There is a dining spot in West Nashville that’s as comfortable as it is delicious, one that prides itself on offering Everything that Is Organic and embodies the wellness lifestyle as much as any restaurant I’ve ever experienced. And that’s what visiting EiO & The Hive is: an experience. Even the walls connote health and wellbeing with their golden bee hives all lined up in a row. Whether on a date night, a casual family outing, or just hanging out with friends, EIO is the perfect spot to meet all one’s culinary and interpersonal dining needs.
Let’s begin with the furniture: table setups complete with cloth napkins and esthetically pleasing, petite water glasses matched with chairs that would work as well outside as they do in. Plenty of hanging baskets with potted plants festoon the room from above (environmental wellness). The floors are hard, finished concrete—very minimalist—but around the periphery, comfortable-furniture arrangements, reminiscent of one’s living room. People and families are not only encouraged to have drinks or hors d’oeuvres on the comfy furniture, but to eat their entire meal there if they choose. Young children are free to explore (especially on Sunday evenings), and the resulting effect is less chaotic than “home sweet home” (on a very good day).
I commented to EiO & The Hive Owner Jennifer Masley on how the atmosphere—the comfortable furniture, etc.—seemed so integral to the EiO experience and asked whether this was a must for her. “Yes!” she exclaimed. "I started working with a designer and then took over the project myself—mostly for budget reasons and because there was a specific aesthetic and energy I wanted to create. I am very pleased that so many of our guests recognize, feel and appreciate it! I hear often, they aren’t sure what they love more, the food or the environment. Both works just fine!”
In this writer’s opinion, the food equals if not surpasses the surroundings. When asked if she could speak a bit about the Hive’s ingredients, where they source them, and how they select what is best for the restaurant, Masley replied, “The brand is built on local and organic. We always source locally first, either direct with farmers or through Nashville Grown. I don’t necessarily care about certifications for organic, I'd rather know the farmer, understand their practices (many choose not to become certified because of the bureaucracy and the cost involved). We are very diligent in our research; we choose partners who understand our mission of providing clean food to our Hive.”
And the Hive's food is combined in so many interesting (and tasty) ways. For example, during breakfast one can order an EiO Famous Frittata ($12) made with quinoa, Still Well Farm eggs, market greens, leeks, ricotta, and almond romesco. And for brunch or dinner, the Hive features one of the best burgers you’ll ever taste, the Bell’s Bend Burger ($15), with Bell’s Bend grass-fed beef, Bloomin’ Shrooms mushrooms, caramelized onions, mushroom dijon, Swiss, lettuce, and Sam’s sweet potato bun, served with sautéed market vegetables. Any omnivore with a decent appetite is sure to be pleased!
If you want to keep things super healthy and light, simply try a glass of Redemption, a 16-ounce juice comprised of beets, celery, carrot, apple, and lemon, or a Kale Caesar Salad ($12) with kale, carrot, cucumber, croutons, and garlicky almond caesar dressing.
And for those in the market for something a little stronger, please do explore an El Burro (lime-infused tequila, High Garden ginger tonic, and fresh lime) or a Green Monk (vodka, house-made jalapeño lemongrass simple, fresh-pressed apple, pineapple and cucumber juice) from the Hive's highly skilled bar staff.
Keep reading below for the rest of my interview with Masley, and be sure to check out her restaurant very soon—you won’t be sorry. There truly is something for everyone at the HIVE.
What is your concept of "wellness" as it pertains to food? I have a 360 degree view of wellness. Mind Body Spirit and food is included in that. I believe locally sourced, organic food provides the most nutrition. I believe in eating mostly plants, very little processed food! I personally do not eat meat or dairy, but don’t judge others for their eating habits. I do believe that the energy that has gone into growing or caring for the food we eat is what we absorb; for instance, factory farmed inhumane treatment of animals becomes toxic when we try to digest it. We are all made up of energy and so is the food we eat!
What does sustainability mean to you in the context of being a restauranteur? I’m very earth conscious. We compost all of the food and paper waste we produce. We use all compostable take-away products; we use all green cleaning products; we go to great lengths and extra costs to be sure we are minimizing our carbon footprint. This is how I live and I expect the same in my businesses. Our merch (hats and tees, etc) are either organic or recycled materials. Most of the interior of the restaurant is built from sustainable materials, as much as was possible. We are very transparent and walk the walk.
How long have you been in the food biz? Where are you from? What brought you to Nashville? I have had my own food business since 2010. I started working in restaurants when I was 15! I spent my first 18 years in northern Michigan, went to college in DC, had a few stints in Florida and many years back in Michigan. I first connected to Nashville in 2014 when my daughter was at Belmont, and then I met my business partners and moved here for both business and personal relationships which is a win win!
Do you have any thoughts to share about the current Nashville food scene? I think it’s fantastic, both an art form and entrepreneurial. In particular I love all of the local artisans who produce their amazing products. That’s how I got started, with my Jenergy Bar (raw, organic energy bar) in my kitchen so I know the labor of love involved. I am more about functional food than the typical restaurateur. I like basic, nutritious and full flavor. I view what’s on my plate as energy that keeps me alive and functioning at full speed and I want it to taste amazing too, so am always searching for that when I do eat away from EiO, or my own home. I also think it’s great that more restaurants are moving toward local and organic. It is our future.
What fun, wellness-oriented things do you have in store for Nashvillians in the future? My question of the year. Where do I want to focus my attention. I have a juice bar business, Sip Organic Juice Bar, EiO, and my Jenergy Bar business. I also have The Hive Hour radio show on Acme Radio. Everything I do falls under the wellness umbrella and I love it all. If I can manage to expand all of them, well, that’s my version of a gold medal!