While Nashville has long been known for its music scene, its 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 check out where the singers and songwriters have been hanging out for over 30 years at The Row.
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, 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.” 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. The Flipside is a fun, local restaurant with a style of their own. They feature Jack’s Chicken which is chicken breast pounded thin, seasoned bread crumbs, and then pan sauteed in extra virgin olive oil. They have a tons of different styles to choose from plus an amazing selection of local beers and craft cocktails.
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. For a treat make sure to stop by the Goo Goo Shop and try the world’s first combination candy bar founded right here in Nashville. Right down the road located on Lower Broadway is ACME Feed & Seed featuring a menu filled with southern classic cuisine. The restaurant creates a uniquely ‘Nashville’ atmosphere that honors the unparalleled character of the city’s past, present and future. Also, Yoga fans will love to join them during Rooftop Yoga happening Monday through Friday from 12-1pm. Then past that, on Nashville’s 2nd Avenue, is Leon’s Candy. A local shop that offers handcrafted pralines, turtles, caramels, and toffee daily.
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 its more famous meat & threes are Puckett’s, and Arnold’s. When speaking of Southern cuisine one can’t forget to mention the Loveless Cafe. For over 60 years, they’ve been getting up at the crack of down to make classic Southern food entirely from scratch in Music City. 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. Make sure to check out Hattie B’s over in Midtown, offering some amazing “Nashville Style” hot chicken. Choose your heat level with their selection of southern, medium, hot, or shut the cluck up. Another hot chicken joint is Party Fowl over in the The Gulch. They specialize in Nashville hot and Southern fried chicken but offer a much broader menu with local brew, craft cocktails, and a wine list. Some other well-known hot chicken shacks are Prince’s, Boltons, , and 400º. 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 Creamon 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 Seven-Layer Bar, Milkiest Chocolate in the World, and Dark Milk Chocolate. 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 Midtown’s The Patterson House, which offers a vibe and drink menu that suggests a throwback to the pre-Prohibition era. 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 next favorite from the many fine breweries located in Music City! The Black Abbey Brewing Company strives to supply liquid refreshment that is greater than the some of its fine parts. It’s created, not made, right here in Nashville. Also, located Downtown-SoBro is Tennessee Brew Works where you can find a production micro-brewery and tasting room dedicated to producing & enjoying high quality craft beer, while appreciating music and the many other fine traditions of Tennessee. The Corsair Artisan Brewery Taproom is a craft beer brewpub attached to Nashville’s first distillery since Prohibition.
Interested in delicious fresh beer and tasty food all in one stop? Check out Lower Broadway’s only brewery, Rock Bottom Brewery, at the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Broadway. 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. East Nashville’s Fat Bottom Brewery, The Gulch’s Yazoo Brewery, and Eighth Avenue’s Jackalope Brewing Co., are also some famous breweries located in Music City.
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. Consistently named among the best restaurants in the nation, The Catbird Seat is a 32-seat restaurant that features an ever-changing, nine course menu of seasonally inspired dishes. Let’s not forget about Prima, which features European cuisine infused with South American and Latin flavors. Not only are the dishes amazing, but everything from the decor to the lighting has been designed to provide the ultimate experience. Close by are several M Street Entertainment creations, that are some of the hottest restaurants in town including Kayne Prime, Virago, Whiskey Kitchen, Saint Anejo, Moto, 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.
The 8th Avenue neighborhood is home to a mix of restaurants perfect for lunch or dinner. Try the Sinema Restaurant & Bar that offers an dining experience that hinges on impeccable service. The eclectic American menu is unique to Nashville, with emphasis on classically inspired dishes with a modern spin. There is also M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers. They have specialty made burgers with all natural beef, a selection of over 80 beers, a large patio, great jukebox, and 10 HDTVs.
Silo, Rolf & Daughters, City House, and Germantown Café 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. Germantown Café is known for their incredible food prepared from a menu of New American-style creations, splendid drinks and desserts, as well as one of the greatest views of the city.
If you’re catching a show downtown, check out three amazing members of the Nashville culinary scene, Etch, Husk, The Farm House, and Gray & Dudley. 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. Nashville’s newest farm-to-table restaurant, The Farm House, offers traditional Southern cuisine with a modern day twist with menu highlights including house-cured and smoked meats, homemade vinegars and house- preserved produce. Chef Cioccia also provides some fresh vegetables directly from his own Davidson County garden for a true “farm to fork” dining experience. Led by Executive Chef Levon Wallace, Gray & Dudley brings an eclectic menu to downtown Nashville, inspired by Wallace’s West Coast roots. Market driven dishes are fresh, bright, honest and playful, with some showcasing traditional hearth cooking methods. Paying homage to the building’s past life as the Gray & Dudley Hardware Company, the reimagined restaurant and lounge space embraces and celebrates high and low, new and old. Adjacent museum galleries exhibiting contemporary art foster exploration over cocktails or following a meal filled with heartfelt hospitality.
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.