Many of you are probably coming to Nashville soon for the NFL draft, or maybe CMA Fest or a bachelorette weekend or another excuse for a long-weekend getaway. No matter how you’re experiencing Music City, you must make time to eat your way through it—the food scene is absolutely on fire, and some of the best restaurants in Nashville are also the best in the country.
This post was last updated in January 2022 as sadly many of my favorite Nashville restaurants have closed over the past couple years.
The restaurant scene is so dynamic, in fact, that many have closed already before I even had a chance to write them up and hundreds more have opened. It’s harder than ever to be a restaurant in Nashville and make it long-term, so kudos to those chefs who are killing it. I update this post periodically as some of my favorites have their swan song meal, while I discover new favorites. Feel free to share anything I’ve missed in the comments!
Looking for where to eat? Nashville has so many good restaurants, it can be hard to decide which one is your best bet. So I broke it down by occasion in hopes of solving all your Music City dining woes.
Nashville restaurants at a glance
If you want just a quick best hits list, these Nashville restaurants are where I eat time and time again.
For breakfast/brunch in Nashville:
- Biscuit Love
- Saint Anejo
- Chauhan Ale & Masala House
- Frothy Monkey
For lunch in Nashville:
- Dozen Bakery
- Redheaded Stranger
- Butchertown Hall
- Edley’s BBQ
- Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
- Mas Tacos
- M.L. Rose
- Hawkers Asian Street Food
- Assembly Food Hall
- The Grilled Cheeserie
- Plaza Mariachi
For dinner in Nashville:
- City House
- Nicky’s Coal Fired
- Butcher & Bee
- The Farm House
- Black Rabbit
- Thai Esane
- Lockeland Table
- Catbird Seat
- Rolf & Daughters
- Trattoria Il Mulino
- Kayne Prime
- Two Ten Jack
For a one-of-a-kind experience: Tailor Nashville
For years, Vivek Surti was Nashville’s most famous chef without a restaurant. He worked for the wine auction, he ran VEA Supper Club on the side, and he cooked for just about everyone around town who would ask him. He’s a phenomenal chef who fuses his Indian heritage with other South Asian cuisine for a mashup of tasty dishes unlike any other. All of Nashville rejoiced when he finally bit the bullet and opened up Tailor Nashville, a dining club-type experience in Germantown, with partner Heather Southerland a few years back.
The eight- to 10-course menu rotates seasonally and features a snack, vegetable, fish or meat, rice dish and a dessert for $60, which does not include sales tax and gratuity. Drink pairings are an additional charge, which I highly recommend. Seating is very limited, so if you’re coming from out of town, make sure you make a reservation well in advance.
For your traditional meat-and-three: Arnold’s
No matter your dining tastes, you can’t come to Nashville and not try the traditional meat-and-three meal (that’s a meat and three sides for those of you Northerners). And there’s no better place to try your first than at Arnold’s Country Kitchen, a Nashville icon that whips up every Southern delight you could ask for—country-fried steak, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried chicken, pecan pie—and everything in between, with a whole lot of love.
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 from Tuesday through Friday and brunch on Sunday.
For your neighborhood hang: Hathorne
I was a huge fan of John Stephenson’s all the years he was at the helm at Fido, then I followed his food to the Family Wash (R.I.P.), so I was really excited when he debuted Hathorne. There’s so much to love about Hathorne, from the design that incorporates pews recovered from the church next door to the plates of shaved Brussels, pork pierogis, roasted heirloom carrots and grilled acorn squash that are meant to be shared. Hathorne has a daily happy hour from 5 to 6:30pm, then a “joyful hour” from 10 to 11:30pm, staying true to its mission to bring in the neighborhood locals.
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 handful of 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
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 dominating the food truck market, this dynamic duo launched their own brick-and-mortar, and now there are a handful of Biscuit Love locations around Middle Tennessee. There’s never not a line at the one in the Gulch, so you’re better off going on a weekday if you can (or visiting the Hillsboro Village outpost). 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 a couple years back. Or have your savory but order a plate of bonuts for the table. 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. Want to feel cool? Order the “Nasty Princess” (a mash-up of the Princess and East Nasty) off-menu. Pro tip: Biscuit Love has another location in Hillsboro Village that is often less packed during peak meal times. There’s also a third outpost down in Franklin.
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. The belly ham pie with a cracked egg on top never goes out of style.
When you’re downtown for lunch: Liberty Common
The first thing that will catch your eye is just how downright dreamy the interior of Liberty Common is. On my inaugural visit here, I was dining alone and working from the bar, but I couldn’t stop creeping around taking photos of the design. It’s just so damn pleasant. And it boasts murals from one of our favorite artists Tara Aversa, the visionary behind the Manchester Magnolia, too. The food itself is very Parisian bistro style, and the drinks follow form. Traditionally, Nashville didn’t have a lot of great downtown restaurants, particularly ones that cater to the business crowd, so I’m pleased as punch that Liberty Common has joined the fray.
For a stylish diner vibe: The Mockingbird
The tagline says it all: “modern dinner, global fare.” The menu at the Mockingbird is all over the place, which is precisely why I like going there. It’s the kind of restaurant you can dine at with friends who all have very different culinary preferences, whether you want a corned seitan veggie reuben and your bestie is dying for a chicken pot pie. It’s comfort food at its finest, in a very stylish space (and I love that all the food is served on mismatched plates procured from antiques stores). If you have a chance to chat with owners Brian Riggenbach and Mikey Corona, take it—they’re both a riot. And don’t leave without ordering a platter of cookies served in a birdcage.
When you’re in the mood for Italian: Nicky’s Coal Fired
I first met Tony and Caroline Galzin when they were at Fifty-First Kitchen and were instant fans. Not only are the Chicago transplants great people, but they bring a different kind of culinary pizzazz to the Nashville restaurant scene. When they opened up Nicky’s Coal Fired in the Nations a couple years back, they were one of the only restaurants in the area; now, the neighborhood is positively booming, and their seats are packed with those flocking to taste the artisan pizzas fired up in their four-ton, coal-fired oven named “Enrico.” Nicky’s also has a selection of antipasti and seafood dishes, though I usually order one of the seasonal pasta dishes to start and share a thin-crust pie or two with friends as my main. The cocktail menu is on point, and there are always a selection of spritzes from which to choose.
For a classy business affair: Etch
This 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. Deb has led the charge on Nashville’s food evolution and now has Char and Etc. in Green Hills, as well. 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, whether for lunch or dinner. The cauliflower appetizer is a must-do anytime of day, and my regular lunch order is the creamy, oh-so-tasty Thai Chicken & Quinoa. And tasting your way through the dessert menu, created by my former roommate Megan Williams, is a must-do, so be sure and save room in your stomach!
For the best Indian street food: Chaatable
Maneet Chauhan is a ball of sassy energy, and that energy could not be more apparent than in her latest concept Chaatable, which channels an Indian street market in all its colorful glory and dreamy Indian bites with punny names like the O.M.Ghee, This Spuds For You, Puff Puff Pass and the Go Shorty. She also collected thousands of Indian bangles to build a bangle wall, which serves as the perfect greeting (and so very Maneet, too) when diners walk in. Pro tip: Don’t leave without ordering one (or three) Pani ‘Rita, the tamarind margarita that is currently one of my favorite drinks in Nashville.
To satiate your sweet tooth: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Have I gotten the point across yet? I LOVE JENI’S ICE CREAM. And now that there are multiple locations in Nashville, my waistline is in immediate danger. I’ve tried about every flavor she makes, and while you can’t go wrong, the combo of salty caramel and brown butter almond brittle is always my favorite.
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 whatever the chef 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 your green juice fix: 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. My go-to location is the Germantown one, as street parking is easy during the day. I also frequent the Juice Bar in Berry Hill, but often there’s nowhere to park (#NashvilleProblems).
For a menu you’ll have to Google: 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 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 locally, one in Chattanooga and one in Kentucky. The Tuck forever gets my order, and even though I nearly died from bushwhacker consumption a few years ago (don’t ask), I can’t stay away. Love nachos? Can’t go wrong with BBQ nachos, topped with a heaping pile of pulled pork.
When you’re looking to eat on Broadway: Acme Feed & Seed
The walk-up counter on Acme’s ground floor is always a safe option if you’re out on Broadway midday or into the evening and looking to grab a quick bite among a sea of trashy country music star-backed options (though I do like the food at Whiskey Row if we’re being honest).
For all. the. meat: Martin’s BBQ
Pat Martin has become legendary in Nashville with his huge of the whole hog and his ever-expanding empire. He’s now got three locations in the Nashville area, as well as has expanded to neighboring states, too. My favorite of his many spots is the downtown outpost with its 13,000 square feet of space for dining, lounging, drinking beer and playing games with your buds.
For beer with a side of tacos: Butchertown Hall
Butchertown Hall is dangerously close to my Nashville yoga studio, and it’s open all afternoon long, something I struggle with in Nashville with weird hours and so many places closed from 2 to 5pm. So it’s become my go-to spot post-yoga when I’m getting a late lunch or drinks with friends. The street tacos are bomb, and the beer selection is mighty. The clean design and so much natural light only makes you want to camp out here for hoursi. On warmer nights, Butchertown’s lovely side patio is perfect for sipping saison after saison.
For the celebrity chef experience: Chauhan House
Every time I’m feeling indulgent and wanting all the curry, I head straight for Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Maneet Chauhan’s first of four concepts to open in Nashville. I particularly love it for lunch, a time of day when I feel like Nashville dining options aren’t abundant. 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). Weekend brunch is also the prime occasion to make a ressie for Chauhan. I crave that Stop Monkeying Around always, and the What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? is divine.
For a meal in a coffee shop: Frothy Monkey
Frothy Monkey is the coffee shop empire in Nashville, and yet people often overlook them as an option for meals, which is insane as their food is oh-so-good and runs the gamut of sandwiches, salads, soups and heartier entrees. The Nations location has become one of my lunchtime go-tos when I’m meeting a friend for coffee with a side of food. Looking to start your evening somewhere? Consider going to Frothy for Wine Down Wednesday with three pours of wine (or six beer tasters) and snacks for the bargain deal of $15.
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 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 the best chocolate in town: 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 taste of Nashville: 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 Music City Crepes 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, and you’ll be surrounded by actual Nashvillians who break from the office to eat here daily.
For a 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 Walk Eat Nashville, and I guarantee you will get the highlights reel in your informative and tasty, three-hour walking tour of East Nashville, SoBro or Midtown.
For pizza, pizza: Five Points Pizza
Nashville used to have hardly any pizza options, and now it’s got several. Five Points Pizza, with a location in East Nashville and one off of Charlotte is by far my favorite. You can order whole pies or from a select menu of pizza by the slice. I often get carryout from the right side of the restaurant, though if it’s not packed and you feel like a brew, settle in at a booth on the left side and enjoy the craft beer selection.
For dinner with a side of champagne: Geist
Germantown is the neighborhood in which I spend the most time, and I was happy when Geist joined the fray back in 2018. One of my favorite mixologists Freddie Schwenk heads up the bar which is set in an old 1900 blacksmith shop, and I often just order “whatever Freddie is feeling today.” I don’t drink a lot of bubbles, but even I can’t deny the attraction of the Champagne Garden, with its champs served outside in a full outdoor garden and courtyard; there’s even the option to saber a bottle if you’re feeling frisky. On the food front, Geist has a small selection of sharable veggie plates, starters (may I recommend the bacon jam and baked brie?), and entrees like salmon, scallops and cavatelli. If the key lime pie is on the menu, you must order it—it poses as a real lime, but is actually pie inside when you crack it open. A true work of art!
For dinner with a dose of history: Woolworth on 5th
The most interesting thing to be about Woolworth is not the food—though, don’t get me wrong, it’s great, too—but the fact that this historic building was the site of many sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, and that the owners decided to keep all of those scuff marks intact as a reminder of the turmoil this city (and the South as a whole) went through not that long ago. The Art Deco-y Woolworth on 5th is a great spot for a work lunch as it’s right downtown in Nashville’s version of a financial district, but it’s also a good spot for a pre-show dinner with TPAC right around the corner. Expect Southern fare like fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, and shrimp and grits.
For the best damn rabbit rolls in town: Black Rabbit
Rabbit rolls may seem like a weird thing to be obsessed with, but that’s likely because you haven’t been to Black Rabbit, a chic, 1920s-inspired lounge on the cusp of Printers Alley that will offer small plates, creative craft cocktails and live piano music on any night of the week. With Kathy Anderson behind the design, Black Rabbit’s ambiance is built around the old wood floors and exposed brick walls leftover from the late 1800s and utilizes velvet sofa, leather lounge chairs and plush booths for seating.
The wooded chef’s island provides prime seating for those keen on studying the talents of this passionate team of chefs, who will be cooking up various canapes like butterfolds, squab rillettes, rabbit spam sliders, twice-baked patatas bravas, roasted oysters and pickled shrimp. This swanky cocktail lounge off of 2nd Avenue is a much elevated breath of fresh air for downtown with an expansive whiskey collection and a cocktail menu that reads like a tome. Don’t overlook it as a dinner spot, though; you’d be remiss to pass on Chefs Trey and Chad’s elevated fare.
For sushi and other Asian fusion: Sunda
Chef-owner Billy Dec brought his popular new Asian concept from Chicago and opened a Nashville location, as well, last summer. There aren’t a lot of places that will get me to the Gulch anymore—it’s way too hip and far too crowded for this simpleton—but Sunda will do just that. Not only is the interior large, roomy and chic, but the menu boasts dim sum, sushi, nigiri, noodle dishes, curry, ramen and so much more. It’s basically a one-stop lunch, brunch or dinner spot for all kinds of Asian fusion (and a really great sake selection to boot).
For an excuse to dine in a chic hotel: Henley
From a style standpoint, Kimpton’s lobby-level restaurant Henley is one of the most polished places in town, weaving in bold art and tile patterns with an equally creative menu to follow suit. Whether you’re staying at the hotel or just looking for somewhere to eat in Midtown any meal of the day, Henley is one of your top contenders.
For the hardest weekend brunch table to land: Tavern
Call it a college bar if you will, but M Street’s Tavern has been a mainstay of mine in the seven years since we’ve been back. It’s consistently delicious, and one of the only places in Midtown open in the middle of the day, so my gal Beth and I have had many a mid-afternoon cocktail with snacks (the buffalo cauliflower has never let me down). It’s also a slam dunk for weekend brunch—if you can get a table. Avoid at all costs on a Vandy home weekend, but any other time, get there minutes before they open and grab a table (or put your name down). If you’re there promptly at 10 (or maybe just before), you should get in just fine. And the hash and the red velvet waffles with cream cheese drizzle are totally worth the wait, too.
For a bakery to die for: Dozen
Dozen is Nashville’s best-kept secret in that every local I know names it among their top lunch spots, but we rarely tell anyone else about it because it’s already packed enough as it is. But you deserve to know about Dozen because not only are the fresh bread and other baked goods mouthwateringly good, but the lunch combos—I always do the half-and-half option with a tartine and whatever grain salad they’re making that week—are some of the freshest dishes you’ll have in all of Nashville.
For seafood in a land-locked state: Henrietta Red
Ben and Max Goldberg teamed up with their childhood friend, Chef Julia Sullivan, and her business partner, Allie Poindexter, at the helm a couple years back to open this bright spot in Germantown, an Instagrammer’s dream with its striking tile and abundance of natural light. Sullivan brings her culinary panache, honed at such notable restaurants as Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Per Se, to the kitchen, and the raw bar is laid out to be communal with an additional 70 seats in banquette- and table-style seating in the adjoining dining room. In addition to a dozen or so types of oysters, other seafood dishes like smoked mussel toast, wild striped bass and wood-roasted mackerel round out the menu. My favorite excuse to go to Henrietta Red, though, is the weekend brunch, which I’ll put up against any other in town.
For the best tacos you’ll eat, ever: Mas Tacos Por Favor
Ask an East Nashvillian old or new what their favorite restaurant is, and nine out of 10 of them will tell you: MAS TACOS. You order at a window, then your name is called out, and they move very quickly, so don’t be deterred by the line. Since these are street tacos, I recommend three to make up a full meal—and you can’t pass up on the fried avocado one—as well as a side of street corn and agua fresca. Mas Tacos totally upped its game when it added a bar, and margaritas became part of the mix, though you’ll order those at the back bar. On warm evenings, the patio is the perfect place to dine.
For brats and baseball: Von Elrod’s
One of my qualms with Nashville dining has always been that the patios aren’t big enough. Enter: Von Elrod’s with its massive outdoor space. This beer hall with a focus on German cuisine debuted a couple years ago right across from First Tennessee Park where the Nashville Sounds play, and it’s a great spot to get a brat and a pint or two before you head into the stadium for the evening. Von Elrod’s boasts 36 beers on tap with even more available by the bottle. They’ve also got weekend brunch and offer specialty classes like pretzel-making.
For vegetarians: Butcher & Bee
Let’s state this upfront: Butcher & Bee is not strictly vegetarian, and yet, I feel like it has one of the best menus for veggie-loving diners in town. It’s the kind of place you go for healthy shared plates and a mean cocktail, and you must take my word for it that ordering the whipped feta is a non-negotiable; ditto to the fire-roasted carrots. Another, more under-the-radar veg spot is Sunflower Cafe in Berry Hill.
For all things Greek: Greko Street Food
Nashville restaurant vets and first cousins Bill Darsinos (Southside Grille) and Tony Darsinos (Gondola House Pizzeria in Hermitage) joined forces to bring Greek food to East Nashville. Designed to offer an authentic Athens street food vibe, Greko will serve an array of dishes like fresh-baked pitas; lamb, chicken and pork cooked on a rotisserie over a live fire; souvlaki; and Greek fries with oregano and Myzithra cheese. All of the meats will be cooked over a live vire, and the bulk of the ingredients, such as olive oil and wines from their home region of Nemea, will be imported directly from Greece.
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 a swanky night out in the Gulch: Tànsuǒ
Tànsuǒ, another Maneet concept, is sandwiched between Chauhan House and Mockingbird. The darkly-lit, bi-level space is meant to reflect a Chinese night market (albeit, a very cosmopolitan one), and the menu is an exploration of contemporary Cantonese cuisine like Toishan Pork Sui Mai, Peking Duck and a spin on classic Chinese fare such as General Tso’s Chicken.
The above is an exhaustive, though not completely comprehensive list of some of favorite places to eat over the years, but just know, that these are definitely not the only options. And many oldies but goodies like Cafe Coco or Miel that often fly under the radar didn’t make the list simply because I haven’t been there in eons to even know what the food is like anymore (and others like Firefly Grille and Tin Angel have recently closed, R.I.P. to them, too).
Here are a few more Nashville restaurants to check out, depending on what you’re in the mood for:
- Hot chicken: Hattie B’s, Pepperfire, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, Party Fowl, Prince’s Hot Chicken
- BBQ: Jack’s Bar-B-Que, Peg Leg Porker
- Burgers: Hopdoddy, Burger Up, The Pharmacy, Gabby’s, Farm Burger, Hugh Baby’s, M.L. Rose, Jack Brown’s
- Pizza: Folk, Emmy Squared, DeSano, Slim & Husky’s
- Steaks: Kayne Prime, Oak Steakhouse, Bourbon Steak
- International: Lyra, Epice, Plaza Mariachi, King Market, Azadi International Food Market