Varallo's - specifically its chili and in particular a bowl of chili three-ways (chili, spaghetti and tamale) - truly can be regarded as a Nashville institution. The last remaining vestige of the city's oldest restaurant traces its origins to Frank Varallo Sr. opening up his first chili parlor and eatery in 1907. Son Frank Jr. and wife Eva kept up the family tradition on Church Street, with Frank Jr. (who passed away in 2007) even authoring a book, Thoughts from the Bottom of a Chili Bowl
. The restaurant's closing several years ago was cause for much mourning from local business leaders and politicos who could be found dining there among the common folks on a daily basis. Fortunately, two of their grandsons, Todd and Tony, opened Varallo's on Fourth Avenue in 1994 and continue to carry on the tradition. There's nothing fancy here: Everything's served cafeteria-style on plastic plates and with plastic utensils. The mildly spiced, South American-influenced chili hasn't changed in generations. Most diners add hot sauce, which is available tableside, and soda crackers crumbled on top. A couple of daily home-style entrée specials (catfish, roast beef and the like) form the foundation for an above-par meat-and-two. And the cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches from the grill are among the best in town. A solid breakfast of the usual foodstuffs is served daily anytime.