Photos by Olivia Ladd
The Block is an innovative restaurant, bar and creative space nestled right in the heart of Murfreesboro. They bring fresh ingredients, faces, ideas, and, most importantly, a focus on community to the table.
The Block began in October of 2015.
“The restaurant business is something that’s been in my family for generations now … I grew up in it,” owner Manuel (Manny) Santana told Sidelines. “It’s basically all I really know.”
One glance at the menu and one can tell this is not a run-of-the-mill business. They offer a wide variety of dishes, even vegetarian and vegan entrée options. This makes The Block special because it has a little something for everyone’s taste buds.
With just one bite, it becomes obvious that quality comes first.
“We use minimally-processed foods. We try to make everything that we can in-house,” Santana commented on the menu, “We try to use all the byproducts; we have minimal food waste. We care about high-quality ingredients.”
In fact, the cooks over at The Block care so much about their food that they don’t have a single microwave in their kitchen.
The menu is mouth-watering with lunch items ranging from biscuits and gravy and steak and club sandwiches to avocado and spinach toast and tofu scramble.
Additionally, they offer a plethora of appetizers, soups and salads.
Santana told Sidelines about his favorite dishes: the chicken salad, smoked chicken soup and the “Lady Melanie,” saying, “It’s basically Thanksgiving in one bite.”
As if that isn’t enticing enough, the intentions of their practice take things above and beyond.
“We really want to be a part of the community as far as food education goes. We’re not concerned with people eating a salad everyday, we’re more concerned with [them] knowing where their food comes from, how it’s made … who had hands on it, basically,” Santana commented.
In a time where food insecurity in America is becoming increasingly rampant and most of the food found in grocery stores travels miles and miles from inconspicuous sources, it’s important that locals have a wholesome option for feeding themselves.
The Block provides that, and it’s been received with open arms.
Santana expressed his sentiment for the people of Murfreesboro, “The community as a whole has been very welcoming to us. We get new smiling faces everyday that are pretty excited that we’re here, you know, with our message for the community.”
What contributes even more to this community-oriented space are the shows that take place and the visual art on display.
When walking in, the first thing customers see is a beautiful mural behind the stage. All over the walls are paintings and multimedia works submitted by Murfreesboro visual artists. These works rotate over time and add an even stronger sense of creativity.
Bands play almost nightly at The Block. There’s always good music to accompany the friendly atmosphere and delicious meals.
“I’ve tried to bring the house show philosophy the D.I.Y. community feel … to a venue,” said Quinten Thornton, who books most of the shows that take place. “We don’t limit the type of music that’s played here. We’re not trying to pigeon-hole a certain type of music here.”
The Block provides a safe space for bands to play and get exposure around the community without having to worry about noise violations or police shutting shows down.
It’s become a hangout spot for people in the music scene to find new bands and watch their friends play while grabbing a drink.
All kinds of people have performed at The Block from jam bands to indie pop outfits to experimental groups.
What makes these shows unique is the diversity and the crazy amount of events that are held here.
The Block features singer-songwriter nights, hip-hop nights complete with rap competitions, artist showcases, album release shows, organization benefits and open mic nights.
All types of people from all walks of life come into The Block to express themselves with no worry of judgment.
“We welcome all kinds of people, we want you to come in and try us at least once,” Santana conveyed. “For us, it’s really about the people of Murfreesboro.”
Be sure to stop by The Block for lunch or dinner at 123 SE Broad Street (next to where Brew U used to be), and check out their events on Facebook to find out when there’s a show.
This article appeared in Sidelines’ February print edition
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.