Nick Davis, Melanie Cochran, and John Cochran

Nick Davis, Melanie Cochran, and John Cochran

Many people are intimidated when they eat vegetarian for the first time, so the Cochrans and head chef and general manager, Nick Davis, tend to stick with recognizable dish names, like nachos, burritos, tacos, Reubens, grinders, and burgers. Some dishes feature meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh and some don’t, given there are more than a few people who don’t want to try unfamiliar ingredients.

The most popular dishes with people new to vegetarian eating are the Buffalo Beans and Greens Bowl, the Taco Sampler Plate, and the Taco Salad. Buffalo Beans and Greens features kale, pinto beans, brown rice, and a choice of tofu or tempeh, topped with buffalo sauce and vegan ranch dressing.  The tacos include various combinations of beans, tempeh, sweet potatoes, chipotle peppers, kale, peanuts, and kitchen-fresh salsas. Sometimes a customer will find out after the meal that it was vegan; they usually express surprise at how much they liked it. Perhaps the stigma attached to vegan food—the expectation of something dry, tasteless, and brown like a lentil loaf—can be undone only one eater at a time. Tasting is believing.

Vegans like dishes they can't get elsewhere

Local Lentil Bowl

Local Lentil Bowl

Veteran vegans, on the other hand, come to The Wild Cow to get animal-free versions of dishes from their meat-eating days, like the “Wild Reuben,” “The Philly,” and the “French Quarter Dip.” The clever combinations of meat substitutes, non-dairy cheeses, and tantalizing sauces recreate the layers of flavor reminiscent of bygone favorites. Melanie Cochran estimates that about 50% of the diners are vegans or vegetarians and about 50% omnivores looking for healthy food.

Breakfast and bar food in the near future

The Cochrans have just signed a lease for expanded space in their current building. They'll be opening “Graze Nashville” in the new space, with smoothies, juices, and other breakfast foods offered in the morning and a bar with casual food in the evening. The restaurant’s expanded hours as well as its continued commitment to Nashville (they donate a portion of their proceeds to a different local charity every month) promise to root The Wild Cow even more deeply in their neighborhood.

1896 Eastland Avenue, Nashville, TN 37206

(615) 262-2717



© 2016 Linda Tyler,