Many of you are probably coming to Nashville this week for Americana Fest or Music City Food & Wine (or both). Or maybe you’re headed in my direction for a college football game later in the season. Either way, let’s just say, I hope you’ve saved a lot of time to eat!
While I blog about our local dining scene occasionally, it’s occurred to me that I’ve never given you the ultimate list of my *true* favorites, the places I go to on the regular and never tire of no matter how many times I visit. So without further ado, here they are…
For any occasion: The Farm House
I’ve professed my love for Chef Trey Cioccia’s winning combination of atmosphere and contemporary Southern fare on the blog before, but every time I go back, his ever-changing menu impresses me even more. Pork belly pop-tarts? Pimento cheese beignets? Gnudi of the day? Forget about it! Just give me one of everything, please. On top of dinner six nights a week, TFH serves lunch on weekdays and brunch on Sundays.
To impress an out-of-towner: Pinewood Social
If you haven’t heard of this restaurant-meets-bar-meets-swimming pool-meets karaoke joint-meets bowling alley-meets cafe, you’ve been living under a rock (or else not reading C&C…or Vogue…or Esquire…or any of the hundreds of publications that have featured it in the two years since Pinewood’s inception). The drinks are stellar, the food is great, and the atmosphere is on point—what more could you ask for out of a dining experience?
When you’re feeling indulgent: Biscuit Love Brunch
There’s no nicer couple in town than Karl and Sarah Worley, and it doesn’t hurt that they also have the game-changing recipe for the best biscuits in Nashville. After two years of dominating the food truck market, this dynamic duo launched their own brick-and-mortar earlier this year, open seven days a week from 7am to 3pm. There’s never not a line, so you’re better off going on a weekday if you can. Just know: It’s worth every second you wait. Also know: You should order the Lily while your friend has the East Nasty, which was named as one of Bon Appetit’s favorite sandwiches in the country this year! If you’re not feeling biscuits, there are plenty of other options on the menu, like the Lindstrom, a seriously decadent shaved Brussels sprouts salad.
For Sunday Supper: City House
City House is a must-eat any night of the week but it’s especially good each Sunday night when the menu rotates to include even more creative pizza and pasta dishes (I still remember an apple, onion and chili pie I had years ago). You’ll need a reservation to get into Sunday Supper, though you can always nab a seat at the bar if you forgot to call a couple weeks in advance. Note: City House is great for small groups, but can be really loud and not ideal for a first (or second or third…) date.
For a classy business affair: Etch
This three-year-old downtown spot is the brainchild of culinary master Deb Paquette, who whips up inventive fare, such as an octopus and shrimp bruschetta or a cauliflower steak. It’s also one of my very favorites in town—and I’m not just saying it because my college roommate is the ace pastry chef (proud friend alert)! Just ask Zagat or a number of any other ratings guides: Etch is la creme de la creme. I haven’t popped in for dinner lately, but the cauliflower appetizer is a must-do anytime of day, and my regular lunch order is the creamy, oh-so-tasty Thai Chicken & Quinoa.
For the sweet lover: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Have I gotten the point across yet? I LOVE JENI’S ICE CREAM. And now that there are four locations in Nashville, my waistline is in immediate danger. I finally met Jeni Britton Bauer at the opening of her Hillsboro Village store—dangerously close to where I live—and had a major fangirl moment.
For breakfast/lunch/dinner any day of the week: Fido
The sweet potato waffle can’t be beat, but neither can the burger, or the coffee for that matter. Basically, all you need to know is that Fido is as good as they come, and if you find yourself hungry in Hillsboro Village no matter the time of day, you can pop in and fulfill your craving, no matter what that may be. Then head across the street to Jeni’s for dessert or next door to Hot & Cold for a Las Paletas pop, and all will be right with the world!
For the best $200 you’ve ever spent: Catbird Seat
Before I ate there, I wondered just how any meal could be worth $200 (note: that price does include pairings). Well, let’s just say, I would have paid double that for the feast we had at our inaugural Catbird experience last spring! The restaurant itself is very no-frills, which means the focus is entirely on the food and what chef Trevor Moran (of Noma fame) and his team are whipping up that night. Reservations open up exactly 30 days in advance, and as there are only two seatings of 20 people Wednesday through Sunday, you better get on that if you want to indulge in this sinful experience.
For my green juice: Juice Bar
Like every other city in America, Nashville has experienced a boom in juice spots. I do several juice cleanses a year and have yet to find one I like as much as the Juice Bar, which now has multiple locations in Nashville and Williamson County (I go to the Berry Hill outpost).
For inventive cuisine: Rolf & Daughters
You won’t understand half the ingredients on the menu, but that’s half the fun. People bemoan the service (or lack thereof) at Rolf—it’s a hipster hangout first and foremost—so know before you go. But that’s never deterred me from heading to RAD when the urge strikes. And if it’s a nice evening, arrive early and claim a spot on the patio, which is first-come, first-served.
For a community experience: Josephine
This 12 South hotspot debuted at the tail end of 2013 to much excitement, but its new 10-course X|X: Josephine experience really helped keep it relevant. Each Friday and Saturday night at 8pm, 10 lucky diners take the table as they’re served a steady stream of 10 dishes on a long 2-by-10 wooden board, each presented by theme (e.g., snacks, asparagus, spring, pretzel, morel mushroom, scallop, pork belly). Better yet, the meal is just $85 with an optional $35 for six beverage pairings, an absolute steal for as much food and drink as that gets you. Just be sure and make reservations, as with just 10 spots at the table, they go quickly!
For bad-ass BBQ and bushwhackers: Edley’s
BBQ purists may call it too trendy, but I don’t care. I LOVE this BBQ joint that now boasts three locations across town. The Tuck (pulled pork, not brisket) forever gets me order, and even though I nearly died from bushwhacker consumption last year (don’t ask), I can’t stay away. My runner-up for barbecue is Martin’s, which now boasts four locations around town.
For guaranteed fun: Acme Feed & Seed
Whether it’s the lounge and photo booth area on the second floor, a private event on the third or the best views in town from the rooftop, Acme wins any night of the week in my opinion. We had a blast late night on a Saturday for my sister’s recent Nashville bachelorette weekend, but it’s just as fun on a Monday afternoon when you don’t have to compete for a seat.
For a drink on the go: Bajo Sexto
A cocktail I can carry around downtown with me? Don’t mind if I do! Jonathan Waxman’s latest Nashville endeavor has authentic Mexican food and delicious drinks, like the bourbon horchata, which I will go back for time and time again.
For the cool, new kid in town: Butchertown Hall
This new-to-2015 spot doesn’t have the best food in town, but it’s pretty damn good (get the brisket taco platter)—and the beer selection is top notch, too. On warmer nights, Butchertown’s lovely side patio is perfect for sipping saison after saison.
For the celebrity chef experience: Chauhan House
While Maneet Chauhan’s eponymous restaurant opened a year ago to mixed reviews—mainly just from the uber-food snobs I know, it must be said—I have had nothing but delicious fare every time I’ve stepped foot in the door. The lunch items may be heavy, but man is that meat-and-three worth it (though I often oscillate between the thali and the chicken tikka masala—both are oh so good).
For hotel food that rocks: Mason’s
There’s often a stigma attached to restaurants located inside hotels, but let’s just say that the Southern-style Loews Vanderbilt’s Mason bar and restaurant is worth a visit, whether you’re staying there or not.
For brunch without a wait: Saint Anejo
There’s hot chocolate French toast, there’s chicken and waffles with jalapeno syrup, and there’s a horchata French toast. I say order them all. Also a winning factor? Two-for-one cocktails every single weekend day. Done.
For that international flavor: Thai Esane
I could eat Thai food every day for the rest of my life and never grow tired of it. Unfortunately, while Nashville dining is many things, diverse it is not. Which is why Thai Esane’s 2014 opening was greeted with a collective cheer from those of us who crave Asian food at every meal.
For that old Hollywood glam: Sinema
Sinema debuted in the summer of 2014 to become one of the pricier joints in town. It’s definitely a special occasion type of place, but even if you aren’t in the mood to spend $35 in a plate, it’s worth grabbing drinks in the upstairs lounge and popping into the bathroom for a #SinemaSelfie.
For a taste of history: Goo Goo Cluster
I’ve often sung the praises of Nashville’s own century-old candy company but the new chef series, in which they roll out a different Premium Goo Goo every week or two, has me stopping by the downtown shop more often than not to see what these culinary masterminds have whipped up on any given week.
For a true Nashville vibe: The Farmers’ Market
The Nashville Farmers’ Market is open every day of the week and boasts dozens of purveyors of local food and products, from Sloco to Batch. It’s always bustling, and it’s always good. If you need a lunch spot that’s guaranteed to fill you up and leave you satisfy, this one’s for you.
For a little bit of everything rolled into one: Walk Eat Nashville
In Nashville for a short time and don’t have the chance to try it all? Book a spot with Karen-Lee Ryan’s Walk Eat Nashville, and I guarantee you will get the highlights reel in your informative and tasty, three-hour walking tour of East Nashville or Midtown.
**Note: Nashville’s culinary landscape is constantly evolving, by the day even, and there are hundreds—literally, hundreds—of amazing restaurants in town, plenty of which I left off here. These are simply the ones that I gravitate to time and time again, and I hope you’ll check them out next time you’re in town! If you crave more Nashville content, say the word in the comments below and I promise to deliver more in the very near future…