Uniquely Nashville Restaurants
While Nashville has long been known for its music scene, our culinary scene is garnering attention of its own. Food & Wine highlighted the “booming Music City food scene,” Food Arts Magazine noted the “emerging culinary scene putting Nashville on the gastronomic radar,” and Local Palate featured the “impressively diverse culinary scene busting at the seams.” You can find Nashville’s authentic flavors in many areas of town such as Germantown, East Nashville, The Gulch, Midtown, 12South, Downtown and Hillsboro Village. Each neighborhood has its own personality and welcome all walks of life.
Start your day in Hillsboro Village with breakfast at Taylor Swift’s favorite spot, Fido, a funky coffeehouse that features breakfast all day long, or venture down the block to the famous Pancake Pantry where a menu of 21 melt-in-your-mouth pancake selections await you.
If you’re on the search for a good weekend brunch spot, try the red velvet waffles and blood orange mimosas at Tavern in Midtown or head to East Nashville where Marche Artisan Foods and Margot reign as the ever-popular weekend brunch spots. Other brunch favorites include the 1808 Grille at the trendy Hutton Hotel, or the quintessential farm-to-table experience at Silo.
If you’re still in need of a caffeine jolt, there are a plethora of latte sipping options at the dozens of local coffee shops around town. Places like Bongo Java, Nashville’s oldest coffee company, Frothy Monkey, a 12South and soon-to-be downtown favorite, Crema, whose menu is 95% locally sourced, and Barista Parlor, located in a former car repair shop, are some of the best places to fill your caffeine needs and get a sense of the local scene.
Many great local restaurants are located a little off the beaten path, so get out the GPS or a map, if those even still exist! For a hearty lunch, try the popular Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden in East Nashville that boasts an impressive selection of German wurst and bier, as well as an old-school soda fountain. Next door is a local favorite, Mas Tacos, which has been described by many as “the best thing since country music in Nashville.” Just down the road is Silly Goose where everything is fresh and made to order - the menu is full of wraps, sandwiches and salads for a perfect lunch time experience. The 12South district features the upscale burger joint Burger Up that has an ever changing menu of locally sourced ingredients, 12South Taproom offers 22 different beers on tap, and Edley’s Bar-B-Que, a fast casual eatery, serves up smoked pork, chicken, turkey, brisket, ribs, wings, and much more. For Southern fare, take a trip downtown to Cummins Station to grab a bite a M. Restaurant and Bar, where you'll have to choose between the Blue Plate special, a pork belly BLT, or the Jack Daniel's Chocolate Pecan Pie. Head for the heart of the burgeoning SoBro district and try a favorite among locals and visitors alike, The Southern. The Southern burger, fresh oysters and mahi-mahi will have you planning your next trip back.
Of course, Nashville hasn’t forgotten its roots. Two popular traditions are still all the rage at Meat & Three restaurants and hot chicken “shacks.” Meat & Three restaurants are a Southern staple in which you pick one meat and three vegetable side dishes. Some of our more famous meat & threes are Puckett’s, Arnold’s and Swett’s. Nashville’s most notable contribution to Southern culinary culture, hot chicken, can be found at places that let you choose the level of spiciness of your chicken. Some of the well-known hot chicken shacks are Prince’s, Boltons, Hattie B’s and 400º where you choose the level of spiciness of your chicken. Beware mild is plenty hot for most people!
To cool off from the hot chicken you may need a trip to one of Nashville’s sweet treat spots. Recently ranked No. 3 on Travel + Leisure’s “America’s Best Cities for Ice Cream”, Nashville has the famous Mike's Ice Cream on Lower Broadway. During the summer, lines are a familiar sight as visitors wait to get that perfect scoop of handmade ice cream. Nashville also boasts Pied Piper and Jeni’s Ice Cream which has unique flavors like Brambleberry Crisp, Lavender, and Pistachio & Honey. Most recently, Jeni's has added a unique Nashville flavor to their menu: Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam! Another must-visit is Las Paletas, an authentic Mexican Popsicle shop that makes mouth-watering fruit and creamy Popsicles from old family recipes. Don’t be afraid to try unusual flavors like avocado, hot chocolate, or cantaloupe! Bang Candy Company in Marathon Village uses high quality ingredients and imagination to create gourmet marshmallows half dipped in Belgian chocolate and rolled in your favorite topping, while The Cupcake Collection in Germantown will sprinkle your day with joy with their homemade cupcake creations.
As they say Nashville is a drinking town with a music problem, start your night off with an artisan cocktail or hand-crafted brew at several spots throughout the city. Try an artisan cocktail at East Nashville’s Holland House, where their creative drink catalog is served up by expert bartenders, or at Midtown’s The Patterson House which offers a vibe and drink menu that suggests a throwback to the pre-Prohibition era. For fine wine, visit locally owned Rumours Wine Bar that has been transformed into a chic nightspot with reclaimed wood tables and vintage items like crystal chandeliers and glass doorknobs. Carve out an evening for a trip to Kix Brooks’ Arrington Vineyards and sample award-winning wines, listen to live jazz music and take in the spectacular vineyard views.
If beer is more your flavor, discover your favorite local brew at East Nashville’s Fat Bottom Brewery, The Gulch’s Yazoo Brewery, and Eighth Avenue’s Jackalope Brewing Co., to name a few. The Corsair Artisan Brewery Taproom is a craft beer brewpub attached to Nashville’s first distillery since Prohibition. Prefer a growler to go? Fill up at a craft beer bar such as Hops & Crafts, which offers 36 crafts beers on tap on a rotating basis, and The Filling Station with 24 specialty beers on tap.
Dinner is a perfect time to explore more of Nashville’s taste buds. Lockeland Table in East Nashville is located in a former beauty-parlor-turned-photo-gallery and is a home for creative, chef-driven cuisine in a comfortable neighborhood vibe. Named one of "The Hot 10 - America's Best New Restaurants" in 2012 by Bon Appetit, The Catbird Seat is a 32-seat restaurant that features an ever-changing, nine course menu of seasonally inspired dishes. Close by are several M Street Entertainment creations, that are some of the hottest restaurants in town including Kayne Prime, Virago, Whiskey Kitchen and Tavern. All take an artful approach to their menus and offer an eclectic mix of atmospheres and cuisines that provide a diverse sampling of what Nashville has to offer.
Silo, Rolf & Daughters, and City House are all located in historic Germantown and feature their own variation of farm to fork menus. Silo focuses on the bounty of regional farmers, ranchers, dairymen, and producers in a lively, welcoming setting. Rolf & Daughters, recently named #3 Best Restaurant in America 2013 by Bon Appetit, uses local ingredients to create “modern, peasant food” in an Old World setting with 18-foot ceilings, exposed brick and concrete, and beautiful iron windows. City House delivers a menu of house-cured meats, fresh pastas and other rustic Italian recipes within an architectural design that melds perfectly with Germantown’s brick sidewalks and historic homes.
If you’re catching a show downtown, check out two of the newest members of the Nashville culinary scene, Etch or Husk. Etch is an upscale eatery that offers a menu containing a sprawling palette of global flavors in each dish. Husk is housed in a building that dates back to 1895 and overlooks downtown; their philosophy celebrates Southern cuisine, heirloom produce, and regional specialties where vegetables are raised in gardens and gathered from local farmers.
While Nashville will always be Music City, it’s clear that the creative energy and talent in the city extends far beyond music and into a flourishing culinary scene that is worth a visit all on its own.